Mother Mary Martin – Funeral January 1975

27 January 1975-30 January 1975

Mother Mary Martin passed away at Our Lady of Lourdes Hospital, Drogheda in the early hours of 27th January 1975, following an illness of many years. Sr M. Michael Farrell was present with her at the time of her death. In “If you only knew the gift…” (p213), her description of Mother Mary’s final moments records, “Of all the many deaths I have witnessed, hers was the most beautiful and serene.” The announcement of Mother Mary’s death brought many people to the Motherhouse in Drogheda to pay their respects, where Mother Mary was laid out firstly in the parlour and then in the Oratory. Among those were former President of Ireland, Eamon de Valera. The very last people to pay their respects were the printers from Dublin who had produced the booklet for her funeral ceremony.

Mother Mary Martin had been the first woman to be granted the Freedom of Drogheda on 6th June 1966, and this meant that she was given the equivalent of a state funeral. As she was the Foundress of a Congregation, this also meant that she would have a specific burial with three coffins, the innermost and outermost made of wood, and between those a coffin made of lead, and in a brick-lined vault, which had already been prepared at the cemetery in Drogheda.

Among the celebrants at Mother Mary’s funeral on January 30th 1975 were Archbishop of Armagh Cardinal William Conway, Apostolic Nuncio to Ireland Gaetano Alibrandi, Bishop Emeritus of Calabar James Moynagh SPS who was present at Mother Mary’s First Profession, and Vatican Substitute of the Secretariat of State Bishop Giovanni Benelli. The President of Ireland Cearbhall Ó Dálaigh was present as were government, medical, religious and civic representatives as well as family members and local people. One of the notable lines from Cardinal Conway’s homily was his reference to Mother Mary being ‘decades before her time’ not just in medicine and nursing but in administration, in the social sciences and in the art of communication. Her impact on people can be seen in the large turnout for her funeral, over four thousand signatures in the books of condolences and the many letters and telegrams from around the world.