Sr Mary of the Sacred Heart: Co Derry-born nun was source of solace to many cancer patients
SISTER Mary of the Sacred Heart was a source of comfort, counsel and reassurance to countless cancer patients at the former Belvoir Park Hospital.
A wonderful communicator, she was naturally suited to her role of spiritual adviser as she helped people come to terms with difficult news and find solace in dark times.
Brought up in Magherafelt, one of a family of eight to Henry and Margaret McNally, Mary had qualified as a nurse before joining religious life and worked at one stage in St Vincent's Hospital in Dublin.
An attractive young woman with sparkling eyes, she had many suitors but instead decided to devote her life to the service of God by entering the Order of the Good Shepherd nuns.
The demands of convent life meant she was unable to return home for the next three decades, until being transferred to Belfast where she lived with the community at Rossmore Drive off the Ormeau Road.
In her latter years Sr Mary's main work was in Belvoir Park, then Northern Ireland's main cancer treatment hospital.
Her nephew Liam McNally, a District Judge, told mourners at her Requiem Mass at Good Shepherd Church in Belfast of the great comfort she was able to bring patients and their families during those years.
"I have had approaches from many people from both sides of the community praising the work she did in Belvoir Park and the serenity and peace of mind they were able to achieve following a visit from Mary," he said.
To her family, meanwhile, she was simply their treasured "Aunty Mary".
"She was a very special aunt. She was not able to provide us with the material gifts one would normally expect at Christmas and birthdays but she had a very special gift.
"As far as we were concerned she had a hotline to God and many of the prayers which we asked her to offer up for us were invariably answered.
"Mary was a lady of charm and determination and not even God could resist her entreaties."
Judge McNally said Sr Mary was also a great historian and discovered through researching her family tree that she had an uncle, Charles McNally, who died at the Somme and was buried at Bethune Town Cemetery in France.
As a result they were able to travel together to visit his grave on July 18 2016, the centenary of his death.
Sr Mary died aged 98 on February 19 at Nazareth House Care Village in Belfast.
She was predeceased by her brothers Willie, John Jo, Harry, Gerald, Andy and Paddy and her sister Peg.