I arrived at Carysfort Training College, September 1938, aged 18 years. I seem to have put roots down during that first month.
Some influences were at work from early days in Carysfort. An elderly Sister, swathed in shawls, walked regularly from the Convent to the Junior Preparatory College. I could see her from the playground and watch as a bevy of young girls raced to meet her on the path. She and they looked so happy together.
Sr. M. Carmella gave me harmonium lessons. Sr. M. Philomena helped out with art lessons, and Sr. M. Evangelist taught needlework. All three were elderly, or so I thought, but all were fired with enthusiasm for their work and were entirely approachable, affable and gentle at all times.
In fact, all the Sisters who taught us were admirable teachers and each one looked fresh-eyed and bright when she entered class. I even liked the habits they wore although I wondered how they could bear wearing them. Also, a few past students whom I had known, entered in Carysfort in previous years and they had stayed.
Over all, I was at ease as a student in Carysfort and felt the nuns there were human people whom I could emulate. Looking back over the years, I feel that I always wanted to be a nun. My first contact with nuns was in Tourmakeady, Co Mayo where I spent one year. For the following three years I was with Loreto Sisters in Falcarragh, Co Donegal. During all four years I attended Mass every morning, had retreats every year and had recourse to a Chaplain. I was very devout, I think, until summer of 1936. Another option opened up then.
It was amazing at that time how very handsome and funny the youths around home had become. I loved their company. In fact, I liked them much better than I liked girls. I was soon making choices and at the same time I knew deep down that my heart was already promised to Jesus. That situation continued throughout every holiday on 1936, 1937 and 1938, so that my leaving certificate studies were neglected.
Sr. Mary Cannon
However, I was called to training in Carysfort Park Teacher Training College in 1938, and now I settled down to serious study and prayer for guidance and strength. Even so, I was still very unsure. During holidays, I was permitted to attend parties and dances. I did not like being chaperoned but that was often unavoidable. Gradually I settled down in the summer of 1939 and returned that September to Carysfort more determined to study and pray.
Christmas came and went without any decision. I knew I had to get permission from my parents. My father would be happy for me no matter what I decided but mother would like me to earn some money. There were two younger children to be educated. My support, as usual, came from my eldest sister, a teacher. She and the local Parish Priest said that I should go ahead if I really wanted to. That is what I did. When asked during the Easter holidays, my parents made no objection at all. When older siblings came home for holidays, not one of them spoke about the matter.
Early in the third term, I had my second interview with Sr. M. Teresita, Principal of the College, and told her that I was now free to enter Carysfort. She made the necessary arrangements for me. On September 8th, 1940 I entered Carysfort and stayed. Thanks be to God.
My Spiritual Year ended in March 1942 and my first assignment was to Baggot Street Convent, the birth place of our Mercy Congregation. I was to teach in Townsend Street National School. It sounded wonderful and the eight years I spent there with time off for First and Final Professions were wonderful too. I was young, strong and loved travelling by bus or van to school.
In late August 1950, I arrived at another historic convent, that of Goldenbridge, Inchicore. I spent ten happy, challenging years there teaching in the Secondary Top attached to the National School. I also had various convent assignments, e.g. helping with clubs, Children of Mary and visitation or Mass for children on Sundays and Holy days.
When volunteers were invited to apply for a mission to Alabama, U.S.A., I offered my services. I was one of four teaching Sisters who went there in September 1960. We had a lot to learn but I think I laughed through that first year. However, the children were lovely and we very soon got to know parents and neighbours, all white –skinned. American Sisters already taught black children “beyond the tracks”.
In 1971, we handed over our lovely convent and school to those American Sisters and I was assigned to Raceland, Louisiana. Our Sisters had been teaching in two parish schools there for some years. I was with two other Sisters in St. Hilary’s Parish. This was Cajun country where old people did not speak English but spoke an old French dialect. The children were lovely here too and their parents were very friendly and generous but the damp heat there aggravated my arthritis. I came home to Dublin after three years.
I was now assigned to St. Michael’s Convent, Dun Laoghaire and taught in Glasthule National School. I settled down well and enjoyed being in a large community. If weather permitted, I could walk to school there along the sea-front, teach sixth class and walk home or bus home. The principal was the only other Sister in the school at that time. My pupils, like all my students, were wonderful.
In August 1976 I flew to San Francisco, California to teach in St. Brigid’s Primary School and be superior of St. Brigid’s Convent. I was given 8th grade to teach. That was difficult for me, so when a young teacher came to prepare girls and boys for entrance to college, I happily taught 4th grade. In 1983 we handed over St. Brigid’s to Spanish Sisters and three of us came home with Sisters from Napa. Our fourth Sister stayed in St. Brigid’s until she had done some courses.
My home assignment was to Goldenbridge as Superior. That kept me busy for six years when I was assigned to Rush Convent to work as librarian in the secondary school there. I had hardly begun when I was asked to go to Rathdrum as Superior. There were five or six sisters there but only one was working in the school as Principal. I became involved in parish work.
In 1994 I came here to Coolock. I spent a few years helping out in the national school here and helped out with chores in the Convent. Now in 2014 aged ninety four, I am still able to help out sometimes. I thank God for so many experiences and blessings.
Sr. Mary Cannon