Cover photo for Mary Catherine Conway's Obituary
Mary Catherine Conway Profile Photo
1948 Mary 2023

Mary Catherine Conway

August 26, 1948 — August 13, 2023

Hyattsville

 

Mary Catherine Conway (Aug. 26, 1948-Aug. 13, 2023) was a remarkable,
accomplished woman who had an amazing life.

Born in Scranton, PA, Mary grew up in Easton, PA and attended Catholic schools:
St. Bernard’s Elementary School and Notre Dame High School. She wanted to go to
college and did the research and applied for and received scholarships to attend
Trinity College in Washington, DC. She graduated in 1970 and got her first job in
journalism at The Catholic Standard, where she began to make her mark. Mary
covered major news events in the Nation’s Capital. She also met and interviewed
many important people – international figures, cardinals and missionaries, local
parish priests, Sisters and ordinary parishioners, and others who served the poor
and the needy. She brought their stories to life in the pages of the Standard until
1985, when she left to found the Catholic Islander newspaper in the US Virgin
Islands.

Among the major stories Mary covered was the Consistory when Washington
Archbishop William Baum was made a Cardinal. That trip to Rome proved to be a
turning point. She became friends with Msgr. Lorenzo Albacete, who became her
Spiritual Director. Msgr. Albacete, was a brilliant theologian who also had a
wicked sense of humor and encouraged Mary to follow her dreams.

Not long after that, Mary interviewed a certain Capuchin Friar about his work with
the tenants of a rundown building in DC. She not only wrote a moving story for the
Standard, but she also stayed in touch and became friends with Father Sean
O’Malley (now the Cardinal Archbishop of Boston). Then, when he was named
bishop of the diocese of St. Thomas in the USVI, he asked Mary to help start a
newspaper there. She put her furniture in storage and left her books in the care of a
colleague and moved to St. Croix, where she was a one-woman editor, publisher,
photographer, reporter, and business manager. She got the newspaper up and
running and kept it going far beyond the original one year she originally signed on
for.

She became an Islander herself. She lived there for nearly 15 years, surviving and
rebuilding after two major hurricanes. She weathered Hurricane Hugo on St. Croix
by holing up in one of the ancient buildings on the island that had been built by
Danish colonists with 12-foot stone walls. There was a priest who also was in that
church property with her. They carried the tabernacle to the safest part of the
building and waited out the storm together. That priest later joked that he survived
the storm “with Jesus and Mary.”

Ninety percent of the buildings on St. Croix were destroyed. Mary stayed on Island
to report and The Islander stayed in business. Eventually Mary moved to St.
Thomas and found a safe basement apartment. Then Hurricane Marilyn hit. She
wrote a hair-raising story about her experience in that hurricane. The house above
her apartment was blown away, literally.

Having lost everything she owned twice, and following other traumatic
experiences, Mary finally returned to the US mainland around the end of the
Century. She lived with family for a while and then took a job in New York City,
working for the Redemptorist Fathers in Brooklyn. She wasn’t there long, when
9/11 happened. The neighborhood where she lived in Brooklyn was home to many
first responders. The community was doubly devastated by the loss of life.

Mary worked in Brooklyn, traveling around the Baltimore Province of the
Redemptorists, until her retirement in 2011. She lived with family in Florida
briefly and then relocated to Hyattsville, where she lived until her death. She is
survived by four siblings: Neal Conway, Patrick Conway, Helen McLeary and
Diane Brown. Other survivors include her Aunt, Ann McDonald, and many nieces
and nephews and cousins from her extended but very close family.

On a personal note, Mary and I have been friends for almost 50 years. She
introduced me to my husband, her brother Neal. She made my wedding dress and
let me live with her for a few months after thieves broke into my apartment.

When I started to work at The Standard on N St. NW she welcomed me, took me
to lunch at a restaurant nearby that was owned by one of her Trinity classmates.
The Standard was an extended family to all of us in the Editorial Department. Tom
Rowan, the managing editor, gave “wise and sage advice” and was a wonderful
mentor. He was always the adult in the room. Norman McCarthy and Bob Todd
were old school journalists and Mary and I were the “college girls” on staff.

I can personally testify to Mary’s generosity, creativity and deep faith. She hosted
Thanksgiving Dinner in her tiny efficiency apartment and invited one of the people
she interviewed, the Organist of Sacre Coeur Cathedral in Paris. who was in
Washington as part of an exchange program with the National Shrine (now
Basilica) of the Immaculate Conception in DC. He and his family came and I was
invited to join the festivities. Another time, she and I co-hosted a St. Patrick’s Day
party in her building. We prepared the stew together, with the help of our other
Standard friends.

Perhaps one of the most moving examples of her generosity happened when she
was recruited to live in as an adult presence with the students at Trinity. She was a
quasi RA, but mostly she was just there to help as needed. During that time, she
befriended a freshman student who was trying to rebuild her young life after
traumatic events in her hometown. Unfortunately, her troubles followed her in the
form of a stalker who had abused her in the past. She stepped in and found help
and protection for this student. Later on, the student named her first child after
Mary.

She had a wonderful, meaningful, purpose driven life. She is greatly missed, but I
expect that she is having a ball in heaven - which for Mary would probably
resemble the Algonquin Table, full of wit and laughter.
 
 
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