Sister Mary was born in Emyvale, Co. Monaghan, in 1942, the eldest of three children. Their mother died when Mary was fifteen years old. After primary school, Mary went to stay with her Aunt Mary in Dublin during her secondary school education. She trained as a secretary and worked for the Land Commission for a year and a half. During that time she attended classes in drama and studied French and Italian. She joined the Medical Missionaries of Mary in 1962.
After profession Mary qualified as a nurse-midwife and obtained a certificate in tropical medicine in Liverpool, England. Her first assignment was to Leon, Spain, in 1971, where she spent two and a half years and made her final profession.
In 1974 she was assigned to Nigeria and worked for nine years in Akpa Utong and Ondo. This was followed by three years on mission awareness work in Ireland, England and the USA.
After obtaining a certificate in primary health care, Mary returned to Nigeria in 1986 and worked for eight years in Irele. From December 1994 to May 1995, she was part of the Trocaire emergency response team that assisted in providing relief in the aftermath of the genocide in Rwanda.
She completed a further year on mission awareness in Ireland before going to Mexico City in 1998 for a language course. MMM was planning to begin a mission in Mexico. After a few months, Hurricane Mitch devastated much of Central America, especially Honduras, and Mary was asked to help in another emergency situation. She was to spend two and a half years in Marcala, Honduras in pastoral and primary health care work.
Mary returned to Ireland in 2001 and worked in the Motherhouse clinic for seven years, where as usual, she cared for the sick with great gentleness and compassion. She also served in MMM leadership. In 2009 she was again assigned to mission awareness work, based in Realt na Mara in Dublin. This was tragically interrupted by a road traffic accident in 2011, from which she never fully recovered. Nevertheless, she was later able to work in pastoral care in Our Lady of Lourdes Hospital for several years.
For health reasons, Mary retired from this ministry in 2016. Two weeks before Easter 2017, her sister, Julie, came to visit for a whole week, and they also visited her brother, Malachy. It was a special time for each of them and proved to be providential.
On 16 April 2017, Easter Sunday, Sister Mary became ill suddenly. She was taken to Our Lady of Lourdes Hospital but never regained consciousness. She died peacefully that night. While all were deeply shocked, it was a most fitting day for Mary to complete her journey home to God.
Her funeral was a large one, and a great testament to Mary’s great gift of making and sustaining friendships. Many of Mary’s friends came, including some from her nurse training days over forty years ago and Mrs. Sabina Higgins, wife of Irish President Michael D. Higgins. She and Mary had been friends since they had attended drama classes together.
The chief celebrant at the Mass was Father Dermot Connolly, SPS, who called attention to Mary’s gift of bringing joy and laughter to others, which she did even on that day.