Mother Mary Martin Week: Sr. Magdalen O’Rourke

Mother Mary Martin Week: Sr. Magdalen O’Rourke

Editor’s Note: This week, leading up to the anniversary of Mother Mary’s death on January 27th, we hear the stories of some of our early MMM Sisters, of how they met Mother Mary, and of how their lives changed.

Sr. Magdalen O’Rourke MMM (1909-2008)                                           Ireland                                         24.02.2024

“In the summer of 1934, I first met Mother Mary Martin.  I met her through the Legion of Mary.  Her aunt, Miss Janey Moore, who worked in the Catholic Central Library, was President of a Praesidium to which I belonged.  Fr. Dermot Bolan, who afterwards entered the Carthusian Order, was our Spiritual Director.  He had great faith and was enthusiastic about Miss Martin’s plan to found a congregation for medical missionary work.  Few knew of her intention, nor could it be openly spoken about.  The necessary Church permission hadn’t been granted.  While waiting a home was found with the Benedictines in Glenstal.  Fr. Boylan helped me see where the Lord was calling me, that I had a missionary vocation and he asked me to join Miss Martin.

I wasn’t a bit enamoured with the idea.  Being a Franciscan Tertiary with a great love for St. Francis, I was at the stage of deciding whether I should join Mother Kevin’s Congregation or the Franciscan Missionaries of Mary.  Mother Kevin I knew, and admired her work for the lepers, and her work for the mother and child in Uganda.

On Fr. Boylan’s advice, I did go to see Mother Mary who was in her house at Monkstown, Dublin.  But I made it clear that I was really joining a Franciscan Congregation.  She did not try to dissuade me.  She shared with me a little script on the mystery of the Visitation which she and Fr. Hugh Kelly SJ had prepared as a source of inspiration for the future Congregation.

The way she portrayed the great need in Nigeria for care of young mothers and their children inspired me.  this visit I learnt that for the better part of the previous three years were spent in bed, recovering from an illness.  She looked to thin and frail that I wondered how she could hope to carry out this gigantic task.  What impressed me was her extraordinary eyes.  Her interior spirit of love and union with God shone through and one immediately sensed the Divine in her and that she was someone special.  Many people who knew Mother Mary would agree with me about the extraordinary appeal in those blue eyes. I went away with the softness and drawing power of her eyes haunting me, knowing how much she longed for a companion to join Miss Nora Leydon.  After a week of prayer and fasting, the Holy Spirit guided me to say my ‘fiat’.

I was inspired by the trust Mother Mary put in people.  She left two of us in Glenstal to carry on following her instructions and under the direction of Dom David Maffei while she was ill.