In loving memory of Mary Gaynor. Her contribution, love and support for the LGBT+ Catholic community will remain in our hearts forever. Mary was an Ally to Acceptance Melbourne, she helped Acceptance Melbourne find a home at St Thomas Aquinas (we have now moved to St Joseph), and established the strong connection between Acceptance and the Parish of South Yarra. We extend our condolences to her family and loved ones, she will not be forgotten.
In loving memory of Mary Gaynor
February 5, 1933 – August 3, 2020
Quote from the Augustinian Newsletter of the Australian Province:
“It was with great sadness that our parish in South Yarra heard the news of Mary Gaynor’s death on 3 August 2020. A parishioner in South Yarra for over forty years, Mary became synonymous with St Thomas Aquinas’ Church in Bromby Street, where she served the parish community in a myriad of ways. She was loved and respected by everyone.
Forty years ago, Mary purchased her flat in the block right beside St Thomas Aquinas Church and thus began the lifetime of service which she gave to the Parish of South Yarra, principally at St Thomas’ Church. Care for the sacristy, decorating the church for special occasions, preparing for Mass, being a regular lector and Eucharistic Minister, involving other parishioners to share in these ministries, as well as daily opening and closing of the church were all a regular part of Mary’s ministry.
She loved to sing at Mass, and every year participated in the choir for Christmas and Holy Week-Easter ceremonies. For twenty-five years she compiled the Sunday Mass commentaries and Prayers of the Faithful for our parish Masses. She served on the Parish Pastoral Council, Liturgy Committee, other committees and in the preparation for all kinds of parish celebrations over many years. All this was done in her no-fuss, understated style, with intelligence, grace and a generous smile for everyone.
Mary was instrumental in allowing Acceptance, the Catholic LGBTIQ+ (Acronym for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans, Intersex and Queer) community in Melbourne, to obtain the use of St Thomas Aquinas’ for their monthly Mass and meeting. She was on the Parish Council at that time and, learning that they were couch-surfing and moving from home to home for their monthly gatherings, she suggested to the parish priest Fr John Barry OSA to make St Thomas Aquinas available to them instead, allowing their move into a parish where thanks to Fr John the care and affirmation of the Gay community was already regular practice.
Composed for this Newsletter, this paragraph very recently arrived from Acceptance Melbourne to honour Mary’s involvement: “Mary first came to Acceptance in 1995 as a straight person ready to support LBGTI Catholics, living next door to our church. She came to Acceptance Melbourne from her role at a group called “Living with AIDS” in St Kilda in the early 1990s and she served Acceptance for twenty-five years, and was mentor to many members in that time. Always an easy person to talk to, Mary fitted in very well at Acceptance over the years; Acceptance had many straight followers. Rest in Peace. Mary lives in our hearts forever.”
Teresa Ma, the current leader of Acceptance, shares a story which revealed the creative and humorous side of Mary: “For many years Mary experienced horrible back pain which immobilised her at times. Mary tried pain medications, surgeries, heat packs and massages but the pain remained. So one day, Mary went to the store “Off Ya Tree” on Swanston Street in central Melbourne, which sold marijuana paraphernalia such as bongs, etc. Mary asked the shop assistant if she could buy some marijuana to help with her back pain. The shop assistant then asked Mary to wait outside the shop… and ten minutes later, a pot dealer showed up, and of course, made the drop off with Mary. That happened about five years ago. Mary was rather disappointed that her space cake had no effect on her back pain.” Teresa, being a drug counsellor, and having heard all kinds of drug stories, considers Mary the best and the bravest. It still brings a smile to her face to imagine Mary in a drug deal on Swanston, and perhaps a little relaxed after having a slice of space cake with a cup of tea.
One of Mary’s prized honours was in 2017 to receive Affiliation to the Australasian Province of the Augustinian Order. She became an Augustinian Affiliate “by virtue of the good works Mary has done for the Parish of South Yarra.” Mary specially requested that she would be buried in the Augustinian Affiliate habit, and her wish was granted.
In the last couple of years, Mary’s health deteriorated quite rapidly. True to her nature, she bore her final months of illness in and out of hospital in the same gracious, unfussed way that she had lived, always with a smile for her doctors and nurses, and especially for her family and visitors, and still maintaining her often wicked sense of humour.
Part of the great sadness of Covid-19 was that when Mary died on 3 August 2020, the imposed lockdown meant that, instead of St Thomas Aquinas being packed with her family, friends and parishioners to honour this marvellous woman, only her immediate family could attend her funeral. We will celebrate together and thank God for her in due time. On this All Saints’ Day 2020 we can say that Mary is, indeed, one of the great unsung saints of our parish, a woman whose life was dedicated to loving service of God’s people.
In his eulogy, her brother, Tony, ended with these most fitting words: She never married and the bulk of her life was spent in looking after returned servicemen and their dependants, members of St Joseph’s and St Thomas Aquinas’ Parish, residents in her owners’ corporation and a number of charities. All in all, a life well spent. May her dear soul rest in peace. Vale, Mary Gaynor, great woman of God, treasured icon of the Parish of South Yarra. (Edited by Abel van der Veer osa.)
Di Brebner & Teresa.”