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Issue No. 124, October 2012
Gratitude for Gifts received
This month we are featuring another of the values that guide our lives as MMMs. The value for October is Gratefulness. In our documents it says: "Gratefulness is an essential attitude of being, which is a sign of grace and gift received, in a life lived in communion. As Medical Missionaries of Mary we 'remember with thankfulness God's fidelity in the past and Christ's own promise to be with us always.' This is a value that relates to self and in community."
In this year of Jubilee we have so much to be thankful for. A recent example was an unexpected visit from two staff members of St. Mary's Hospital in Taiwan, which MMM opened just fifty years ago. Another was the news that three MMMs will be awarded the Pro-Ecclesia and Pontifice medal later this year for outstanding service. We also give thanks for our Associates, who share our MMM charism.
This newsletter comes out on 1 October, the Feast Day of St. Thérèse of Lisieux, patroness of the missions and a special inspiration for us. October is Mission Month, with World Mission Sunday celebrated on 21 October.
Of particular concern for the Medical Missionaries of Mary is the health of mother and child. Our Sisters are involved in many projects for the empowerment of women, to help build their self-esteem, raise awareness about their rights, and encourage them to discover their gifts. MMMs work to combat human trafficking, both in countries of origin and destination. So another significant date is the European Day against Trafficking on 18 October.
The definition of trafficking of human beings is the recruitment, transportation, transfer, harbouring or receipt of people for the purpose of exploitation. This includes persons forced into prostitution or other forms of sexual exploitation, forced labour or services, slavery or practices similar to slavery, servitude or the removal of organs. For children exploitation may also include: illicit international adoption, trafficking for early marriage, recruitment as child soldiers, for begging, or for sports (such as camel jockeys or football players). Trafficking involves a process of using illicit means such as threat or use of force or other forms of coercion, abduction, fraud, deception, the abuse of power or of a position of vulnerability.
It is difficult to assess the real size of human trafficking because the crime takes place underground, and is often not identified. A conservative estimate is that there are 2.5 million victims at any one time. This form of slavery generates tens of bilions of dollars in profits for criminals each year.
Trafficking affects every country of the world, as countries of origin, transit or destination - even a combination of these. It often occurs to more developed countries from less developed countries, where people are rendered vulnerable to trafficking by poverty, conflict or other conditions. Europe is the destination for victims from the widest range of countries of origin, while victims from Asia are trafficked to the widest range of destinations. The Americas are prominent as both the origin and destination for trafficking.
So the evil of trafficking affects all of us and needs to be confronted. We can make a start by being informed, by raising awareness, and by being responsible consumers. We can encourage companies to ensure that their products are free from slave labour and other forms of exploitation. Helping people in poor countries to have a decent livelihood reduces incentives for them to allow themselves to be trafficked.
If you suspect that someone has been trafficked, report it to the institutions or assistance facilities dealing with human trafficking in your area.
We are grateful for your support and remember you in prayer each day.
"For me, prayer is an aspiration of the heart; it is a simple glance directed to heaven; it is a cry of gratitude and love in the midst of trial as well as joy." St. Thérèse of Lisieux
[Source: Act to Prevent Trafficking (APT) Ireland. To learn more about human trafficking, read the Global Report on Trafficking in Persons issued by the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC).]
A footprint in the East
Part of our MMM history is the foundation begun at the end of 1961 in Taiwan, formerly known as Formosa. Mother Mary had met a Columban missionary, Father Aiden McGrath, who was encouraging missionary groups to establish houses in Taiwan as a stepping stone for re-entry to China.
Two Sisters, Maria Glancy and Kieran Saunders, were the pioneers for MMM's first and only mission in the East. Already experienced missionaries, Maria had been matron at our hospital in Anua, Nigeria and Kieran had been matron in Makiungu, Tanganyika (later Tanzania). They were to staff a hospital planned by the Swiss Bethlehem Fathers for Taitung, located in a mountainous region in the southeast. We had been invited to assist especially with obstetrics. Several Sisters eventually made their home there and St. Mary's Hospital served the mainly poor, aboriginal people. However it was a mission isolated from most of our other houses and the languages used were challenging, so regretfully, in 1974 our Chapter decided that we would hand over to the Daughters of Charity, who continue to serve there.
So there was great excitement when, out of the blue in September, we received a phone call at the MMM Communications Department from Sense Chen, the current CEO of St. Mary's Hospital. He and Nicole Wu, an aromatharapist, were attending an aromatherapy conference at Trinity College Dublin. The purpose of Botanica 2012 was to 'obtain an up-to-date global overview of the practical potentials, challenges and future of aromatherapy and herbal therapeutics'. Their visit to Ireland coincided with the 50th anniversary of the Hospital. They wanted to visit and thank MMM for the seeds we had planted in Taiwan. Above, Sense (second from left) and Nicole (fourth from right) met MMMs at the Congregational Centre.
As with many similar health institutions providing services for the poor, St. Mary's has experienced ups and downs over the years, mainly due to difficulties in obtaining funding. Funding now comes mainly from local sources. It is presently a 29-bed unit, offering many general services, with the exception of surgery because there are no doctors. Sense explained that they want to be seen as a healing centre, changing from a hospital atmosphere. They brought us photographs showing a home-like setting at the entrance.
A traumatic event was responsible for much of the current focus. Several years ago, a severe typhoon caused terrible damage and loss of life. While help was available to repair injuries and damaged infrastructures, it seemed that little could be done for those who had experienced longer-lasting trauma and stress. St. Mary's was the first hospital in Taiwan to use aromatherapy, introduced as part of a holistic approach to improve people's quality of life. Initially the medical staff saw this therapy as peripheral and not very important, so aromatherapists were trained to give treatment.
A hospice unit was opened and aromatherapy with massage was seen to improve the quality of life for the dying. Through the generosity of three companies that produce essential oils, the aromatherapy is available free of charge for both the patient and family.
The staff, with thirty volunteers, engage in health promotion, encouraging people to be responsible for their own health. On the compound is an organic farm so that organic food can be provided for patients. In addition an outreach home care centre provides 1000 meals per day for poor people in the community.
Neither Sense nor Nicole had met the MMMs and they only knew their Chinese names, but they had brought pictures of St. Mary's from its early days to the present. There was much excitement in identifying the Sisters, and Chen told us that some nurses who have worked in the hospital for over forty years still remember and miss them. Pictured left are (back row, l-r) Sisters Maria Glancy, Kieran Saunders, and Martin de Porres (Shirley) Smith and (front row, l-r) Maureen Sinnott and Petria Whelan. Sisters Maureen McDermott and Madeleine Leblanc also served in Taiwan.
Sense said that Nicole and he appreciated this opportunity to meet with us because we have much in common. We have the same desire to provide care with love, especially in service of the poor. On behalf of the people of Taitung, he wished to thank MMM for bringing new life and for leaving so much behind.
For years of dedicated service
Three Medical Missionaries of Mary will be awarded the Pro-Ecclesia et Pontifice medal later this year. They are Sisters Bernard McCarroll, from Scotland; Cecilia Asuzu, from Nigeria; and Leonie McSweeney, from Ireland. This is the highest honour given to consecrated religious and is 'a mark of immense gratitude for the outstanding service they have given to the Church, to the Catholic faith, and to healthcare'.
Sister Cecilia entered MMM in 1958 after training as a teacher. She can certainly be described as an experienced and dedicated missionary. After training as a nurse-midwife she was assigned to Nigeria, where she spent nine years. Her next assignment was to Angola, where she worked as a nurse and matron. After religious studies in the USA she served for twelve years in MMM leadership in Nigeria and Ireland. Returning to Angola she worked in primary healthcare, leadership, and guiding young MMMs. After a short break back in Nigeria she was assigned to the Republic of Benin, where she now serves as community business administrator and shares her experience and wisdom in the local community.
Sister Leonie entered MMM in 1951 after working as a secretary. She qualified as a physician from UCD and was assigned to Nigeria in 1960. She spent sixteen years as a physician in several hospitals there. This included service as medical officer in Ibadan during a cholera epidemic. She then specialized in reproductive health, especially in the Billlings Method of family planning. She has published widely and has also worked on HIV prevention. Over the past thirty-six years she has helped countless married couples to deepen their relationship through the Billings Method.
Sister Bernard entered MMM in 1953. She trained as a nurse and worked at the MMM hospital in Drogheda. In 1964 she was assigned to the Clinica Moscati in Rome, Italy, where she was a theatre sister. After further time in Ireland, she was assigned to Naples, Italy, for two years. She trained as a midwife and was assigned to Nigeria in 1977. She has spent the past thirty-five years in the general hospital run by MMM in Eleta, Ibadan. She has worked there as a staff nurse, theatre sister, deputy matron, and acting administrator.
Retiring Archbishop of Glasgow, Mario Conti, wrote to congratulate Sister Bernard on hearing of the award from Father Paul, parish priest of her home parish.
"Dear Sister Bernard,
"I could not help but notice the sense of pride with which the parish priest of Holy Cross, Croy contacted me concerning the award of the Pro-Ecclesia and Pontifice Medal...I have been made aware that it is sixty years now since you entered the Medical Missionaries of Mary and, having worked in Rome, Italy, Ireland and Nigeria, your dedication to offering pastorally caring assistance through the medical profession has been of such note that the Holy Father Pople Benedict XVI has decided to mark you out for this singular honour.
"The pride of Father Paul is something which I can, as I retire as Archbishop of Glasgow, also take great joy in having one of the daughters of the Archdiocese of Glasgow noted and marked out for special attention by the Holy Father as having served the Church faithfully...Without doubt I agree with many that you are among some of Croy's finest daughters.
"I add my own praise to that of the Holy Father and the community of Croy in admiration and affection for your work and dedication. With dedicated workers as yourself in the vineyard of the Lord, the Church has truly been enriched ad multos annos!
"With every blessing and warmest good wishes, Yours devotedly in Christ, Mario Conti, Archbishop Emeritus of Glasgow"
His words reflect the gratitude we all feel for these three dedicated MMMs.
The gift of being an MMM Associate
Georgenia Ndulaka is an MMM Associate in Nigeria. She works at our health centre in Amukoko, Lagos, an overcrowded urban area with many health challenges. She writes to tell us what she is grateful for as an Associate.
"Growing up in a society with many challenges was not easy. Only a few discover a way of life in which they can fulfill their talents and gifts. Going through the stages of formation as an Associate MMM, I read a lot about the values of the Medical Missionaries of Mary Congregation. I began to appreciate the gifts that God has given me. I made a decision to be committed to every task entrusted to me.
"After I made my covenant on 27 September 2008, the organisation I worked for, Stop AIDS, sent me to represent them at the Lagos State AIDS Control Agency. I attended and as part of the programme, working groups were formed. I was asked to be in the HIV Counselling and Testing Working Group. I gave it my best efforts. I improved my listening skills and my relationships with people living with HIV/AIDS.
"In 2010, the Civil Society on HIV/AIDS in Nigeria, Lagos State Chapter, in collaboration with the Lagos State AIDS Control Agency (LSACA), organized their Annual Forum. For the first time they decided to recognize those who had made outstanding progress. I was nominated as the best from my group. I received a Certificate of Recognition for commitment to HIV/AIDS in Lagos State. I was so happy when I climbed the podium to receive my award.
"Presently I work with MMM in Amukoko. I look after those with tuberculosis and take care of people living with HIV/AIDS, both newly-attending and repeat visits. I work for a few hours and the rest of the time I spend consulting.
"I am grateful for being an AMMM living in Nigeria because I am indeed among the few who have discovered a means to live out their talents and gifts."
The photo shows Georgenia receiving her award from Dr. Gboye of LSACA