By Monica Shaw U.S.A. 11.08.2022
Lily Murphy was my great aunt. In 1950, Lily went with the Medical Missionaries of Mary to Ogoja, Nigeria to teach the leper children. At the time, she was 57 years young, and stayed in Ogoja for over 20 years establishing schools in each village.
My book, The Rainwater Secret is historical fiction based on her true story. I was reading another book based in England, and it reminded me of Lily. I think there was a lot of divine intervention, because I couldn’t get her out of my mind. I decided I would do a little research about the MMM’s and their work in Africa. After researching online, and I’m sure bothering Sister Catherine who at the time was in charge of the MMM archives in Drogheda, Ireland, I planned a trip to Ireland to do some more research.
I had a lovely visit with all of the Sisters in Drogheda! Originally, I had planned to spend an afternoon there, but ended up staying until late in the evening and then went back the next day as well. Lily lived to the ripe old age of 107 so there were only a few Sisters in Drogheda who worked with Lily that were still alive, but we managed to visit with a few of them and enjoyed hearing stories of their time in Ogoja.
I can’t express how much fun I had visiting with the Sisters and hearing stories not just about Africa, but all of their mission trips. I am in awe of them just jetting, or in this case boating off to an unknown land with the hope of helping others. I still shake my head thinking of how courageous they must have been to make the long trip.
I read everything I could get my hands on. Bishop McGettrick wrote a book as did Mother Mary Martin. Lily wrote articles about the leprosy patients for the MMM newsletters. Even the gentlemen who went to Africa to film The Visitation wrote a book. There was another book “Diary of an MMM” that was very helpful as well. I remember thinking on the flight home, “I’ve got to figure out how to write a book!”
Lily had been a head mistress at a school in Bootle. I’m not sure how she heard of the MMM’s going to Africa, but I have the first letter she wrote to Mother Mary Martin requesting to be the teacher that they took with them to Ojoja.
If I had to describe Lily, I would say she was full of life. Always up for a prank, a cuppa or a nip of cognac. She was funny and lit up the room with her stories.
I grew up Catholic and never heard of the MMM’s until I started researching this book. I was young when Lily was still alive, and even though I went to visit her in England after she left Ogoja, I never thought to ask her about her time in Africa. Thank goodness there were so many books available to read! Although the story is about Lily’s time in Ogoja, she would never have wanted to be the “star of the show.” All glory goes to God, and the wonderful Sisters of the MMM.
I’m so blessed that Lily tapped me on the shoulder from heaven and helped me write The Rainwater Secret. It has been such an honor to share her story. A portion of the proceeds from the book go to the Medical Missionaries of Mary, and I pray that Lily would be very pleased to continue her mission with the MMM’s from above.