Most of us are great fans of FLANNERY O’CONNOR, especially her spiritual writings. As the story goes, the Dominican nuns of Hawthorn begged her to write a book about the child in this blog. Flannery basically said: are you nuts? I don’t do such things. But so often in the case of nuns, heaven prevailed and the book was written.
MARY ANN LONG was born in 1946, one of four children to a poor, Kentucky family. At age 3, after undergoing X-rays, radium, and losing an eye, Mary Ann was diagnosed with an incurable cancer by the Tumor Clinic in Louisville. Her mother was ill herself, too ill to care for a sick child, and at the advice of her doctor, Mary Ann was sent to live in a home run by the Dominican Sisters. Although sending their dying child far from home to live with strangers was heartbreaking for her loving parents, there was no other option financially possible.
Mary Ann was described as “a loveable little girl who touches the hearts of everyone she meets.” Mary Ann’s one good eye was brown and sparkled with the joy of life. She greeted the Sisters with laughter and had no hesitation or shyness toward them.
She was curious about the other patients living in the ward and spent her short life consoling residents in her own sympathetic and cheerful way. There was something special about her ability to console those who came to console her. Mary Ann had a special gift of displaying her interior beauty despite her disfigured outer appearance. She forgot herself in favor of meeting the needs of others.
Mary Ann was baptized into the Catholic faith and took lessons in religion. She seemed to absorb her lessons in a mature way. She was a fast learner and very intelligent, the sisters taught her much about God’s love. She often prayed, “Jesus, I love you with all I got,”- it was as close to “with all my heart” as she could get. Mary Ann was allowed to make her First Communion at the age of five and was confirmed at the age of six. She chose the name Joseph for her confirmation name, her reasoning being that St. Joseph took care of baby Jesus and he would also take care of her.
|Mary Anne with one of the nuns|
Mary Ann’s parents missed her terribly and when she was six, they decided to bring her back home with them. She was only home for a short time before they decided to take her back. They said, “We just don’t seem to be able to make her happy here…” Although Mary Ann loved her family, she found that she was much happier and more comfortable at the home with the Sisters whom she came to love so dearly.
She won over many friends with her lively and charming personality. People would ask her, “Why don’t you pray for God to cure you?” She would reply simply, “This is the way God wants me.” Her obedience to God’s will was an inspiration. Often, her cheerful acceptance of her state in life made it easier for the other patients to accept their state.
In 1958, her condition began to grow worse. Mary Ann had always wanted to become a sister, and the sisters fulfilled her wish by allowing her to become a Dominican tertiary. When a large growth appeared in her mouth, it became impossible for her to eat normally. She never complained. Just before Christmas, a serious hemorrhage occurred. The sisters lit a candle at her bedside, prepared for the worst. Mary Ann prayed over and over, “Dear Jesus, I love You.”
Mary Ann died quietly in her sleep on January 18, 1959, at the age of twelve. In her hand she clutched the rosary she had been saying when she fell asleep. No one can deny that in the 12 years alotted her, Mary Ann knew, love, and served the Lord.