A Little Company of Mary sister who has been involved with the hospice movement in New Zealand since the 1980s has been awarded the Queen’s Service Medal.

Sr Mary Scanlon, LCM, of Wellington, received the award in the Queen’s Birthday Honours.

She was appointed as the Mary Potter Hospice education officer in Wellington in 1986 and coordinated terminal care education programmes for hospice staff at Calvary Hospital.

She later took on the role of principal nurse and helped guide major changes for the hospice, including the building of a new hospice in Newtown and setting up the Mary Potter Hospice Trust.

In the late 1980s she was instrumental in introducing care for those suffering from Aids.

She joined the Hospice New Zealand Executive in 1987 and served as president in 1989 and 1990.

After retiring as principal nurse in 1990, she took on various roles, including counselling, training, and governance.

Sr Mary told NZ Catholic that her QSM award recognised 102 years of prayerful and loving service by LCM sisters to healthcare in New Zealand.

“Together we draw inspiration from the vision of Venerable Mary Potter, in her words: ‘We will watch and pray with the dying as Mary did on Calvary’.”

Sr Mary said her award also honours the LCM sisters in the province of the Southern Cross (Australia, New Zealand and Tonga) , “who, despite age and infirmity, continue to pray, live and work in the spirit of Mary Potter. . .”

“My QSM is a huge honour for me from the country of my birth,” she said.

“I am, as it were, the ‘poster girl’ representing religious women who work tirelessly for the good of our neighbours, especially those sick, suffering, dying and in need.

“We do what we do cheerfully, knowing that we are also needy human beings.”

Sr Mary said prayer has always been the “backdrop of our care” in hospitals, hospices and in the community.

She noted the importance of the sisters’ daily prayer for the dying.

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