Mary Connors had 12 children, but even after raising them she had energy for another mission: For a quarter-century, she headed the parish outreach office at St. Lawrence the Martyr Roman Catholic Church in Sayville.
Connors ran the food pantry, helped low-income people pay their bills, and generally gave hope to those struggling through life, her relatives said.
“She was pretty much on call 24-7-365,” said Raymond Connors of Manhattan, one of her sons. “She would always be there for people. Her clients really cherished her.”
Connors, 83, died Feb. 25 after her latest battle with cancer.
She had retired last year but came out of retirement in September when her replacement at the church could not continue. She had to resign for good in November after she was diagnosed with bone cancer, though she kept working the phones to try to get Thanksgiving baskets for the needy.
She was so beloved by members of the community that when the hearse leading the funeral procession drove along Main Street in Sayville to St. Lawrence the Martyr, three homeless men stood at attention and saluted, said her daughter Noreen Howland of West Sayville.
“There were so many people who loved her,” Howland said.
Connors grew up in Jackson Heights, Queens, and attended Our Lady of the Blessed Sacrament grammar school in the neighborhood. She earned full scholarships to Archbishop McDonald High School and to St. Joseph’s College for Women in Brooklyn.
She briefly taught English at Brooklyn Technical High School before starting her family. She and her husband, Ray, moved to Sayville in the early 1960s.
Connors helped hold down the fort at home on a number of fronts, her family said, learning how to do plumbing and electrical work in the house. She also had a great love of animals, and the family kept an eclectic collection that included ducks, chickens and rabbits.
Connors’ faith was a central part of her life, her relatives said. She particularly admired the social activist Dorothy Day, co-founder of the Catholic Worker Movement, which focused on helping and advocating for the poor and living a simple lifestyle in solidarity with them.
She earned a master’s of divinity degree at the Seminary of the Immaculate Conception in Huntington because she not only wanted to help provide for people’s physical needs such as clothing and food, but to better meet their spiritual needs as well, Raymond Connors said.
In recent years, Connors had become an associate of the Sisters of St. Joseph of Brentwood, a group of lay people who work closely with the nuns and follow their spirituality.
In addition to her son Raymond and daughter Noreen, she is survived by sons John Connors of Puerto Rico, Joseph Connors of Manhattan and Luke Connors of Sayville; daughters Clare Connors of Pittsburgh, Jeanne Connors of Abu Dhabi, Natazha Bernie of San Francisco, Cirstin Conneely of Dobbs Ferry, and Therese Ebarb and Gabrielle Coyne, both of Sayville. Another daughter, Evangeline, died shortly after birth.
A funeral Mass was celebrated Feb. 29 at St. Lawrence the Martyr, with burial in the parish cemetery in Sayville.