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Number 178 - November 2017
On 1 November, All Saints’ Day, we remember those special people whose witness reveals God’s steadfast love for us. They give us hope that we can love and serve God more. Many are officially recognized by the Church. Many are our own loved ones who are now with God. Some spoke out against injustice; some gave their lives for the poor; some like Pope John XXIII, were more concerned about what unites us than divides us.
In an article in the National Catholic Reporter on 24 April 2014, Bill Huebsch referred to a talk that John XXIII gave in his home diocese. He said that ‘we tend to make saints larger than life, more like figures in a movie or novel than like your neighbours down the street. Saintliness actually results from learning the art of self-giving love. It flows from dying to self, from laughing at one's own foibles and humbly enduring the foibles of others. Saints aren't so much superstars of holiness as humble sinners, ready to allow God to love them just as they are.’
Our 2015 Chapter called us to express our MMM gift of healing in ways that addressed the emerging needs of women, children and family life. Universal Children's Day on 20 November aims to promote international togetherness and awareness among children, as well as to improve their welfare. Its website notes that it is the day in 1959 when the UN General Assembly adopted the Declaration of the Rights of the Child and the day in 1989 when it adopted the Convention on the Rights of the Child. The Convention sets out a number of children’s rights, including their right to life, to health, to education and to play, the right to family life, to be protected from violence, to not be discriminated against, and to have their views heard.
Calling to account While the Convention is the most widely ratified international human rights treaty, we are still far from achieving its aims. The 1996 report by Graça Machel: Impact of Armed Conflict on Children, highlights the disproportionate impact of war on children and identifies them as the primary victims of armed conflict. Parties to armed conflict that engage in the following grave violations affecting children can be listed in the annual report of the Secretary-General on children and armed conflict. Pressure can be exerted on the parties involved to end these practices. • Recruitment and use of children • Killing and maiming of children • Sexual violence against children • Attacks on schools and hospitals • Abduction of children • Denial of humanitarian access
The 2015 annual report described twenty situations of conflict. It listed fifty-nine parties to conflict in fourteen countries. Of these, eight were government security forces and fifty-one were non-State armed groups.1
The situation of children in labour is equally telling. Global Estimates of Child Labour: Results and trends, 2012-2016, September 2017, states that: • Worldwide, 152 million children are victims of child labour. Almost half, 73 million, work in hazardous labour; 19 million of these are less than 12 years old. • Almost half of child labour (72.1 million) is found in Africa; 62.1 million in Asia and the Pacific; 10.7 million in the Americas; 1.2 million in the Arab States and 5.5 million in Europe and Central Asia. • Boys appear to face a greater risk of child labour than girls, but this may also be a reflection of an under-reporting of girls’ work, particularly in domestic labour.
On 25 November we mark International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women. Its website says that ‘a staggering one in three women have experienced physical or sexual violence in their lifetime—a pandemic of global proportions. Unlike an illness, perpetrators and even entire societies choose to commit violence—and can choose to stop.’ While violence can be prevented, ‘it’s not as straightforward as eradicating a virus. There is no vaccine, medication or cure. And there is no one single reason why it happens....
‘More evidence is emerging on what interventions work to prevent violence—from community mobilisation to change social norms, to comprehensive school interventions targeting staff and pupils, to economic empowerment and income supplements coupled with gender equality training.’
1Children and Armed Conflict, Office of the Special Representative the Secretary General, August 2016
A Thought for Prayer We welcome you to visit a new feature at our website Prayer Space. Until now we have called attention to the needs of our Sisters serving in various ministries and have asked our friends to pray for them. We also invited you to add your own prayer intentions. MMMs and Associates pray daily for your concerns, especially at our MMM Motherhouse, at our care facility, Aras Mhuire, and at our house in Somerville, MA in the USA. Our elderly and infirm Sisters particularly have this mission of prayer, presence, suffering and a contemplative stance toward the world.
We are especially conscious of the deep hunger for meaning and spirituality today. At our 2015 Chapter we called ourselves to mutually deepen and share our charism (gift) with our MMM Associates, co-workers and others.
We are now introducing A Thought for Prayer to our Prayer Space. It consists of a short monthly quote, taken from sources that express our spirituality and gift of healing. These may be the writings of our foundress, our documents, other faith traditions or inspirational figures. An image or picture will accompany the text to help reflection. We welcome your comments!
In this newsletter, you can read how the Sisters in our Motherhouse helped to host a special exhibit that highlights the contributions of the Irish community to Kenya. We introduce you to seven young women who recently made their first commitment to God in MMM. You can also read how a chance encounter in Boston, MA, led to the formation of a wonderful group of women who have supported us in mission.
Thank you again for your interest and support.
Sr. Carol Breslin, MMM
‘One’s philosophy is not best expressed in words; it is expressed in the choices one makes’ (Eleanor Roosevelt).
Connections: A special exhibition
As an international congregation, our MMM Constitutions tell us to ‘work with all people of good will. Join resources with them, especially in the field of health, so as to bring about a world of justice and peace where true human development is fostered and human dignity and rights are respected.' Our understanding of the gift of healing urges us to ‘share this gift in prophetic ways through collaboration, networking and partnerships’ (Congregational Plan, 2016-2019). This is especially important in dealing with current global issues.
In mid-2016 Bróna Ní Mhuirí, wife of Dr. Vincent O'Neill, the new Irish Ambassador to Kenya, began to put together a unique exhibition for the newly-reopened Embassy of Ireland in Kenya. Called 100 Years of the Irish in Kenya, it uses interviews, family documents and religious archives to capture the stories of the Irish in Kenya since 1916. It commemorates the 1916 Rising in a positive way, noting the contributions of people who ‘represent all traditions of the island of Ireland’. The exhibition was launched by Kenya’s First Lady, Mrs. Margaret Kenyatta, and Irish Minister for the Diaspora and International Development, Mr. Joe McHugh, in November 2016, in the National Museum, Nairobi.
A few months later, we heard that Bróna was back in Ireland with the exhibition and was making it available to interested groups. We contacted her about showing it in our MMM Motherhouse in Drogheda, and the Sisters there, pleased to have this opportunity, saw the value of opening it to a larger audience. Sister Helen Spragg, leader at the Motherhouse, with Sisters Edna O' Gorman and Colette Ryan, decided to find a venue in the town of Drogheda.
Helen also contacted Bobby McCormack at Development Perspectives. A lecturer at the Dundalk Institute of Technology, Bobby has facilitated visits of nursing students to our projects overseas. The group visited the Barbican Centre in Drogheda, where the management kindly allowed the exhibit to be put up in the corridors during the week of 16 to 22 October 2017. People coming for various events at the Centre could see it. The Barbican Centre did not charge for this, asking only for a donation. Giving a flavour The exhibit consists of fifteen free-standing posters, one introductory and the others based on themes such as education, health, business, and sport. There are stories of ‘entrepreneurs, teachers, doctors, aviators, farming and motoring pioneers, development workers and, most especially, missionaries, both religious and lay.’
The introduction stated that ‘there are approximately 1,500 Irish people living in Kenya today. The younger Irish work for the UN, NGOs, in business and trade. The older Irish...are missionaries.... Others served in the British Armed Forces and settled into civilian life after World War Two. Yet others are 2nd generation Irish whose parents went to Kenya in the early 20th century....
‘‘The Kenya they encountered in many ways mirrored their own experience of home – agricultural, traditional, poor in material wealth but with a rich culture. They stayed to become an integral part of the development of a newly emerging African country.’
One poster points out the special contribution of missionaries to health services. Among them was Mercy Sister Dolorosa Waldron, who founded Mater Misericordiae Hospital in Nairobi in 1962. Carmelite Doctor Robert MacCabe set up a mobile medical unit in Lodwar in the Turkana Desert in 1977 and his research evolved into a handbook on tropical medicine. Members of the Church Mission Society Ireland, present since the 19th century, have also been involved in health care and development.
A related poster entitled ‘On a Wing and a Prayer’ highlights the story of some of the MMMs who went to the Turkana Desert in response to famine. Sisters Andrea Kelly and Elaine Campbell were the first to arrive, coming by road in 1962, using a rather circuitous route through Uganda. They were to start a dispensary at the Nadapal Famine Camp. Later, Mother Mary Martin saw the advantages of using planes to travel the long distances in the desert: travel by road was difficult and dangerous. So MMM pilots, Sisters Michael Therese Ryan, Nina (Sean) Underwood, and Agnes Manifold were trained to fly medical personnel and supplies to and from remote missions. They made food drops to places inaccessible by road. Other MMMs contributed to education and development. The Turkana Homecraft Training Centre continues to help rural women to reach their potential.
Another poster notes the contributions of some of the 2,000 to 3,000 Kenyans who now live in Ireland. They are involved in financial services, education, transport, social and health services. Among them is Salome Mbugua, a community activist and a powerful voice for migrant women, in Ireland and worldwide. She has served on the National Steering Committee on Violence against Women.
An educational experience Sister Colette Ryan said that a variety of sessions was planned at the Barbican Centre, some involving local schools. On Tuesday and Thursday morning, the exhibition would be moved into the Barbican theatre, where Bobby had arranged for students to view it, along with two facilitators from Development Perspectives and several MMMs who had spent time in Kenya. The Sisters would tell a three to four minute health-related story and invite questions. Fifteen Transition Year students from the local Presentation Convent were to come on Tuesday. A similar programme with Transition Students from the Sacred Heart School was planned for Thursday.
The weather had other plans, with ex-Hurricane Orphelia forcing the closure of the schools on Monday and Tuesday. Fortunately the programme on Thursday went ahead, with Sister Agnes, from the Presentation Convent, accompanying a group of students.
Among the MMMs who shared their stories was Sister Bernadette O’Brien. She qualified as a doctor and was one of the medical staff transported around the desert by MMM pilots. Sister Teresa Hogan, based in Kitale, was involved in services for families affected by AIDS, especially in the days when there was no effective treatment. Sister Ann McLaughlin provided basic health care in rural clinics and emphasised the importance of involving the people. Sister Agnes Manifold worked in women’s development programmes. The students were invited to reflect on what they had heard and to come back with questions. Interestingly, their questions were not about Kenya, but about the Medical Missionaries of Mary, religious life and what had inspired the Sisters to join! Other opportunities An open forum discussion took place at the Barbican Centre on Saturday, 21 October, including MMMs, MMM Associates, two facilitators from Development Perspectives, and Bobby McCormack, who welcomed everyone. Among those who related their experiences was Sister Edna O’Gorman, who spoke about her excitement at beginning a new mission in Aror. She worked with Sister Elaine Campbell, who had pioneered services in Turkana.
Bobby suggested that participants look at the exhibition and note one or two items they hadn’t known before. Sister Helen Aherne mentioned the contributions Irish Aid has made to the implementation of many projects in Kenya. More recently they have been part of carrying out the Millennium Development Goals.
The exhibition is now being shown in local schools. Bróna said that since the posters were prepared, more material has come to light. She hopes to produce a booklet with more detail over the next year.
As MMMs, we have deeply valued this collaboration, ‘working with all people of good will’, learning from them and joining resources. Ultimately it has been about sharing the ideals expressed by the exhibition, that the ‘provision of humanitarian and development assistance, as well as support for other basic human rights, has always been a reflection of a vision for a fairer society.’ This is also the vision of the Gospel.
Become a Medical Missionary of Mary!
Formation in MMM is a life-long process. We are formed by each other and we are called each day to listen to and respond to the Spirit. There are three main phases in our initial formation programme. The third phase is the time of first commitment, which begins with a Sister’s first profession of vows.
During this time, which lasts from four to six years, an MMM is ‘to develop deep and true convictions about her religious missionary life, which will enable her to grow to full maturity in Christ through the various experiences that MMM life offers’ and ‘to contribute generously to the life of the MMM community of faith and evangelization to which she has been assigned and through it to the wider ecclesial community’ (MMM Constitutions).
On 8 September 2017, seven women made their first commitment in Ibadan, Nigeria. They come from a number of countries and have a wide variety of backgrounds and skills. As they described it: ‘The Congregation of the Medical Missionaries of Mary has added to her number seven vibrant women burning with zeal to go and share the healing love of Jesus Christ wherever the need is greatest.’
We now introduce:
• Sister Liana de Jesus from Brazil, who trained as a teacher, with special training in helping children with learning difficulties. She is assigned to the Area of the Americas for Brazil.
• Sister Oliver Ephrem Tarimo, from Tanzania, has a Diploma in Clinical Dentistry. Her first assignment is to Makiungu Hospital in Tanzania, where she provided dental services for some time as a volunteer.
• Sister Nneka Mariagoretti Nwanze, from Nigeria, trained as a nurse before joining MMM. She is headed to Abajah, Nigeria, one of our newest missions.
• Sister Keresifon Clement Ekanem, also from Nigeria, is a nurse-midwife. She is assigned to our mission in Zaffé, Republic of Benin.
• Sister Flora Magdalena Phwandaphwanda is one of two newly-professed MMMs from Malawi. Her first assignment is to Shogunle, Nigeria.
• Sister Stellia Sosola, also from Malawi, will spend her first mission assignment in Lilongwe, Malawi.
• Sister Elizabeth Nseh Idem is from Nigeria and trained in accounting. She is assigned to Nangwa, Tanzania.
Taking a step in faith They were full of joy at the profession ceremony and said it was 'the culmination of a journey that began four years ago', when they took the first step to join, leaving their ‘families, friends, jobs and other things behind to embark on an extraordinary adventure - into the Medical Missionaries of Mary.’ They found ‘times of great joy and excitement, experiences of God’s presence and abundant graces, mercy and blessings. [It was] a time of wonderful discoveries and celebrations of life in our new family.’ As in every life, they also experienced ‘times of sadness, fears, anxieties and uncertainties.’
The newly-professed acknowledged the help provided by those who accompanied them. ‘It was a very great blessing to have such loving and caring formators who led us in different processes that prepared us physically, spiritually, psychologically and otherwise for the journey ahead. We are so proud of these three women.’
'Surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses' (Heb 12:1, NRSV) People came from different parts of Nigeria and nearby countries to witness the first profession of vows. They included ‘our MMM Sisters, novices, postulants, our families, and parishioners. Despite the fact that some of us are not from Nigeria and all of our parents could not come, we felt connected with them. The liturgy was simple, solemn and inspiring.’ It was especially significant that Monsignor Valentine Awoyemi, the chief celebrant, and Father Daniel Aigbona, CSsR, who preached the homily, are both friends of the community in Ibadan.
There was lots of dancing at the reception, in a variety of steps – and much relief when there proved to be enough food for all the guests! In the quieter evening there was a simple thanksgiving prayer with the other MMMs and the Sisters’ immediate families.
Reflecting our internationality and value of interconnectedness, parents of the new MMMs poured out prayers for them in different languages: Portuguese, Kiswahili, English, Efiki, Chichewa, Igbo, and Yoruba. No doubt feeling a mixture of emotions, especially pride, but also the pain of separation once again, they wished their daughters well on their new missions.
The Sisters also thanked ‘the Area Leadership Team, the Congregational Leadership Team, our MMM Sisters, families, friends and all those who have journeyed with us. We ask each of you to continue to accompany us in this journey of faith.
As these seven new MMMs said so well: ‘To God be the glory, the one who has always been on our side up to this moment.’
Mission is about encounter.
A weekend mission awareness visit to a parish near Boston, MA, USA almost twenty years ago proved to be a source of abiding friendship and support for a special group of women. They contributed greatly to our MMM 75th anniversary, reserving their beautiful new parish centre for the celebrations in Boston (See our 2012 Yearbook). Now that we are marking 80 years, Margie Chisholm, Kathy McQueen and Cathy Minogue gladly agreed to tell us more about the MMM Circle of Friends. Their photos show us just some of the activities in which they are involved.
‘Sister Joan Grumbach’s 1998 Mission Awareness talk at Saint Raphael’s Parish in Medford, Massachusetts made a deep impression on its parishioners, including Margie Chisholm. A chance encounter between Joan and Margie a few days later developed into an enduring friendship. Several years later it led to a meeting with then MMM Development Director Sister Mary Ann MacRae. Sister Mary Ann shared her idea about forming a small group to raise awareness about the MMM mission and spirituality and possibly some funds to support it.
‘So in the fall of 2004, a dozen or so women gathered at Margie’s house to meet Sisters Joan, Mary Ann, Siobhan Corkery (MMM Zonal Coordinator at the time), and Veronica Tarpey, who had been in Angola. After watching a video of MMMs working in Rwanda and hearing personal stories from the Sisters, they were eager to get involved. From this humble beginning, the MMM Circle of Friends was born. Now a group of twenty-five, they meet several times a year to brainstorm ways to support MMM’s healing charism and the Sisters who embody it. A prayer service composed by Sister Anne Marie Hubbard begins all meetings, at which local Sisters and any in the area for home leave or business are honored guests.’
Using a creative approach ‘From its inception, the Circle has relied on Development Office guidance to select projects. Early fundraising efforts provided cows for AIDS orphans in a Ugandan farming program and school uniforms for children in Tanzania. Over time, members offered various fundraising suggestions, ranging from the profitable annual yard sale to the popular “Super Bowl Squares”, a gambling game based on the outcome of American football’s championship match. An ongoing source of revenue is the sale of special occasion and bereavement cards, which were designed by a Circle member and use the MMM Visitation logo as their centerpiece.
‘The Circle‘s connection with MMM has deepened through mutually rewarding relationships between members and Sisters, particularly those who live in neighboring Somerville and Malden. It is nurtured by activities such as a summer barbecue and a fall potluck dinner at the MMM house in Somerville, a Secret Santa project, and dining out together each April at a fundraiser in a nearby restaurant. The connection was manifest in 2012, when the Circle organized the MMM’s 75th Jubilee celebration at Saint Raphael Parish Center, a fitting venue since the Circle’s existence stems from Sister Joan’s Mission Awareness visit at the church.
‘A few years later the Sisters' and Circle of Friends’ connection produced a Lenten reflection based on the film Rooted in Love, which documents the lives of MMMs serving in desperate areas of Honduras. Parishioners from Saint Raphael’s and surrounding parishes were invited, and it proved so successful that a second reflection was presented the following Lent.
‘Through their journey with MMM, Circle members have grown in love and appreciation for the Sisters, who inspire them to find hope and humor in life, especially when the world seems most broken, and to respond to their own call to be God’s healing presence in our world. They look forward to many years of Circle-MMM friendship, confident that it will evolve in enriching and grace-filled ways.’
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