by Sr. Ann Flynn MMM USA 13.11.2023
Recently I was asked for the story of my vocation which I guess you could say started when I arrived into a family in the heart of the Finger Lakes Region of New York State. My 4-year-old sister, Marge, and 2-year-old brother, Bob, had already arrived …and I was the last of the clan. When I was 3, someone asked me what I wanted to do when I grew up and I announced: “I’m going to be a nurse.”
This surprised everyone because I didn’t know any nurses and had never been in a hospital. Soon I was 5 and we had to leave the beautiful lake and all that goes with ‘small town America’. This move brought us first to Baltimore, and then on to Buffalo, which would be my home for the next twenty years. Life was good! Lots of empty lots to play in and school was full of fun and friends.
Then in August 1945 all that changed. The doctor came to the house (imagine that!) and confirmed my parents’ worst fears: Polio. I was only 9 years old, but I knew this was not good. My Grandfather and Dad built a ‘Kenny Packer’ with a big pot in which to boil water so my mother could soak the pieces of wool to make hot packs which she wrapped around me from early morning until late at night. It was a very lonely time for my mother. Everyone was afraid to visit because at that time, no one knew what polio was or how it was contracted. Only our neighbour, Mrs. Bury would come down every evening and visit. On one such occasion she asked, “Why don’t you ask God to make you better?” I knew He made the world and all the lovely creatures, flowers, and the stars. “Why would He want to do that” was my question and her reply, “Because He loves you”.
That precious piece of knowledge gave me a new lease on life, and I uttered my first ‘formal’ prayer. I remember it still: “If you’d like to make me better, I wouldn’t mind”. The years rolled on and I followed the dream of my three-year-old self. Just as I was finishing my nurse’s training, someone casually (God is very clever!) said to me, “I have found a place for you, they do medical mission work. NOT ME! I thought to myself. Mrs. Bury was a missionary to me and my family and the thought of doing the same wove in and out of my thoughts. No internet, no smart phone, and no Google—I had to find people who did this work by looking in a huge tome of a book. And there I found the Medical Missionaries of Mary.
These are simply the bones of my story…so many people and places and events have brought it to life.