Sr M James McGann
Died 20 April 1939
Mary McGann was one of the first vocations from the Cessnock area to the Sisters of St Joseph. The daughter of James and Catherine McGann (nee Roberts) was born at Milfield, Cessnock on 16 April 1878. She became a postulant on 1 May 1892 at the age of fourteen years and two weeks and was destined to spend forty-seven fruitful years in the congregation.
As Sister Mary James McGann of Our Lady of the Angels, Mary received the habit with six other postulants on 13 February, 1893 (the day Mother M. Aquin was professed). In the following July, Sr Mary James took up her first appointment which was to Brookfield where she worked until April 1895 when illness forced her return to Lochinvar where she was admitted to the Infirmary. Sister made her First Profession on 22 August, 1895 and was appointed to Burwood.
Over the following years Sister Mary James was to teach music at many of the branch convents throughout the diocese and as well as Lochinvar. These included Carrington, Krambach, Wingen, Merewether, Brookfield, Cundletown and Gloucester. She was also called upon, especially during her times at Lochinvar, to go to branch houses to help in times of sickness or when Forty Hours Devotions and Parish Missions were held.
Sister was superior at Carrington for a few years and would laughingly say in later life: "I don't think I would ever have made a 'top class' superior; I found it too hard for me to be serious." Sister Mary James had "a beautiful, gentle nature and a magnanimous spirit."
"Sister Mary James was one of the most lovable of characters. In religion her sweet simplicity was blended with unbounded charity. Happy were the music pupils who experienced her care; happy too was anyone who came in contact with her for she was in truth the 'cheerful giver' of the best her generous heart could give." The Sentinel
Sister's health was never robust as she suffered several serious illnesses during her life. In the late 1930s her health became more precarious. Wingen, where she went in January, 1938 was her last appointment. There, in semi-retirement, she took the choir, gave some music lessons and was a gentle, caring fun-filled member of the community.
In August of 1938 Sister Mary James was admitted to the Mater Hospital where she was a patient till December when she went to the Infirmary at Lochinvar. After months of patient suffering she died on the 20 April, 1939. Of her final days it is recorded: "During a long and painful illness she greeted everyone with her own bright smile; and even at the end, in perfect consciousness, smiling yielded her great soul to God..." (ibid)
Sister Mary James was buried on 21 April, 1939 after the Office for the Dead and Solemn Requiem Mass was offered for her eternal repose.