Sister Mary Kane, MM

Born: May 30, 1915
Entered: June 10, 1937
Died: September 20, 2008

Early Saturday, September 20, 2008, we were surprised to learn that Sister Mary Kane died quietly around 6:00 a.m. in Maryknoll Sisters Residential Care III. She was 93 years old and had been a Maryknoll Sister for 71 years.

Mary Helena Kane was born on May 30, 1915, in Fitchburg, MA, the first child of Helen M. Fenton Kane and John Austin Kane. She had three brothers and two sisters. Her parents and her brothers have pre-deceased her. She is survived by her two sisters.

Mary attended St. Bernard’s High School in Fitchburg, graduating in 1932. She worked for four years at the New England Telephone Company in Fitchburg as a telephone operator before entering the Maryknoll Sisters on June 10, 1937. At Reception she received the religious name Sr. M. Helen Agnes. Her First Vows were made on January 6, 1940 and Final Vows on the same date in 1943, both at Maryknoll, NY. From 1942 until 1946 she worked at the Field Afar office of the Maryknoll Society and at the Motherhouse switchboard.

Mary was assigned to Hawaii in 1946 and worked in the Catholic Social Service Office in Nuuanu and then at the Maui Children’s Home. In 1952 she returned to the Motherhouse, working again at the switchboard, in the Sponsor Department, and as chauffeur for the Sisters at Bethany until 1956 when she was assigned to Queen of the World Hospital in Kansas City, MO. While here she completed studies to become a Licensed Practical Nurse (LPN), and worked at the hospital as nursing supervisor of central supply until 1966.

In 1967 Mary joined the U.S. Western Region and worked for ten years as a Licensed Practical staff nurse in the emergency room of San Joaquin County Hospital, Stockton, CA. LPN’s in California were known as LVN’s, i.e. Licensed Vocational Nurses, and Mary was active in the LVN Association of California. San Joaquin County Hospital was well known as a safe place for immigrants, homeless and alcoholics, of which there were many in Stockton at the time. People would pass the word to, “Just go to the emergency room and hope your nurse is Sister Mary.” She treated each person with respect, care and a warm sense of humor as she helped address their needs. Her manner with patients and their families is reflected in the words of a Mexican woman who was overheard encouraging a friend whose baby was sick: “Don’t be afraid to go to the County Hospital; just go to Emergency and ask for Sister Mary. She is kind to everyone.”

After ten years in the intense work of the Emergency Room, Mary chose to pursue another interest that was growing within her, which was working with elderly citizens. She accepted an invitation to work in Immaculate Conception Parish, an inner city parish in Sacramento, CA, coordinating the parish Senior Citizen program. Mary lived in the parish convent and helped convert it into a residence for elderly seniors. She was Associate Director for the Home, when the first 18 residents began organizing their life together.

In 1979 Sister Mary took a position as Nutrition Site Manager at John XXIII Senior Center in San Jose, CA, and worked there until 1985. She left that position and devoted her time to visiting the sick and elderly in their homes, and also was a parish Eucharistic Minister until 1992 when she chose to retire to the Maryknoll Sisters Retirement Home in Monrovia, CA.

Mary returned to Maryknoll, NY, in 2002 and the following year she transferred to Maryknoll Sisters Residential Care III becoming a member of the newly created Eden Community. Her gentle nature became a treasured part of life at the Center, as she was faithful to many things: her love of bridge, sports, dinner theater, those in the nursing profession and her Wednesday hair appointments. But most of all she was faithful to her quiet prayer, to her friends, and to being kind, gracious and always “such a lady.” Her Prayer Ministry assignments during these years have been the Maryknoll Priests and Brothers and the Western US Region.

We are happy to have with us today Mary’s sisters, her nieces, nephews and cousins. We extend our sympathy to them. To all her family and countless friends both in Maryknoll and beyond as we share your loss. We welcome Fr. John Connell, Mary’s cousin and Godson, who will preside at our Mass of Christian Burial along with our Maryknoll brother Fr. Ernest Lukasehek.