Lives Remembered

Sr Mary Aidan Donaldson: Co Down-born nun was world's oldest Sister of Mercy

The Sisters of Mercy celebrated Sr Mary Aidan's 111th birthday in August this year

SISTER Mary Aidan Donaldson, who has died aged 111 in the US, was one of the oldest Irish people ever to have lived.

The 'supercentenarian', who was a Sister of Mercy for more than nine decades, was born Sarah Donaldson in Dromore, Co Down in August 1908.

Her father, John, worked as a railway porter while her mother, Ellen Connolly, died when she was four years old.

She was educated by the Sisters of Mercy in Newry and had been considering a career in nursing until a visit by two nuns seeking vocations to join them teaching children in Alabama.

Mary saw it as a "call from God" and travelled to Cork aged 19 to set sail on the White Star liner RMS Baltic, at one time the world's largest ship.

“I thought we were never going to make it," she told the Alabama Press-Register. "Storms, so forth. Everyone was sick.”

Mary eventually joined around 100 Sisters of Mercy in Mobile, Alabama and took the religious name of a teacher from home.

She began work in September 1929, weeks before the Wall Street crash, and would serve in schools in Baltimore, Maryland; Bessemer, Birmingham, Huntsville and Mobile, Alabama; and Pensacola, Florida.

She later cared for the sick and after moving to a retirement home, took up watercolour painting in her nineties.

Sr Mary Aidan Donaldson was the oldest Sister of Mercy in the world

Sr Mary Aidan described her life as having been “emotionally always filled”.

“I’m thankful to God for what I have.”

Celebrating her 111th birthday in August, the Sisters of Mercy said she was the oldest member of the order and perhaps the oldest of any religious order around the world.

"Most days she is up and dressed, sitting in the community room reading, as well as observing all the comings and goings and occasionally summoning a passer-by by name," they said.

"One of the amazing things about this remarkable woman of Mercy is how much she still participates in community activities—and that includes everything from liturgy and prayer to bingo and bunco."

Sister Mary Aidan Donaldson died on October 25 at the Convent of Mercy retirement home in Mobile, Alabama.

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Lives Remembered