Lifetime of giving honored at funeral for Mary Gannon

January 17, 1993|By Rafael Alvarez | Rafael Alvarez,Staff Writer

When the parish of St. Peter Claver Roman Catholic church buried Mary Mackalene Gannon on the 100th anniversary of her birth yesterday, her priest rewrote the "Serenity Prayer" in her honor.

Standing in the pulpit before Miss Gannon's casket, the Rev. Robert Kearns said: "God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change; the courage to change the things I can; and the wisdom to know the difference . . . as Mary Gannon knew it."

Miss Gannon, who died Monday, accepted that people grow old and lonely and sick. She had the courage to bring her keen spirit into their lives.

"If I can get out and do for somebody," she once said, "I can't do anything better."

Her reward for a lifetime of giving, Father Kearns said, was peace of mind.

A Catholic since birth and a resident of West Baltimore's tiny lane called Francis Street for the past 50 years, Miss Gannon was born the daughter of a laundress and a bootblack.

For most of her working life, she labored in other people's homes as a domestic to support her two sons.

"She was very strong even though she wasn't no more than 5 feet tall, and 115 pounds was her heaviest weight ever," said

Francis Robinson, a son. "If a cat died, she would feel upset about it. If a tragedy came on the TV news, she would feel a bit of it. My mother had no secrets about a long life -- she believed in her God and her church."

At St. Peter Claver -- where she endured for years as the oldest parishioner, attended Mass until age 99, and reigned as queen of the congregation's 100th anniversary in 1988 -- Miss Gannon seemed to be everywhere.

"If you're going to live in the world and you want to have peace, you're going to have to change. Mary wasn't afraid to change," said Father Kearns at the funeral Mass, a celebration that sparkled with flute music by James Barger, one of Miss Gannon's seven grandchildren. "The Lord gave her an open mind and a curiosity to learn, and she did."

Francis Robinson, who ferried his mother to market on Saturday and on her rounds of Christian commitments every Sunday, doubted yesterday that he would continue with the pace of his mother's work.

"We used to go out and do this Eucharistic ministry, say a prayer with people who are shut-ins and serve them Communion. That was my Sunday every Sunday," he said. "Sometimes I used to hate it with a passion because it would take up the whole day. We'd be going everywhere in this city to visit people on my day off. But this is what she wanted to do, and we did help people as best we could."

Miss Gannon is also survived by a second son, Edward Kelly of Baltimore; 10 great-grandchildren; and 15 great-great-grandchildren.

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