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Number 175 - July 2017
The month of July calls our attention once again to the plight of millions of our sisters and brothers, desperately fleeing conflict situations and seeking a better way of life. Criminals profit from their vulnerability and companies profit from the weapons that fuel the conflicts. As we mark World Day against Trafficking in Persons on 30 July, let us renew our enthusiasm to confront the corresponding ‘globalization of indifference’, to which Pope Francis referred in his 2015 Lenten Message.
Human trafficking affects every country of the world, as countries of origin, transit or destination. While it is not known with certainty how many victims of trafficking there are, a conservative estimate of the International Labour Organisation puts the total number victims of this crime and violation of human rights at about 21.9 million worldwide. The UN Protocol to Prevent, Suppress and Punish Trafficking in Persons defines human trafficking as ‘the recruitment, transport, transfer, harbouring or receipt of a person by such means as threat or use of force or other forms of coercion, abduction, fraud or deception for the purpose of exploitation.
‘The definition consists of three core elements: 1) The action of trafficking, which means the recruitment, transportation, transfer, harboring or receipt of persons; 2) The means of trafficking which includes threat of or use of force, deception, coercion, abuse of power or position of vulnerability; 3) The purpose of trafficking, which is always exploitation. In the words of the Protocol, article 3, "exploitation shall include, at a minimum, the exploitation of the prostitution of others or other forms of sexual exploitation, forced labor or services, slavery or practices similar to slavery, servitude or the removal of organs.
The distinctions between smuggling and trafficking are often very subtle and sometimes they overlap.’ (UNODC website 2017)
See our MMM e-newsletter archive on our website at www.mmmworldwide.org for a number of articles on the issue of trafficking.
Sister Mary O’Malley, based in Nairobi, Kenya, is committed to raising awareness about the realities of trafficking and to assisting victims. Huge overcrowded slums with few opportunities for employment provide an ideal climate for traffickers to entice women, children and men with promises of a better life. Mary and her team reach many young people with awareness-raising activities but often realise that it is an uphill battle. She described what happened after one of her training sessions in a hairdressing and beauty training school.
‘It was important to provide guidance for these young women, the majority of whom had not been able to have secondary education. I was finishing one session and now there were chairs ready for my next input for the trainees from another salon school. The principal of the school was called out. I later learned that she had a discussion with "a man from Juba looking to sign-up some of these young ladies when they finish their course".
‘I showed the man’s ‘brochure’ to Regina, a member of our house staff who is also one of our trainers. Her reaction was, "For sure, the principal would have faithfully given them away."’
Bearers of a gift In this newsletter, one of our staff members in Aras Mhuire describes how discerning her vocation led to a decision to become an MMM Associate. There is a reflection from one of our Sisters who deepened her appreciation of our spirituality through the Heritage Experience. We have also been sharing our MMM spirituality, including the gift of healing, with staff members in our European Area.
Thank you again for your interest and support. We remember you in prayer each day. Please pray for us as well.
Sister Carol Breslin, MMM
‘Despite a widespread sense that the faith is listless or reduced to mere “duties to discharge”, our young people desire to discover the perennial attraction of Jesus, to be challenged by his words and actions, and to cherish the ideal that he holds out - of a life that is fully human, happy to spend itself in love’ (Pope Francis, Message for Vocations Sunday 2017).
Tracing our MMM roots
Last October, the first MMM Heritage Experience took place in Ireland (See January 2017 e-newsletter). Four Sisters had a precious opportunity to meet many of our earliest MMMs, to share their stories, and to see some of the sites associated with our foundress and her first companions. The aim was for all participants, older and younger, to have a deeper understanding of our history and of the development of our MMM gift (charism) of healing.
The second group of four Sisters, Franca Ogbunuju and Chinyere Iwunze, currently on mission in Nigeria, and Mbuotidem Etim and Secunda Secundi Kimario, in Kenya and Tanzania, respectively, arrived in April 2017. Because their visit coincided with the 80th year of our foundation, they participated in some of the events marking this milestone. Sister Franca, now back in Benin City, in her work as Business Administrator for our West Africa Area, told us about her life in MMM and offered her reflections on this very special time.
‘I am from Anambra State, Nigeria and I grew up in a large extended family with my parents and six siblings. Before joining MMM in 2001, I obtained a degree and a postgraduate professional certificate in accountancy with the Nigerian College of Accountancy. I made my first profession of vows in September 2004.
‘My first assignment was to a busy city hospital, Saint Mary’s, in Ibadan, Nigeria. I was administrator there for six years. In 2008, I completed a five-month course in administration at CORAT Africa in Nairobi, Kenya. In March 2011, I was assigned to Fuka, a close-knit rural community in northern Nigeria. There I spent two and a half years as administrator of our primary health care work. I have now been in Benin City for almost four years.’
A graced opportunity ‘It was a wonderful privilege to be invited to Ireland for the Heritage visit. I was deeply impressed with the beauty of the country and the kindness of the people we met. I always had the impression that people kept to themselves in this part of the world!
‘I was most impressed with Beechgrove, Drogheda, which includes our Motherhouse and Our Lady of Lourdes Hospital, and with our Congregational Centre in Rosemount, Dublin.
Impressions of Drogheda ‘The house in Beechgrove is highly organised, helping everyone to move around independently, including those in wheelchairs and those who use walking aids. The Sisters in the community were very hospitable, caring and generous. From the day we arrived they doted over us, making sure we were warm and comfortable. They kept worrying that we were not getting enough rest because we were always on the move and didn’t have enough time to be with them!
‘I was very taken with the layout of the Mother Mary Room. The simple yet profound design immediately draws one’s attention. The MMM story, beginning from Mother Mary’s childhood, was creatively told and beautifully arranged. We felt as if it were happening now. We felt her joys, anxieties, disappointments, and deep faith and trust in God - until the climax when Mother made her vows in a hospital bed, marking the foundation of the congregation. We exploded with joy and even shouted, “Praise the Lord!”
‘I am really grateful for the high standard of care given to the Sisters and others in Aras Mhuire, our nursing facility. The staff are very professional and dedicated. The MMM spirit is alive in them.
‘I walked through Our Lady of Lourdes Hospital, our former International Missionary Training Hospital, with a deep sense of pride, having heard how the funds were raised to build it. I bow to Mother Mary’s deep faith, tenacity, and great vision.
‘I was deeply struck by the bereavement support at the hospital, which helps couples who have lost babies to go through the grieving process. At home we just say, “It is the will of God” or “Don’t worry; another one will come.”
‘We also visited our graveyard, about which I had heard so much. I was shocked to see the number of Sisters who have gone to God. I found it very meaningful and unifying that the names of all the Sisters who had died outside Ireland were carved on plaques and arranged around the MMM plot.
Off to Dublin! ‘Our Congregational Centre in Rosemount, Dublin is very simple. I commend our congregational leadership for living out our core values. We arrived for the tea break in Rosemount and everyone, Sisters and staff, gathered around the table. I think it’s a lovely gesture towards the staff and a good way to integrate them into our life and mission.
‘I was impressed with the two lay secretaries working with Sister Patricia Lynch, our Congregational Secretary, with their commitment, interest and enthusiasm. As they shared their various duties with us, I could feel their passion and interest to showcase MMM at any opportunity. They pleaded with us to send our stories about our life and mission.
‘As West Africa Area Business Administrator, I have worked and communicated with Sister Breeda Ryan, our Congregational Business Administrator (CBA). We have a good working relationship, even from that distance. I was excited to meet Breeda and see the CBA office.
'I am grateful to have had the honour and privilege of this Heritage experience. Sisters Helen Spragg, Brenda Swan and Dervilla O’Donnell worked out our programme and accompanied us through an integration process that made it really alive. It made me proud to be an MMM, and willing to do everything in my power to add to the legacy of Mother Mary and all the great women who poured out their lives so MMM may be what it is today. I was in tears at the send-off prayers that were organised for us.
‘I haven’t stopped talking about my experience since I came back – to the Sisters, the staff and others. I am in dialogue with our Area leader about how to give a more formal feedback to the Sisters. But my greatest way of sharing this time is by being a more authentic, joyful and committed MMM, spreading our charism with my life.’
Each expression of healing is unique.
Lucy Wairimu, AMMM, is from Nakuru, Kenya. In 2015, she became an Irish citizen, thus obtaining dual citizenship. She recently shared her journey to become an MMM Associate and a compassionate carer for our MMM Sisters.
‘I got to know about the Medical Missionaries of Mary back in 1982, in Kenya, when I was searching for my vocation. I read about them in a vocation promotion booklet that I was given by my parish priest, the late Father Joseph Donders of the White Fathers [Missionaries for Africa]. I was attracted to a few congregations that were working with marginalised people, particularly in the medical field. I started to correspond with them, including Sister André Brow, MMM. Unfortunately, I never got a chance to meet Sister André but she referred me to Sister Rita Hand, who was in Nairobi by then.
‘Around late 1982 or early 1983, l was able to visit the Sisters in Sports Road in Nairobi. I still remember the warm reception, hospitality, kindness and love I experienced that day. From then on, I felt that this was the group of people to which I wanted to belong and in which I would serve the marginalised as a nurse. However, I had some fears, which were later to become stumbling blocks in pursuit of my vocation in life.
‘I first trained in Kenya with the Franciscan Missionary Sisters for Africa as a Kenya-enrolled community health nurse. After a period of working and being with the MMMs at different levels, I upgraded my nursing to Kenya-registered community health nurse.
‘I was looking for a job, and while I always wished to work closely with MMM, when I applied to the Irish Nursing Board, I was open to whatever opportunity would arise. So, why did I apply to the MMM nursing facility, Aras Mhuire? Well, God works in mysterious ways and I believe His ways are the best.'
Responding to God’s call ‘A seed was planted at one of the MMM celebrations at the Motherhouse in Drogheda, when some of my MMM friends and another friend who happened to attend were talking. They asked where I was and what I was doing. A few days later my friend, Rose, told me about this conversation. Rose asked me if I would be interested to work in the MMM nursing facility. It happened that Aras Mhuire was looking for a staff nurse. Without any hesitation, I said a big ‘yes’ and that I would love to work there. I was thrilled and optimistic that my dream and prayer to work again with MMM, the people I loved to be with, was answered.
‘The process started in July 2007, almost immediately afterwards. Things moved reasonably fast and within four months I was in Ireland, ready to do my placement in Drogheda prior to starting in Aras Mhuire. I arrived in Ireland in November 2007 to experience life and a career outside Kenya, and hopefully to better my life and that of my family.
‘I can only say that God paved my way to be here in Aras for reasons that I cannot fully explain. Time has passed so fast that it is hard to believe that I'll soon have worked here for ten years. I feel I am in the right place, in the heart of the MMM spirit and healing charism. My dream and prayers to be with the MMM family were answered in a different way from what I had previously contemplated.
‘In Aras, there is a sense of belonging and not just of being in another job or employment. I interact and bond well with the Sisters and others in a variety of ways. I must say that all along I have experienced our MMM core values both in Aras Mhuire and in the surrounding community. These have sustained my faith and enhanced the person I am today. I later became an MMM Associate, which was another opportunity to grow in the MMM family spirit.
‘I like my work in Aras. It's homely and there is a sense of inter-connectedness. I feel it is a noble job which gives profound satisfaction. It is a privilege to give back the service to the Sisters who really deserve the care, love and appreciation for who they are and what they have been in their various healing ministries.
‘Last but not least, my being in Aras has improved and uplifted the standard of living for me, my family and others. The circle of MMM friends and others has widened and I appreciate their friendship. All the same, I am aware and lonely about the fact that many Sisters have died since I came. It is always hard to let go and to say goodbye to special friends. The good thing is that the hope of Resurrection keeps us going.
‘It is also my hope that my presence in Aras has had the same positive impact on my colleagues as theirs has had on me.’
From the Spirit - a gift of Healing
One aim of our current MMM Congregational Plan is that our Sisters have a greater understanding of our gift (charism) of healing and that we share that gift with others in creative ways. To encourage the development of new and relevant expressions of healing, we committed ourselves to facilitate and participate in conversations on present-day realities.
One suggestion for achieving this aim in our European Area came from Sisters resident in our nursing facility, Aras Mhuire, during a meeting in 2016. MMM Area Leader Sister Rita Kelly asked how we could celebrate the 80th anniversary of our foundation. Sisters Mairead Butterly and Teresa Connolly asked, ‘What are we doing for our staff?’
So the Area team decided to set aside two days to share our spirituality with the lay personnel of our houses in Dublin and Drogheda, of our Motherhouse and Aras Mhuire. Participants were given the option to attend either of the days, which were held in May 2017. Sister Ekaete Ekop, Assistant Congregational Leader, facilitated the sessions, with the theme “The Spirituality of the Medical Missionaries of Mary”.
The Motherhouse community in Beechgrove, Drogheda, was delighted to host the event and enjoyed seeing everyone in their best attire for the occasion, instead of ‘in uniform’. Joining them for lunch and tea breaks, the staff radiated joy and enthusiasm and a spirit of unity. Between the two days, a total of sixty-four members of staff, from all departments, participated
Beginning the reflection On each day, at 9.30 a.m., one of the Beechgrove community leaders welcomed the participants. Then Sister Ekaete invited them to listen to a song. On the first day it was “What Colour is the Wind?” by Charlie Landsborough; on the second it was “Perhaps Love” by John Denver. These songs illustrate the mystery of spirituality and how it cannot be defined. It can only be lived. The hope was to catch glimpses of it so it can be recognized.
Ekaete said that each staff member has the MMM spirituality, not only MMMs and Associates. It is something we all share. The Sisters are bearers, not owners, of the healing charism and so are the staff.
Spirituality is that in us that says, ‘There is more to life than this.' Each person shapes their spirituality by her or his background, culture, personality and understanding of life. Ekaete likened it to water, which takes the shape of the container that holds it.
Where do we see the spirit of MMM? Mother Mary chose the Benedictine spirit after much prayer and careful discernment. She was attracted by: • Its human-ness • Its flexibility • The rhythm of the liturgy • Its emphasis on the sacredness of all of life • The centrality of prayer • The compassion for the dignity of each person • Hospitality
Other essential aspects of MMM spirituality include:
The Incarnation: ‘We are all meant to be mothers of God, for God is always needing to be born’ (Eckhart).
In every situation we ask ourselves, ‘How does God want to be born here?’
Prayer: We are people of prayer who recognize that the Spirit is already in our hearts. For MMMs, prayer is simple. We don’t emphasize devotions as much as we do the liturgy, not because one is better that the other, but because this is who we are. Silence is important. Our Constitutions say: ‘God speaks in silence.’
Interior life: ‘What I really seek is … a solid spiritual foundation as well as the freedom of soul so necessary for the members of an active medical missionary society’ (Marie Martin).
From the beginning we were never about a lot of rules. It was more a way of life. Mother Mary was far ahead of her time: in liturgical life, with the religious habit, with the service the Sisters would give.
Life in communion: ‘Love one another. This is the first witness you are called to give as disciples of Christ.’
‘Bear with the greatest patience one another’s infirmities whether of body or character’ (MMM Constitutions).
We cannot choose those with whom we live, but we can always choose to be in communion with those with whom we live, with whom we work, with whom we share life. What we do with and because of one another is what counts.
Diversity: This word appears many times in our Constitutions, e.g. ‘Receive with gratitude the diversity of gifts and the varieties of cultures within your community.’
We don’t just encourage diversity; we celebrate it. The value and dignity of each person, culture or situation - each expression of the charism and different needs - are honoured and upheld.
Intercultural: This was the vision of our foundress. Some groups saw themselves as one culture or nation going out to ‘evangelise’ another culture. For us it is not about one group giving to another group. It is about all of us sharing Christ’s love. Intercultural living is inherent in MMM life.
Hospitality: A whole section is given to this value our Constitutions, e.g. ‘Open to new life, to God, to all your brothers and sisters, in a world where so many are estranged from their past, their culture and nation, their families and friends, from their real selves and perhaps from their God, let your hospitality express Christ’s concern for his people.’
Hospitality is of the heart. It starts there and flows into other ways of expression.
Healing charism: ‘Know Christ's healing power in prayer, in the Word, in liturgy, in sacraments, in your relationships with one another. And then go forth to heal.’
It is important to note that for the MMM, knowing Christ’s healing power in prayer and sacraments is as important as knowing Christ’s healing power in relationships. • ‘Be with those who suffer, the oppressed and those on the margin of life.’ • ‘Our particular concern is the care of mother and child, and the fostering of family life.’
Holistic healing: The concept of holistic healing keeps evolving. The goal of healing is wholeness. Treating, curing, and fixing problems or relieving symptoms may be aspects of healing, but do not of themselves constitute holistic healing. It does not happen without a sharing of oneself.
‘Listen…with the ear of the heart.’ In MMM spirituality, listening takes on a very wide dimension. • Listening beyond words, with the ear of the heart • Hearing life, hearing people, hearing situations • Listening for the call in each moment
See and seek God in all things: In MMM spirituality there is no ‘sacred and profane’ view of life. God is in all: all things, all experiences, all places. We respond to God’s love by growing in awareness of this. We handle the garden tools with the same reverence with which we handle the altar vessels.
Mission: All of our life is mission. • Not just our ministry • Not just our service • Not just our prayer
‘Being sent’: Mission for the MMM is not a ‘do-it-as-and-when-you-like’ project. We are willing to be sent to places of need. In our daily lives we see ourselves as sent by God into any situation in which we find ourselves, being missionaries to each ‘life space’.
‘It is not so much the great works you do but who you are in the sight of God’ (Mother Mary Martin).
Sister Ekaete encouraged the participants to recognise these attributes in themselves. They are the ideals. No one embodies all of them 100% of the time but we continue to remain faithful to the journey, helping each other. The staff have been expressing the MMM spirituality in their families, in their work and in social circles in ways the Sisters could not. Our way of life is so different from theirs but they should honour their unique brand of the MMM spirituality and live it with greater confidence. The world is in need of each person’s unique song to complete it, so let us not hold back.
Sister Ekaete’s input concluded at 11.45 a.m., when Mass was celebrated, followed by lunch.
The lived expression In the afternoon, Sisters JoAnne Kelly and Mary Teresa Reilly took the participants on a tour of the Mother Mary Room and the Mission Room, respectively. This was the climax of the day, as they saw in practice what they had heard in the morning. JoAnne explained the unfolding of the MMM charism and Mother Mary’s story. In the Mission Room, Mary Teresa explained the different ways that MMMs have continued to live that healing gift.
Feedback from MMMs and staff The staff were happy with the day. They especially felt honoured by having a whole day set aside for them and by being specially invited. Some thought the programme should be organised for young people all over Ireland because it helped to open up the beauty, depth and originality of the MMM way of life. Some expressed concern that more has not been done to promote MMM spirituality. Some said if they were not already married they would consider joining MMM!
Sister Ekaete said that the best feedback was one she heard indirectly. During a break, one of the Motherhouse leaders was chatting with a young man and asked him, ‘What have you been learning this morning?’ He drew himself up and answered with pride, ’I have been learning about my spirituality.’
We hope that our readers have learned about it, too.
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