OLAFire Logo
Our Lady of the Angels (OLA) School Fire, December 1, 1958

<< Rose LaPlacaReturn To ListJoseph Maffiola>>
Sister Mary St. Canice Lyng
Room Age Birthdate Grade B/G/T
208 44 10/11/14 7 Teacher
OLA Convent 
Father: Michael Lyng
Mother: Bridget Lyng
Brother: John Lyng 
About Sister Mary St. Canice
Sister Mary St. Canice Lyng was born Mary Lyng on October 11, 1914 in Chicago. She entered the BVM Community on November 8, 1932. Previously, she was Sister Superior of St. Mary's School in DeKalb, Illinois, and before that had taught in California. On December 1, 1958, rather than abandon her students she heroically stayed with them to the very end. She was interred on December 4, 1958 at Mt. Carmel, Hillside, Illinois. 
Interred: Mount Carmel (Hillside, IL)
Memories of Sister Mary St. Canice
Sister Mary St. Canice, is a person I will always remember. The last time I saw her was when I was sitting on the window ledge of room 208, and the room was so very black. But as I turned my face back into the room, it seemed that she was looking right at me. I loved her then, I love her now. She never raised her voice, and she always tried to be so helpful and understanding.
    -- (Michaelene, Student, 7th grade)
Sister Mary St. Canice was a very pretty young nun in 1936 when she was our teacher in 3rd grade room 5-B, which was room 205 at the time of the fire. All the boys liked her! 1936 was when OLA went coed. Before that, boys and girls were in separate rooms. I do not know when she returned to OLA. I did not know she died in the fire until the next day.
    -- (Joe Murray, Retired Firefighter, Former Student)
I graduated from St. Charles de Borromeo Elementary School in 1950. The school is located in North Hollywood, California, a suburb of the City of Los Angeles. The school first opened in 1945, or maybe 1946, using temporary bungalows. I assume Sister was there from the first day, but cannot be sure of that. Sister Mary St. Canince was my seventh grade teacher (48-49 school year). Parenthetically, another student in her class that year was Cardinal Roger Mahony, head of the Los Angeles Catholic Archdiocese. I was a difficult and unruly student to say the least. Sister always treated me with respect and a fair amount of tolerance. That's not to say she didn't discipline me, but always in a constructive way.

I learned a great deal from her, and grew to love and respect her. It is no surprise to read of her selfless act of courage during the fire. No surprise at all! It was a sad day when I read about her death so many years ago. I'm seventy years old now (2007), and it's still a bit overwhelming for me to think about it. It makes me wonder why bad things happen to such good people. I know, "God's way is not our way", but so many children could have benefited from her wonderful talents. Heaven's gain is our loss.

I'm so glad that I had the opportunity to know her. She may be gone, but she's certainly not forgotten.
    -- (Ron, Former Student)

I was devastated to hear of the fire that day. I knew Sister Mary St. Canice was teaching at Our Lady of Angels and prayed that she wasn't one who perished. She was the one single person who “made the difference” in my life and I loved and respected her. As our 8th grade teacher, and school principal (Sister Superior) she had the compassion and insight and gentle strength that it took to reach out and help me help myself. She gave me confidence by believing in me before I could believe in myself. I was agonizingly shy and had sub-zero self esteem. She treated us with respect, which wasn't something we were used to. Step by step she gave me opportunities to develop areas she saw I could excel in. She could transfer her strength of character to those of us who had no strength. Her love of developing and guiding her students was in her soul and guided her own final selfless actions.

Kathy, Class of 1955, St. Mary's School, DeKalb, Illinois
    -- (Kathy Earley, Student)

My parents took the Chicago Tribune in 1958. I opened the paper first, and the photo I saw has never left me. I taught for 35 years. Every class heard the OLA tragedy story and of the bravery and dedication of the three nuns.

When 9-11 happened, my class was the only one where not one parent removed a child. I asked a parent why. She said that the parents agreed that I would protect the students with my life. That strength came from knowing the sacrifice of those three nuns.

Barbara Ellen Hamilton, Greenwood, IN, retired 4th/5th grade teacher
    -- (Barbara Ellen Hamilton, Other)