Mother Mary and The Laundry

Mother Mary and The Laundry

by Sr. Jo Anne Kelly, MMM   07/10/2021MMMLaundry

I like to take an early morning walk and in the bright mornings of spring and summer usually go to the nearby graveyard which is directly opposite Our Lady of Lourdes Hospital and where all MMM sisters who have died in Ireland are buried. The gravediggers had deposited the excess soil down along the side and made a bank of soil. Weeds grew quickly.

Then one morning during the first lockdown of this pandemic, an elderly man was there planting flowers on this bank of soil. He had a great selection of flowers and plants in his garden and greenhouse and in no time there was a wonderful display of blooms all down the side. I was enjoying the beauty of this and the freshness of the morning and then moved on to the grave of our Foundress, Mother Mary Martin. I go there often when I am in need of some kind of inspiration, but this morning I was just happy to visit and pray.

Another man who had been visiting his family grave came near and we greeted for the morning. He said “I could tell you many stories about Mother Mary Martin that you might not know. I said, “Tell me.” Over time I heard the stories. This man was a maintenance man who, all his life, had done repairs in houses all over Drogheda, especially the older houses. Repairs completed, he was often invited for a cup of tea by the woman of the house. While drinking the tea, he heard stories of what Mother Mary Martin did for the women of Drogheda. At the time she opened the original Our Lady of Lourdes hospital in 1940, things were hard in Ireland. There was much unemployment. Many men in Drogheda were out of work. Families were big and children had to be fed and kept in school and the women had none of the facilities available today.

Mother Mary came and the building began and that gave work to the men. One of the first buildings she put up was a laundry – to cater for the hospital but it was also a public laundry which gave a service to the people of the town and colleges nearby. She went to England to purchase the most modern equipment. She employed local women to work in the laundry and an English lady to teach them how to use the machines. First of all, she learnt how to use them herself!

Women of all ages were employed according to their ability. The women spoke of how they enjoyed the companionship they had, the sharing of stories at break times and of course the payment. They had money in their pockets every week that was their own to spend. The younger women remembered that when they were getting
married, Mother Mary gave them their wedding cake, baked and decorated in the convent.