MMM Communications, Rosemount, Booterstown, Dublin. Ireland. Tel :353-1-2887180 Fax:353-1-2834626 To contact MMM Email:
Number 154 - July 2015
In the month of July, MMMs celebrate the life of Saint Benedict of Nursia. Though he lived in the 5th and 6th centuries, Benedict wrote a rule of life that is still relevant today. Our foundress, Mother Mary Martin, was convinced that its spirit should form the basis of MMM spirituality.
In 1933, she wrote to Dom David, OSB: “What I really seek now is to have for the next year or so, for myself and the first few pioneers, regular spiritual conferences on the Religious Life, and I would like if it were possible to have them under the guidance of the Benedictine Fathers according to the spirit of St. Benedict...which will give us a solid spiritual foundation as well as the freedom of soul so necessary for the members of an active medical missionary society.
"You will realise even better than I do the absolute necessity – for our difficult vocation – of a very solid, intense and interior life of love and union with God. The Sisters must be so trained as to seek God in all, and to depend absolutely on God for all. Owing to the nature of our works they will have to be thorough religious in heart and mind, not depending on many rules, enclosure or perhaps even a religious habit...We must be ready to follow [Jesus] in His Public Life, healing the sick, sowing the seeds of Christianity, spending and sacrificing ourselves as He did, going about doing good.”
In this newsletter you can read several stories from MMMs and MMM Associates who have lived that spirituality in a variety of ways. Sister Pacelli Ward, who served in Anua in its earlier years, related an experience in which she and her companions did indeed depend on God. One of our MMM Associates, Connie Salvidar, told us how our spirituality attracted her and about a very special journey she made to Honduras. Our MMM Sisters in South Sudan related how, with the help of the Malta Mission Fund and others, they brought the precious gift of water to an area in great need.
Once again we thank all of you who help to make our work possible. We remember you each day in our prayers. Please pray for us as well.
"And first of all, whatever good work you begin to do, beg of [God] with most earnest prayer to perfect it." Prologue to the Rule of Saint Benedict
May you be blessed.
Sister Pacelli Ward is from Castleblaney, County Monaghan. She trained as a pharmacist before joining MMM in 1951. After completing further training in pharmacy and as a nurse’s aide, she was assigned to Nigeria. There she spent fourteen years as a pharmacist in Anua and Afikpo.
After a few years in MMM leadership in Ireland and some updating, in 1973 she was back in Africa, this time in Tanzania. She spent ten years working in the pharmacies of remote hospitals in Dareda, Makiungu, Kabanga and Namanyere. Pharmacists in those situations often had to compound their own medicines and ointments.
Sister Pacelli also helped in Uganda in 1985. She was back in Tanzania in 1989 for another thirteen years, first in extending hospitality and then for ten more years as a pharmacist. This busy missionary returned to our Motherhouse in Ireland in 2002.
Now 88, Pacelli shared a story of her early years in Nigeria. It is a story that reminds us of some of the turbulent times of our lives, physical and spiritual, in which we need the help of God and others. We survive and are grateful and give thanks. She titled it:
"The day I will never forget"
“To have a Sunday off and go to the seaside was an unheard-of occasion for us at Saint Luke’s Hospital, Anua, Nigeria, a very busy place, almost fifty years ago. Sandwiches were prepared the previous evening. We also took four poles with us, with a sheet attached, to provide shade for us as we picnicked. Sister Marguerite, MMM, who has since died, was our experienced driver. She looked after the car and brought us to Eket, a journey of about forty miles.
"Father Pat Scanlon, SPS, also now deceased, was the parish priest of the fishing village and knew all the fishermen. He had arranged with them that if the tide was in they would bring us across the river by boat - but the tide was out. So we walked along, enjoying the sea breeze and carrying our bags with flasks of cold water and coffee, just the bare necessities. We were all quite excited, chatting as we walked on until we saw the 'log', which was the site for our bags and seat and picnic. This was a completely isolated area so we had privacy. We had our swimsuits on under our dresses and were all set to go to the beach. There were many pools of water, which we went splashing through, and we still had a long way to walk to the river."
A sudden turbulence “Then without any warning these soothing pools suddenly became violent springs, as if we had stepped on a magic switch. We caught each other by the hands to make a human chain and to strengthen the faint-hearted. We got through the swirling water, which took all our more youthful strength until we finally put our feet on terra firma on the strand. I wonder how Aristotle would explain the phenomenon!
“Our Guardian Angels were never more praised. We gave thanks to God for watching over us and walking with us. We really welcomed our coffee and sandwiches after that.
“The fisherman Paul, with whom we had left our car, was unaware of what could have been a great disaster. He joined us as we thanked God for all that had been and will be. It was truly a day I will never forget.”
“For life’s richness and completeness depends on the joys we share with our loved ones and friends.” Helen S. Rice
A Prayer for the Second Half of Life
May the light of your soul mind you. May all your worry and anxiousness about your age be transfixed.
May you be given wisdom for the eyes of your soul to see this as a time for gracious harvesting. May you have a passion to heal what has hurt you, and allow it to come closer and become one with you.
May you have great dignity, and a sense of how free you are. Above all, may you be given the wonderful gift of meeting the Eternal Light that is within you.
May you be blessed; and may you find a wonderful love in your self for your self.
The challenge of our charism
The call to be an MMM Associate
In recent years, we have welcomed many Associates of the Medical Missionaries of Mary, women and men who feel called to embrace the gift of the MMM charism. It can be any adult, single or married, male or female, who feels drawn to our spirituality and mission.
Most of these dedicated people continue their ordinary lifestyle and work. Associates who live near each other sometimes arrange to meet for prayer and support. Some make good use of modern technology to stay in contact. Some work with MMMs in other countries, bringing a wide range of skills. Some are able to arrange supportive visits to our missions.
Connie Saldivaris an MMM Associate in the USA. She made her covenant in October 2012 in the presence of Sister Jean Clare Eason (RIP) and the MMM Sisters in Chicago, IL. She works in our MMM Development Office (MDO) there. The mother of three grown sons, Connie told us what being an MMM Associate means to her and about a life-changing journey that she made to Honduras in 2015.
"Much of my current work in the MDO involves our participation in the Mission Cooperation Plan, in which we are assigned parishes to visit to speak about MMM. I send letters to dioceses requesting parishes to visit and acknowledgements to the Propagation of the Faith Mission offices. I contact the pastors to schedule dates and arrange with the Sisters who will be visiting the parishes.
"I keep records of the income received and thank new donors. I make sure that if donations are specified for a particular MMM mission that this information is entered in our data base.
"I was attracted to becoming an MMM Associate from watching the Sisters help others and inviting me to do the same. I liked the idea of helping them to do mission awareness and introducing myself as an Associate rather than an employee. At one church we visited, the Sister in charge of the parish asked that I explain to the community what an Associate was because the Church is in need of more lay people."
A desire for something deeper "I went to Honduras in March 2015. I wanted to experience the missionary work and to meet the Associates in Honduras. I was born in Mexico and because I speak Spanish, it was going to be easy to communicate.
"I visited the MMM house in Choloma, where Sisters Rosalinda Gonzalez, Renée Duignan and Danielle Darbro live. I joined them at their work in Casa Visitación and met the staff. They are involved in a wide variety of activities: ear cleaning, reflexology and massage; a lawyer helps in workshops; the driver takes the Sisters to the mountains and knows how to keep them safe on their visits. Oscar does the maintenance; Sirleny, an Associate, helps Sister Renée in the office; Associate Lillian does reflexology. Roger teaches children in day-care; Sandra is a psychologist.
"We visited the old MMM house in Marcala and met some of the Associates-to-be. Driver Toño, Aida and Martha have all worked with MMM for fifteen years, while Leslie Estela (Aida’s daughter) and Sandra Francisca have come to know us more recently.
"I attended Mass on the mountain near Choloma and was the first visitor at the new MMM house in Siguatepeque where Sisters Bernie Heneghan and Cleide Daniel da Silva are based. We visited families in the mountains, where the Sisters provide nutrition bags and medical supplies to poor families."
A family visit "One couple we visited were Don Miguel Romero and Doña Maria Hernández (not their real names), who have been married for more than fifty years. They live in an isolated mountainous community bordering El Salvador. It formerly belonged to El Salvador but is now is part of Honduras.
"During the civil war in El Salvador they had to provide food and shelter both for the government troops and the rebels and at times had to flee into the hills for safety. They returned to their home to find their animals and food had been stolen. They often spent days in the hills surviving on wild fruits and animals for food for themselves and their children.
"The couple are now in their late sixties and suffer from a number of chronic medical conditions. Doña Maria had a stroke three years ago but thankfully has recovered well. Don Miguel had some toes amputated - a complication of diabetes - which took more than a year to heal. He was confined to the house. This was really difficult for him because he is very active and loves the outdoors. MMM has helped them with medicines and money for hospital appointments.
"They in turn have provided hospitality for MMM and our staff since our arrival in Marcala. We always stopped there for coffee and tortillas on our way to other communities."
I will not be the same "I learned so many things from this visit. I learned to see that our poverty in the more 'developed' world is poverty of spirit: the lack of compassion and love for others.
"In Honduras I noticed that people often have courage to work harder than we do because of the conditions they live in. They fight just for survival, to be safe from guns and violence; to struggle with and accept an illness. Their great dreams are of being healthy and cared for. I witnessed their gratitude and joy for receiving something very small. They travel on foot, by bus, on bad roads, to visit someone and enjoy it. Sometimes I barely have time to make a phone call.
"For these people sharing is more important that acquiring. Their happiness is being together and sharing the small bag of food brought to them, not getting more 'stuff' that we don’t need from the stores. The home visits gave them so much joy and happiness that it was contagious.
"Although I found it difficult to witness their poverty, these men and women are people of faith who have placed their trust in God. They live in poverty with dignity. All the same, I saw that being poor and being sick is not a good combination.
"It seemed impossible to help everybody but I learned from the MMM Sisters that we start by doing what we can with what we have and it does not have to be a major thing. MMMs can connect us to receive mutual help because we both receive something.
"The MMM Sisters are a great group of women. I am blessed to be around them because they have shared one of the most precious gifts: their dedicated lives to help others, the poor and sick, and especially us, who want to be better people."
"If you only knew the gift that God is offering you." Jn 4:10
On 26 June 2015, the Catholic Information Service for Africa reported that the Ministry of Health in South Sudan had confirmed a fresh cholera outbreak in Juba. The first suspected case was detected in early June at a refugee camp on the city outskirts.
A bacterial disease, cholera spreads through contaminated water and food. It causes severe diarrhoea and dehydration and can cause death if not contained. People can avoid infection by washing their hands after touching contaminated articles and properly disposing of contaminated items and human waste. The disease can spread rapidly in areas with inadequate treatment of sewage and drinking water.
WHO says that recurring outbreaks remain a concern, reflecting the need for sustained prevention and control activities, which include ensuring consistent access to clean water.
In an article in The Guardian on 9 Feb 2014, “Why global water shortages pose threat of terror and war,” Suzanne Goldenberg said:
“Already a billion people, or one in seven people on the planet, lack access to safe drinking water....Countries at northern latitudes and in the tropics are getting wetter. But those countries at mid-latitude are running increasingly low on water....
“The Middle East, north Africa and south Asia are all projected to experience water shortages over the coming years because of decades of bad management and overuse.
“Watering crops, slaking thirst in expanding cities, cooling power plants, fracking oil and gas wells – all take water from the same diminishing supply. Add to that climate change – which is projected to intensify dry spells in the coming years – and the world is going to be forced to think a lot more about water than it ever did before.”
Our MMM Sisters in Eastern Bank, Wau, South Sudan, described the realities of living in a country with water scarcity. They told us about the practical steps they took, with a number of partners, to assist one community to obtain clean water and about the positive effects of the project.
"The community in Abunybuny had been suffering from lack of water for many years. Like the Samaritan woman, they tracked in the noonday sun to fetch water from the nearest borehole, several kilometres away.
"Daily they walked, women and children, with jerry cans on their heads or pushing a wheelbarrow with about five twenty-litre jerry cans. The road is rough and the heat from the burning sand can be felt through open and sometimes worn-out sandals. How long would this last?
"Lual was punished every day at school for arriving late. There were too many jerry cans in the queue when he arrived at the borehole. He never seemed to be able to make it on time. Life has been very hard for him. He lost his father in the country’s warring situation. He had no interest in school, especially knowing that after walking four kilometres in the scorching sun he would receive an additional punishment when he arrived.
"Pierina had lost her husband. He had been called to serve as a soldier in a very insecure place and never returned home. Pierina was pregnant and was also finding the four-kilometre journey for water ever more difficult.
"People like Lual and Pierina were asking, 'Where is God?'”
We are one body. "Fortunately Abunybuny is in the catchment area where MMMs are serving in South Sudan. We heard their desperate plea for water and the Malta Mission Fund came to the rescue. They had visited the community in August 2014 and saw for themselves the plight of these people. They would help to provide a borehole.
"We started by liaising with the Directorate of Water and Sanitation, whose prices are affordable, but the drilling machine had gone for repair. We had to wait patiently until October for it to be ready. By that time market prices had soared and the price of fuel had trebled so we had to wait again until the prices went down. Happily, the digging and drilling commenced on 19 December. We prayed that the people of Abunybuny would be gifted with water for Christmas. Drilling went on until 24 December, when the water suddenly splashed and washed us all. What indescribable joy: water at last!
"Now life is better for Lual and Pierina and many others in Abunybuny. There are fewer incidents of gastrointestinal diseases with the availability of water for proper hand washing, sanitation and hygiene. With less money being spent on medicine, more is available for buying food, so nutrition is improving. Water is available for crop irrigation. We can attest that prevention is better than cure.
"Care for such an important resource is crucial so a Water Management Committee was formed to look after the maintenance of the borehole. This ensures sustainability and ownership.
"On Christmas Day the Abunybuny community was joined by 184 internally displaced people who had fled their homes due to the insecurity. They were now challenged to share the gift they had received with others."
Thank you "We are very grateful to the Malta Mission Fund, which has greatly supported us in this life-giving project and which continues to assist in the construction of the MMM Healing Centre. We also thank HOPe, Ms. Grace Trevis and Ms. Mary Bradley, whose emotional and moral support we appreciate so much."
If you would like to support our healing ministry with an online donation, please click here.