'She was an angel - she helped everybody in the community'
OBITUARY: SR MARY CARTY
The recent death of Sr Mary Carty, at the age of just 57, is mourned by all who knew her, including many in the Battery Heights area of Athlone where she once ran a crèche and was active in other community support work.
Locals have been paying tribute to the Roscommon native who passed away on November 18 after a brave battle with Motor Neurone Disease.
Sr Mary, of the Sisters of Mercy Western Province, came to Athlone in 1989 to set up a crèche for the local community.
As well as managing the crèche, she supervised a Fás Employment Project in St Peter and Paul’s Parish, and was a dedicated volunteer with the Samaritans.
Elaine Berry of Youth Work Ireland Midlands, whose daughter Amanda attended the crèche that was operated by Sr Mary, said she will always be remembered with great fondness in the area.
"She was an angel. She treated everybody the same, and helped everybody in The Batteries. She was great for the community," said Elaine.
"If you went to the house, she would bring you in for a cup of tea and a biscuit. The kids years ago used to knock on the door.
"There was a little prayer room (in the house), and they used to go in and say a prayer, and she'd give them a mineral and a biscuit. She was well-loved up there."
Battery Heights resident Patricia Conlon, who manages the after-school team at St Peter's NS, agreed that Sr Mary was always very warm and friendly.
"Whether your children went to her or not, she had time for everybody," said Patricia.
"A lot of people from the area who are in their 20s and 30s now would remember her because, even if they didn't go to the crèche, she was active in the community and they would have known her."
Youth worker Nicola Johnston took up her first post after college in Battery Heights around 1996, and said Sr Mary was a great mentor to her.
"She was just one of those gems of people that you meet. You meet maybe a couple of them in your lifetime, and she was definitely one of mine," said Nicola. "She was a gentle, unassuming person but was a huge influence on a lot of people, in a quiet way."
Originally from Knockroe, Boyle, Mary was the eldest of five children born to Mary (Patsy) and Patrick Carty.
She joined the Mercy Sisters in 1984, living initially in Roscommon and later in Sligo. When a need arose to run a crèche in Battery Heights in the autumn of 1989, Mary responded.
This was a huge responsibility for the then 25-year-old, and she gave her wholehearted commitment to the task which initially she undertook from 8am to 6.30pm.
Gifted in her ability to help the children to adjust to their new surroundings, she gently eased them into a routine and, with skill and creativity, opened the door to a world of wonder and learning.
Sr Mary got to know the children's parents, her neighbours, made many friends, and gained the respect of all.
In addition to managing the crèche, she supervised the Fás Employment Project in the parish and also organised training to enhance opportunities for those who were trying to secure employment.
Annette Hardiman, who later took over the role of supervisor of the employment scheme, described Mary as a "wonderful organiser, a meticulous planner and a treasured friend."
A willing listener, Mary worked as a volunteer with the Samaritans, covering a night each week from 8pm to 8am, and often going with little rest before beginning her work the following day.
She also helped run the 'Faith Friends Programme' for young people in the parish. Mary Mulligan, who worked with her on the programme, found her to be "gifted with the capacity to connect with young people, understanding and accepting of each one as she found them, an exceptional colleague and a wonderful friend."
Quietly and discreetly, throughout her years in Athlone, she supported many who were going through difficult times and her gentle presence was sorely missed when she later moved to Sligo.
There, she worked in the Holy Family Centre and later after completing further study, went to teach in the unit for children with autism in Mercy Primary School, Sligo.
Her commitment and care for her pupils was always above and beyond the call of duty. The ideals of Catherine Mc Auley, the foundress of the Mercy Congregation, were her inspiration and she always tried to put the needs of others before her own.
Her diagnosis with Motor Neuron Disease was devastating for her, for her family and for all who knew her, but Sr Mary coped with amazing courage and resilience.
Her strong faith in God, her loving family and her faithful friends were her constant support throughout her illness. The restrictions due to Covid lockdown made her situation even more difficult, but she never complained.
As Fr Gerry Hanley mentioned in the homily at the funeral Mass, "she never questioned ‘Why me?’, Mary never saw herself as a victim".
Fr Gerry reflected the sentiments of many when he said: "On July 10, 1964, a child was born, her name was Mary and the world has been a better place since."
She is survived by her heartbroken mother: Patsy, her sister: Ann, her brothers: Michael and Joe, her brother-in-law, Ollie, sisters-in-law: Pauline and Fionnuala, her adored nieces: Megan, Sarah, Jane and Niamh, nephew Sean, the Sisters of Mercy of the Western Province, her relatives and her many dear friends.
May she rest in peace.