The Beginning of Life to the End of Life

Sister Mary McMahon, a Sister of Saint Martha, has served in nursing ministry for more than 50 years. She was a nurse educator for the St. Francis Xavier University nursing program for a number of years, and the Director of Nursing Education at St. Martha’s Hospital School of Nursing in Antigonish. She also spent time in St. Kitt’s in the Caribbean doing parish work, offering spiritual and health care services to the folks there. Now, 80 years old, she has come full circle in her ministry from working primarily in maternity/infant care to working with elderly residents at Glen Haven Nursing Home in New Glasgow, Nova Scotia. “I’ve come full cycle from the beginning of life to the end of life,” Sister Mary said. “I really call my ministry here a ministry of presence.” Sister Mary makes her rounds each day to check in on critically ill. She offers compassionate presence to residents and staff alike, listening to their concerns and providing support, comfort and prayer. She collaborates with the recreation department, occasionally participating in group dances and activities with the residents. She also brings communion to residents who can’t come to weekly Mass. “I don’t do anything exceptional. I guess I consider it a privilege to minister in this facility and bring comfort, happiness, peace, and joy to people, give them that welcome. It just reinforces for me that I’m doing something worthwhile.” For residents who pass away, Sister Mary leads a Memorial Service for the families and attends Funeral Services for residents. “Being in a facility like this, most of the residents leave through death. I spend time sitting with the families and become a listening ear during their stressful times. It’s important to have someone who can sit there and help them through the dying process and help them understand what’s happening. I’ve been touched by the fact that I’ve been able to be a help that way. I’m available for people of all faiths or no faith, it doesn’t matter.” Through interaction with the 212 residents of the nursing home, and their families, Sister Mary has touched the lives of thousands of people over the years. “When I think of being here 14 years, I can hardly believe it myself! I think about how God’s ways are kind of strange sometimes, where he leads you into areas you wouldn’t have chosen yourself, and the Lord provides you with whatever you need, and you do your best.” Related