Dunne, Sr. Mary

Dunne, Sr. Mary

Mary was born in Birr, Co. Offaly in 1941. She was the youngest child and only girl of six children. She grew up in Letterkenny, Co. Donegal and trained as a nurse in Joyce Green Hospital in Kent. She then did midwifery in Lennox Castle Maternity Hospital in Scotland.   After working as a staff nurse in Ireland for three years, she volunteered for a nursing post in Zambia. One of her friends in Zambia was a niece of Sr. Anne Bennett, MMM. With her friend, Mary travelled by train through Tanzania and stopped off to visit Sr. Anne at Makiungu Hospital, meeting the Medical Missionaries of Mary for the first time.

She joined MMM in 1969 and after a few months as a staff nurse in the MMM nursing home in Clonmel she was assigned to Kenya. Her first mission was in the far north of the Turkana Desert, where she was nursing officer in charge of the government Health Centre at Lokitaung. It was remote, isolated, and depended on the small plane of the Flying Doctors’ Service for supplies and support.

Despite the difficulties of the work and the insecurity at the nearby borders with Sudan and Ethiopia, Mary experienced a great sense of satisfaction in being part of the development of a people, a country, and a church. She formed many lasting friendships with other volunteers and missionaries from various countries.

Mary’s love of sport embraced rugby, soccer and tennis, which she followed on short-wave radio. She loved music, especially the cello, and read widely using the mobile missionary library available throughout Kenya.

In 1976 she spent several months as a staff nurse in Glasgow. She was then matron of the hospital in Airmount, Waterford for three years. After some months caring for her ill parents, she returned to Africa, where she did a language course and was responsible for a primary health care project in Kipsaraman, Kenya. She was then matron in Kakuma Hospital.

In 1987 she returned to Ireland because of ill health and then briefly did relief work in Aror, Kenya. Again in Ireland she did a course in oncology and returned to Kenya in 1991. For three months she was a nursing sister at a hospice in Nairobi. For the next fifteen years she ran a HIV/AIDS programme in Kitale. There she saw the huge needs of people affected by HIV and the plight of children who had lost their parents to AIDS. She initiated and developed a comprehensive programme to respond to these needs.

In 2007 she returned to Ireland for leave and became ill again. In addition to the hearing difficulties she had been experiencing for some time she received a diagnosis of cancer. She faced her fears with the same courage, stubbornness, and good humour that she had brought to all of life’s challenges. She spoke to her friends of ways of ‘befriending’ her illness. Her deep faith and serenity were an inspiration to all who supported and cared for her. In 2011 she went to Áras Mhuire for nursing care. A few weeks before her death she prepared an inspiring funeral liturgy. She died on 23 November 2011.