Sister Mary Canty was born in Skagh, Croom, Co. Limerick in 1926, the only girl of four children. She received her early education in Limerick and joined the Medical Missionaries of Mary in 1952. She completed a Diploma in Social Science in UCD in 1958 and trained as a medical social worker at the London Institute of Almoners.
After a few months as a medical social worker in Drogheda, she went to Nigeria in 1960. She spent seven years in leadership in the MMM community in Urua Akpan. In 1968 she went to Antigonish, Nova Scotia an obtained a diploma in social leadership. She spent three years in Drogheda as sister-in-charge of MMMs after their first profession. After a refresher course in London, she worked as a medical social worker at Whittington Hospital.
In 1974 she returned to Nigeria, this time to Ibadan, where she helped to set up the Medical Social Department at University College Hospital. This was located in a large overcrowded city in the western part of the country. She was chief medical social worker there for over twenty years.
She was also a founder member of the Alana Fund that assisted many poor people to receive medical services. She had a house built for poor patients who traveled long distances to stay while having treatment. On leaving Nigeria in 1995 she received a Special Humanity award in recognition of her ‘outstanding contribution to the needy patients of University College Hospital, Ibadan’. The Rotary Club of Ibadan honoured her with a Vocational Excellence Award in recognition and appreciation of her unparalleled dedication, total commitment, and distinguished contributions to the development and progress of medical social work in their community.
Mary continued her services as a medical social worker in England at St. Joseph’s Hospice, Stoke Newington. She did voluntary work with asylum seekers in llford and Leyton and was MMM Area Leader for the UK and Prague.
She returned to Ireland in 2001 and carried out various duties in Beechgrove. She served again in leadership for three years.
For health reasons Mary was transferred to Áras Mhuire in February 2007. She died on 12 December 2011.