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Number 167 - October 2016
Of special significance for MMMs and AMMMs this month is the feast of Saint Thérèse of Lisieux, Co-Patroness of the Missions, on 1 October.
In 1949 our foundress, Mother Mary, visited Thérèse’s sister Pauline (Mother Agnes of Jesus) at the Carmelite convent in Lisieux, France. When Mother Mary told Pauline the story of MMM, Pauline promised to ‘see to it that my holy Sister Thérèse will answer all your petitions and the intentions of your friends and benefactors and obtain all that your Congregation needs’. She presented Mother Mary with a stone from the infirmary where Thérèse died. This was used as a foundation stone in the IMTH oratory in Drogheda.
We celebrate World Mission Sunday on 23 October. The theme for this year is: ‘Every Christian Is a Missionary.’ In his Mission Sunday message, Pope Francis said, ‘The Church, in the midst of humanity, is first of all the community that lives by the mercy of Christ: she senses his gaze and feels he has chosen her with his merciful love. It is through this love that the Church discovers its mandate, lives it and makes it known to all peoples through a respectful dialogue with every culture and religious belief.’
‘All peoples and cultures have the right to receive the message of salvation which is God’s gift to every person. This is all the more necessary when we consider how many injustices, wars, and humanitarian crises still need resolution. Missionaries know from experience that the Gospel of forgiveness and mercy can bring joy and reconciliation, justice and peace.’
International Day for Older Persons is also held on 1 October. The United Nations’ website points out that ‘between 1950 and 2010 life expectancy worldwide rose from 46 to 68 years, and it is projected to increase to 81 by the end of the century.’ It says that women now outnumber men by about 66 million of those aged 60 years and over and that there are nearly twice as many women as men in those aged 80 years and over.
Of concern is that ‘the increase in the number of older people will be greatest and most rapid in the developing world, with Asia with the largest number of older persons, and Africa facing the largest proportionate growth.’
While more attention needs to be give to the needs of older people, we need to recognize the ‘essential contribution the majority of older men and women can continue to make to the functioning of society if adequate guarantees are in place.’ Human rights are at the core of efforts in this area. Therefore ‘the 2016 United Nations International Day of Older Persons will take a stand against ageism by drawing attention to and challenging negative stereotypes and misconceptions about older persons and ageing.’
In our October newsletter, you can read how involvement in mission awareness work can lead to some surprising discoveries about what unites us as human beings. Another story describes how some of our MMM Associates were among the recipients of a very special award in Rwanda. Sister Geneviève writes about the healing she has witnessed through her involvement in Capacitar.
Thank you once again for your interest and for sharing in our common missionary call. We remember you in prayer each day. Please pray for us as well.
Sister Carol Breslin, MMM
'If I did not simply live from one moment to another, it would be impossible for me to be patient, but I only look at the present; I forget the past, and I take good care not to forestall the future' (Thérèse of Lisieux).
Spreading the word of God’s mercy
In his letter for Mission Sunday 2016, Pope Francis says, ‘Together with the evangelizing and sacramental work of missionaries, women and families often more adequately understand people's problems and know how to deal with them in an appropriate and, at times, fresh way: in caring for life, with a strong focus on people rather than structures, and by allocating human and spiritual resources towards the building of good relations...both among individuals and in social and cultural life, in particular through care for the poor.’ Sister Ruth Percival is from England. Trained as a nurse-midwife, she served for many years in Tanzania. Now based in London, she participates in the Sisters’ Mission Committee and speaks about our common call to mission in parishes around the country. Ruth told us about two recent experiences, one local and one somewhat farther afield, that showed how friendships can grow from surprising circumstances.
‘At our house in Ealing, London, our local fox recently started to bring things into our garden, usually torn plastic sacks of food that neither people nor he fancied. So on some mornings I had some unwanted tidying-up jobs! One day I was pleased to see there were no food containers, just a piece of a dirty black plastic bag. When I went to investigate I was astonished to discover inside a well-gnawed wallet with a bank card, a residence permit and various other cards.
‘I showed it to my companions in the house and we decided to contact the bank to report the find. The bank told the owner where to collect it. Soon a young woman, Wanjiru, came round with her daughter, Njeri. Originally from Kenya, Wanjiru could not believe that Sister Maureen had lived there and that both Maureen and I spoke Swahili.
‘Wanjiru was very grateful to us for returning her precious documents and came again with gifts. Since then we have enjoyed meeting our new friends in the area and hearing how they are managing.’
‘Building...dialogue, cooperation and fraternity‘ (Pope Francis) ‘Meeting people is a very special part of our mission awareness work. It is a privileged opportunity to talk about our personal experiences of mission and emphasise that we all share in the missionary life of the Church. Just as important, we appreciate being able to thank people for all the support they have given us.
‘One weekend I travelled to the Church of the Good Shepherd in Mytholmroyd, West Yorkshire, in the Diocese of Leeds. When I first discussed the arrangements for the visit on the phone, Father said that they had been affected by the floods of 26 December 2015 but all should be well by the end of July this year.
‘When I arrived at the church it looked like a building site, which it was in fact. I started to think I was in the wrong place but a big banner proclaimed: “We are open.” For what? I wondered.
‘The parish priest and people began to arrive for Mass and welcomed me very warmly. I now heard more about their experience of the floods. I was shocked to learn that the priest had to be rescued by the emergency services after a wall of water came through his house.
‘The amount of devastation in the church was still evident. Much of the interior had been destroyed - no water, minimum electrics, no carpet, two rooms completely gutted. This lovely building originally had a stone wall, representing a wall in a field, as a background to the altar. At the baptistry there had been a broken wall with a gentle cascade of water. Behind the altar had been a wall hanging of Christ the Good Shepherd, a carpet original, designed by a 14-year-old girl.
‘Now what I saw were heavy plastic barriers across the stone altar wall, presently under re-construction. It was in front of the wall hanging, which fortunately had been rescued.’
Truly giving thanks Richard Constantine, who was part of the salvage team, sent us the pictures of the church in this article. He commented, ‘When I saw this photograph [of the plastic barriers] these words came instantly to my mind: “The only barriers we make to Christ are ones we place there ourselves. For Christ there are no barriers through the Eucharist.”'
Richard continued, ‘Since the flooding we have celebrated outdoors, in churches loaned to us by our Methodist brothers and sisters, and now we share what we have of our church with the equally-devastated Anglican community.’
Sister Ruth said, ‘This beautiful community thanked me for visiting them, for sharing news of our Sisters, and assuring me of their prayers. They gave so generously that I was deeply humbled. I was reminded of when I lived in Maasailand in Tanzania. There was very little food and the young men had gone off with the cows to look for grass.
‘We gathered for Mass as usual under an Acacia tree and were to have a collection for Refugee Sunday. Our senior elder, Lambarnat, stood up, swishing his fly whisk, and asked that we give as generously as possible for the poor refugees.
‘He said, “We are all hungry and are not eating every day but God has blessed us. We are at home with each other and this hunger will pass.”’
Fostering true human development (MMM Const.)
The United Nations introduced World Development Information Day to draw global attention to development problems and the need to strengthen international cooperation to solve them. Held annually on October 24, in recent years the day’s title has been interpreted somewhat differently. Events concentrate on the role that modern information technologies, such as the Internet and mobile phones, can play in raising awareness and finding solutions. This change may help to inform and motivate young people to get involved. (United Nations website)
For many years, MMM has administered the Kirambi Community Health and Development Programme (KCHDP) in Rwanda. An essential component of the programme's work is sharing information about their innovative projects. Sister Angela Katalyeba told us about a day of special pride for MMMs and staff members.
‘The Joint Action for Development Forum (JADF) of Nyanza District in the Southern Province of Rwanda organized a three-day exhibition in June 2016. It was launched by the Vice-Mayor for Social Affairs in Nyanza District and closed by the Chief Executive Officer of the Rwanda Governance Board. At the closing ceremony, awards were given to the best participants.
‘The Kirambi Community Health and Development Programme placed first of twenty-seven local organizations and second of thirty-nine national and international organizations working in Nyanza District. What joy and pride for the KCHDP team! They received a certificate of participation, a medal for first prize and a trophy for placing second.'
Tackling problems together ‘The evaluation team was composed of project coordinators, local leaders, an immigration officer, representatives of the private sector in Nyanza, the JADF team, and a representative of Nyanza District. They based their decisions on a number of criteria.
‘Beforehand they made practical field visits to interact with beneficiaries. They saw where programmes are based and assessed the work done in the field. Partners got to know each other and learn about the interventions firsthand. During the exhibit the team assessed the organization of the stands and punctuality in staff attendance, planning and types of activities presented, clarity in explaining the organization’s work, the impact of the programme in the community, and improvements since the last exhibit.
‘All programme staff members were involved in the show, as well as beneficiaries and volunteers who shared their testimonies about the progress they had made. There was a great team spirit among the staff. They planned and organized an area with a stand to present most of the KCHDP activities. They decided to make a mobile semi-underground tank to demonstrate rain water harvesting and a model of water recycling infrastructure. They showed different types of kitchen gardens and their produce. The staff took turns to be present at the display and explain the exhibits.‘
Seeds planted and grown ‘Kirambi is a rural village where many people are poor and vulnerable. Over the last nineteen years many families have improved their lives through capacity development and support in three areas: health, nutrition and economic empowerment through agriculture.
‘KCHDP worked with people living with HIV, historically marginalized groups, small scale poor farmers, and orphans. They were taught good farming practices to increase their food production, focusing on beans, maize, soya and other vegetables grown on artificial land, commonly known as kitchen gardens. These included sack gardens, storeyed gardens, and mandala gardens. The beneficiaries spread their knowledge to others. If you go to Kirambi today, literally every family has a kitchen garden. Families are able to harvest vegetables for themselves closer to their houses and can easily water the plots because they are economical in water consumption.
‘Since January 2015, KCHDP has installed rain water harvesting technology into semi-underground tanks for 282 families and introduced water recycling infrastructures for 20 families. This means they can continue to grow vegetables even in the dry season.
‘In all our projects we have collaborated with the stakeholders, including local government and committees elected by the local community. Their involvement is very important because it ensures that what we start will continue in a sustainable way. As a member of the Joint Action for Development Forum, KCHDP participates in quarterly meetings in Nyanza District. We have been evaluated annually by the District team to assess implementation of the action plan and the results achieved.
‘MMM Kirambi has also been able to retain staff members, which enables us to have experienced and committed personnel, even though the work is in a very remote area. We have two MMM Associates in Rwanda, who have worked with KCHDP for many years and are committed to living our healing charism. Xavier Bizimana has been with us for nineteen years as a social worker. Aloysie Mukamana has been with us for fourteen years and is now an assistant coordinator of KCHDP.
Sharing development information ‘We are committed to bring positive change to the lives of the people and feel proud of our achievements. This was the fourth time such exhibitions have taken place in Nyanza District. In the first two years we received medals for good performance. In 2014 we were third among the JADF partners for excellent performance. ‘Placing second in the whole District means that our activities are relevant, have a great impact in the community, and have tangible results. It encourages the programme staff, who can see that their efforts and hard work are being recognized by the leaders and the community. It is also an opportunity to spread information about the technologies we are using, to have a multiplier effect. This is especially true of the semi-underground tank for roof rain water harvesting, which has been successful in the area because of its simplicity and low cost, and the different types of kitchen gardens that are a trademark of KCHDP.
‘In years to come, many will reap the harvest of the seeds we have sown.’
Good mental health: essential for all of us
The World Health Organization (WHO) website notes that World Mental Health Day is observed on 10 October each year. The day’s overall objective is ‘to raise awareness about mental health issues around the world and to mobilize efforts in support of mental health’. Much more needs to be done to make mental health care a reality for people worldwide.
The theme of this year’s Mental Health Day, ‘Psychological First Aid’, is especially relevant to meeting the needs of people in situations of conflict, violence and disaster. They may have witnessed very distressing events such as accidents or the violent death of a loved one. Others may be victims of war or assault, including asylum seekers recently-arrived in a community.
The website explains that the focus will be on ‘basic pragmatic psychological support by people who find themselves in a helping role’. Knowing the basic principles of psychological first aid, including knowing what not to say or do, will help to provide assistance to people in distress. Those in helping situations include health care workers, teachers, staff in helping organizations, or volunteers. A number of MMMs and AMMMs are involved in mental health issues.
The website emphasized that psychological first aid is part of a longer-term effort to ensure that anyone in acute distress due to a crisis is able to receive basic support, and if necessary, advanced support from health, mental health and social services.
A very special anniversary The importance of the World Mental Health Day message is well illustrated by the work currently being done by MMM Sister Geneviève van Waesberghe, based in Ngaramtoni, Tanzania. Geneviève is an international trainer for Capacitar. She gave us some insights into this programme, which began in Nicaragua in 1988 in response to violence and war trauma. In helping to bring about personal healing and transformation, it enables people to reach out to their families and communities - to heal injustice and create a more peaceful world.
Geneviève explained, ‘On 7 June 2016, I was in Kigali, Rwanda for the tenth anniversary of the founding of Capacitar-Rwanda, which is committed to empower the Rwandese people to heal themselves and their society from the aftermath of the 1994 Genocide. The guests of honor at this simple but joyful celebration were Capacitar founder and director Dr. Patricia Cane, PhD, and Joan Condon, Capacitar project director.
‘Capacitar uses popular education to teach simple wellness practices that are effective, culturally acceptable, and valued where trauma is massive and collective and resources are scarce. The seed was sown in 2005 in Butare at our Igiti cy’Ubugingo (Tree of Life Center), which I created for women traumatized and living with HIV/AIDS. I invited Costansia Mbogoma from Tanzania to introduce Capacitar. The staff found it helpful and wanted more.
‘In 2006, I wrote to Patricia Cane. At the same time, Rwandese Sister Antoinette Gasibirege, SH, a genocide survivor, attended a Capacitar weekend in Chicago. She felt a beginning of healing and a sense of freedom. She begged Patricia, the facilitator, “Come to Rwanda. Capacitar is what our people need!”
‘In July 2006, Patricia began coming to Rwanda twice a year to facilitate workshops and train trainers. Sister Antoinette also returned to the country and became the head of Capacitar-Rwanda. Trocaire offered great support. Today over 10,000 people have benefited from Capacitar training. These include groups of women and orphans, members of local associations and NGOs, mental health staff, and students and teachers.’
Continuing to grow ‘When I left Rwanda in 2009, Patricia asked me to be the International Capacitar Trainer for East/Central and West Africa. I thank our MMM Leadership Teams who encouraged me to ‘walk in paths that are new’ (MMM Cons.). I have since responded to invitations from Burundi, Cameroon, Central African Republic, the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), Kenya, Nigeria, Republic of South Sudan, Senegal, Tanzania and Uganda.
‘There were many challenges in working in conflict areas with human rights defenders, lawyers, women living under Muslim laws, pastoral workers, priests and religious, teachers, students, police, peace-keepers, refugees or displaced people, former female child soldiers, and youth affected by the Lord’s Resistance Army.
‘When I meet a group, I presume some participants have experienced severe trauma. I ask no questions. Doing the practices together is relaxing, non-threatening, and sometimes fun.
‘At the end someone may say, “Thank you, I feel better, I have now hope!” Later, the same person may briefly share his or her story of abduction, arrest, abuse, etc., but they are already positively engaged in their healing process and that of their families or communities.
‘A young peace activist told me how Capacitar practices helped him and his prison companions to remain calm in spite of harsh treatments. Others said that they learned how to manage strong anger or are sleeping without nightmares. A teacher who used them with his family said, “Now my children are my friends.”
'A school director noticed that children in the classes where Capacitar was used were more sociable and did better in their exams. Peace-keepers found that the exercises helped them deal with the violent deaths of comrades.
‘In our outreach programme in 2017, we plan to form trainers in conflict areas in South Sudan, northern Uganda, the DRC and Cameroon.
‘As an MMM called to share Christ’s healing and liberating mission in a time of tremendous suffering and systemic violence, Capacitar challenges me to “seek peace and pursue it” (Saint Benedict), working with people of different backgrounds and faiths to heal ourselves and our world.’
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