by Sr. Cecily Bourdillon MMM Ireland 13.10.2022
I was privileged to first meet Mother Mary Martin, Foundress of the Medical Missionaries of Mary (MMM), in my home country, Rhodesia, now Zimbabwe. One day I received a phone call. The caller was an MMM who said that Mother Mary Martin was at the airport and would like to see me. Mother Mary was travelling to South Africa with Sr. Anne Moran and Sr. Maura O’Donogue and had a stop at Salisbury on the way. On the balcony of the small airport, my family and I sat and drank coffee with Mother Mary and chatted.
My father had met Mother Mary many years before, in 1939, two years after the founding of MMM. When on leave from his post as District Commissioner in Northern Rhodesia, now Zambia, -he had been asked to look for Sisters to come and do medical work. On a visit to Ireland, he had been introduced to Mother Mary. She had no Sisters to send at that time, but promised to in the future, if the Bishops requested. Many years later, when I shared with my father my desire to be a missionary, he wrote to Mother Mary.
On the return flight from South Africa back to Ireland, Mother Mary and Sr. Maura spent a few days in Salisbury and we welcomed them to our farm. As always, Mother Mary showed care and interest in all around her. Mother Mary invited me to Drogheda, to “come and see”.
I arrived in Drogheda on 1st May 1960 and was received as a postulant. We were blessed and privileged to live under the same roof as Mother Mary in the Motherhouse in Drogheda. Although often away, when she was at home Mother Mary prayed with us in the Oratory. Often, when I was cleaning the corridors, Mother Mary passed by on one of her many visits to the hospital and she would stop and ask how I was. She gave me words of encouragement.
When I studied at University in Dublin (UCD), I was one of about thirty MMM students living at Rosemount in Booterstown. We wore secular clothes and rode bicycles in keeping with the regulations of the Archdiocese. Mother Mary would often call in and speak with us.
Mother Mary loved driving and she was our driver when we returned to Drogheda after a holiday in Killybegs, Co. Donegal. It was a long journey and we chatted and prayed between the silences.
In 1962, Mother Mary received the First Vows of our group of seven. MMM was celebrating its Silver Jubilee. Mother Mary was in our midst at the celebrations which included the production of a play called The Pageant, words about Mission from Scripture and set to beautiful music by Mr. Patrick Murray and enacted by MMM sisters under the direction of the famous Irish, South African born, actor Cyril Cusack. Sisters Monica Clarke and Maura Ramsbottom also had important roles in this production.
It was a joy to welcome my parents to Drogheda when they came from Rhodesia for my Final Profession in 1968. By this time Mother Mary Martin’s health was deteriorating and she needed nursing care. We no longer had her in our midst but my father asked if he might speak with her which he did. He was obviously deeply moved by the encounter – his third – after many years.
I was assigned to Nigeria in 1969 and from then on relied on the postal services coming from Ireland to bring us news of Mother Mary. We shared in the pain of her last days from a distance. On 25th January 1975, God called Mother Mary Martin home after her long illness. We came to know of the deep mourning of the people of Drogheda who loved Mother Mary Martin. They had supported her and MMM so generously. They had honoured her with the Freedom of the Town of Drogheda and now revered her and paid tribute to her as they laid her to rest.
Thank you, Mother Mary Martin, for your fidelity to God’s call which brought about the founding of MMM – and for inviting me.
I give praise and thanks to God for my 60 years in the MMM family with my most wonderful, loving, caring MMM sisters.