Working with retreatants, particularly those struggling with grief or difficult decisions, Mary Gormly would invite them to wrap a shawl around them, to recall times of love and reassurance, and to draw strength from the love of God.
When Mary left Mercy International Centre in Dublin the staff presented her with a shawl to sustain her through the months ahead.
For 50 years Mary loved being a Sister of Mercy and only four weeks ago she enjoyed celebrating this milestone with her family and friends.
The word ‘love’ came up frequently in conversations with Mary. ‘I realise my life has been surrounded in love.’
The reflections she left by her bed to be read to her during these last days when she was too weak to read for herself were on the theme of love.
Mary not only knew love in her life, she shared it with others in so many ways.
Mary Catherine Gormly was born in Wellington in March 1939, the eldest of three children of Mary and Val Gormly.
The Gormly family lived in Duncan Terrace, Kilbirnie, and enjoyed a happy childhood shared with cousins and neighbours.
Mary had both her primary and secondary education at St Catherine’s with fond memories of her years there, especially of her teacher Sister Germaine with whom she formed a life-long friendship.
In 1956 Mary joined the Sisters of Mercy novitiate at St Mary’s in Thorndon and, on September 8,1958, was professed. Known then as Sister Mary Oliver she completed her Teachers Certificate and taught as a primary teacher for 26 years in Blenheim, Thorndon, Newtown, Naenae, Palmerston North, Brooklyn, Miramar, Kilbirnie and Westport.
In 1983 Mary studied leadership and spirituality at Gonzaga University in Spokane, Washington. On her return in 1985 she was appointed formation director for the National Novitiate—a new venture for the Sisters of Mercy. After four years in this position and then further training in spiritual direction, she joined the retreat team and community at Futuna Retreat Centre in Karori and for seven happy years worked in spiritual direction and retreat ministry.
In 1996 she became assistant congregational leader and Vicar for Religious for this diocese. As well she was formation director for the congregation.
In 2001 she returned to spiritual direction and retreat ministry, and was patient advocate at Manor Park Hospital, the Vincentian Home and Mercy Rest Home.
In 2003 Mary was appointed to the team of Mercy International Centre in Dublin where she coordinated the volunteers, led programmes and retreats, turned her hand to any task that needed doing and gained a reputation worldwide for her spirit of hospitality and ability to be present to whomever she was with. Mary’s three-year contract was extended for a further two years. The staff there nicknamed her Little Miss Hospitality. When she sat down to relax she was busy knitting baby bootees and garments for the centre’s shop.
In each of these assignments, she formed friendships, earned the trust of others, worked generously, and enjoyed life, inspiring others with her commitment, sense of fun and generosity.
Early last year Mary was diagnosed with leukaemia and quickly returned home to make the most of the remaining 18 months focusing on what has been important for her.
Mary’s whole attitude to life was YES, epitomised in her motto ‘Behold the handmaid of the Lord, be it done unto me’. This YES took her from her early days in Duncan Terrace, Kilbirnie, down paths she would not have imagined or perhaps ever have chosen.
Mary, we are the richer for your ‘Yes’ and we thank you for your generosity, your willingness to go the extra mile, for your encouragement and love.
In Catherine (McAuley’s) own words, ‘Shall we all meet in Heaven? Oh what a joy even to think of it’.