Howard, Sr. Mary

Howard, Sr. Mary

sr_mary_howardNationality:   British
Congregational Register No.
First Profession 18.01.1975
Died: 10.11.2009     Aged:  70 years

Kathleen Mary Howard was born in Derby, England in 1939.  She had one brother and one sister. Mary went to primary school in Derby and when the family moved to Southport, she continued her education at Notre Dame Grammar School, where she passed her GCE ‘O’ and ‘A’ Levels. 

She took a BSc (Hons) in Chemistry and Zoology at the University of Hull in 1960.

Mary went on to work in Birch Hill Hospital, Rochdale, and Southport General Infirmary as a biochemist. This post graduate experience led to registration as an associate member of the Institute of Medical Laboratory Sciences (AIMLS).

Mary entered MMM in September 1972 and following initial formation worked in the laboratory in the IMTH for two years.  In 1977, Mary was assigned to Nigeria and went there following a summer in the USA on mission awareness.  Apart from a few months doing promotion work in the UK and a year in Drogheda, Mary was to stay on mission in Nigeria until 2004.  Mary worked primarily in Eleta and Afikpo with shorter periods in Ogoja and Itam.  She worked mainly as a laboratory technologist, but fulfilled other roles such as local bursar, Sister-in-charge, and Area leader.

In 2004 Mary was assigned to Ealing Community in the UK, where she was bursar, did pastoral work in the parish, and was a keen member of the St. Vincent de Paul Society.  In 2006, Mary was elected Area leader for UK/Prague.  In 2007 she was diagnosed with cancer but in spite of courses of chemotherapy, she was never really free from its shadow.  However, Mary continued as the Area leader and remained as active as possible.

Mary had been a handmaid in Lourdes for many years before she entered MMM and had always held on to a dream that she would one day return to say “thank you” for her vocation to MMM.  Miraculously, at the last minute, Mary, with Sr. Helen McKenna as her companion, joined the Westminster Pilgrimage to Lourdes from 26 July  to 5 August 2009. Mary and Helen spent a blessed time there. There was no miraculous cure, but as Sr. Ruth Percival, Mary’s second cousin, put it: “Mary returned to England with a peace that seemed to radiate from her and which we all felt privileged to witness.”  She also spent a few happy days in the Cotswolds with her beloved brother and sister but had to return home early knowing that she needed further treatment.  Mary wanted her last days to be at Áras Mhuire, at the heart of MMM, and flew to Ireland at the end of August 2009, accompanied by Sr. Anne Curtin and Sr. Helen McKenna.  Mary knew she would be supported by Sisters and staff at Áras Mhuire and by the palliative care team, who did everything possible to make her comfortable.  Her brother, Leo, and sister, Anne, visited her and spoke to her daily by phone.

Mary’s condition continued to deteriorate and many were surprised at how long the final part of her journey lasted.  Sr. Ruth spent the last three weeks of Mary’s life with her. In 1980 the two cousins had made their final vows together in the church in Derby where both sets of parents had been married. They now spent this last blessed time together.  Sr. Maureen Clarke came over from England on 6 November, and Maureen and Ruth were at Mary’s bedside when she went peacefully to God in the early  hours of 10 November.