The Southern Cross

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Motor Mission pioneer known for her warmth and grace

Obituaries

Sr Mary Canny (Sr Nicholas) - Born: April 29 1924 | Died: March 28 2020

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Mary Marron Canny was born to new parents Mary Ellen and Bill Canny at the Orroroo Hospital. She was the eldest of three, with two brothers Bryan and Nicholas, and the family lived in the little mid-north town of Carrieton, where the children attended the local state primary school.

Mary completed her secondary education at St Joseph’s Juniorate, Cowandilla. It was on the same site, which is now home to Flora McDonald Retirement Community, that she departed this life. On attaining her Leaving Certificate, Mary returned home to Carrieton to assist her mother who was in poor health and became a telephone receptionist at the local post office.

Four years later she presented herself at the doors of Kensington Convent where she began her journey as a Sister of Saint Joseph. After her profession as a Josephite Sister in January 1950, she spent three years in Victoria teaching in Josephite schools at Camberwell and Sunshine before returning to South Australia where she taught at Dulwich, Norwood, Croydon and Clare.

In 1960 Mary and Sister Marie Taylor established the Peterborough/Port Augusta Motor Mission. This involved their learning to drive a car and to navigate the back roads between the two towns and even as far north as Hawker. They spent half of each week in each place and travelled thousands of miles every year.

From there Mary returned to the classroom for several years before accepting her appointment to the Aldgate/Macclesfield Mission, where she served for two years before attending a theology course and studying interstate. On her return to South Australia she worked as a pastoral associate in the Hectorville parish. She continued in pastoral ministry until she moved to the Tappeiner Court Nursing Home as a support person for residents and their families. She excelled in this role and continued in it until 2013 when, due to her own failing health, she joined the Kensington community. Three years later she transferred to Calvary Flora McDonald Retirement Community at Cowandilla as a resident.

Mary had the happy knack of engaging people. She emanated warmth by her smile and always acted out of integrity, the fruit of her deep spirituality, compassion and love of people. She made one feel ‘special’ and never forgot a kindness. She shared the burdens of many who came to her for support and solace. She was a remarkable woman and a gracious presence wherever she went. She had a way with words that fitted each occasion. Her words were used to soothe, comfort, encourage, uplift and affirm those she met.

The following is part of an ode written for Mary which sums up much of her life.

A friend for life will Mary be
If your paths happen to meet.
She lives with such integrity
And a smile so warm to greet.
Her thoughtful ways are known to all
Though she’d deny it so.
Her deeds are done so quietly
She never makes a ‘show’.
Her company is full of fun
She loves a prank or two.
At gatherings she’s in the thick
So, life is never blue.
Her years are worn so lightly
She has gracious youth appeal.
She has that special something
Called ‘grace’, we’d love to steal.

May Mary’s gentle soul rest in peace. She will be missed by the many of those who encountered her along the way.

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