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Issue No. 132, July 2013
MMM Associates: A deeper call to healing love
Since the early centuries of Christianity, women and men have had connections with religious orders, usually by receiving guidance from spiritual leaders. In more recent years many people have shown a renewed interest in being associated with religious groups. This has usually involved sharing in their spirituality. Some people have been involved in the work of a group; others have participated more directly in the life of the community.
Before founding MMM, Marie Martin had seen the importance of collaboration with others in the work of healing. As a nurse during World War I and as a lay missionary, Marie had experience of this first-hand. In December 1936, as she was about to sail for Nigeria to fulfil her dream of establishing a new religious congregation, she wrote to Father Hugh Kelly, her spiritual director: “I think I shall for the good of the Missions have to develop the lay-apostolate in connection with M.M.M.”
Over the years, many people have worked with us. They have contributed their experience, dedication, and enthusiasm to bring the healing love of God to those in need. They have been our friends and supporters. They have been part of our unfolding story.
Some have been especially attracted by our MMM charism and spirituality and began to ask us how they could deepen their commitment to global mission in a formal way. As a result of our searching together, the Associate Movement of the Medical Missionaries of Mary was born.
In this newsletter you can read how the new endeavour has grown and developed. We illustrate an essential component of the Associate’s commitment: a call to service. Members are searching for ways in which they can live their call as individuals and corporately. We also describe how we are working to develop leadership for the future.
As we read in the Scriptures: "There are varieties of activities but it is the same God who activates all of them in everyone." 1 Cor 12:6
Our MMM Associates give us many reasons to believe that the charism and spirituality of MMM will continue to grow and develop in the years ahead.
Thank you for your support in so many ways. We remember you in prayer each day.
"Do not seek to follow in the footsteps of [those] of old; seek what they sought." Matsuo Basho, Japanese poet
Sharing the MMM vision
Marie Martin’s experience as a lay missionary in Nigeria from 1921 to 1924 made her aware of great needs in health care, especially for women and children. She wanted to found a society that would be dedicated to expressing the healing love of God in providing this care. She felt that Benedictine spirituality would “give us a solid spiritual foundation as well as the freedom of soul so necessary for the members of an active medical missionary society.” This involved bringing “the liturgical life as well as supplying the missions with the medical service.”
Since 1937, many people have worked alongside us as volunteers and lay missionaries, at home and in other cultures. We have all gained through this collaboration. Some of our co-workers wished to go a step further and share our spirituality at a deeper level.
Discerning a response As Medical Missionaries of Mary we asked how we could respond to this request. We began in a formal way at our 1985 General Chapter, when we called ourselves “to be open to share the MMM charism and apostolate with those laity who wish to share with us in the missionary thrust of the Church." We were "to discern...with those men and women who seek it, new ways of sharing in some form of affiliation.”
We were further invited to explore extended forms of MMM membership at our 1991 Chapter and were reminded that “we, too, are the laity.”
As the number of interested people grew, we officially embraced the Associate Movement at our 1997 Chapter.
The introductory handbook, Come, Let Us Listen, stated, “We are now inviting others who also hear a call to a global healing mission to explore with us a new dimension of their Christian commitment in a way that would respect the uniqueness of their own vocation, their life choices, and commitments.”
The first Associate Medical Missionaries of Mary (AMMMs) made their Covenant in the USA in 1999.
God will show the way. We continued to work together to decide the way forward and felt that it was important to actively involve the AMMMs in the process. The first international meeting of Associates was held in Ireland in 2006.
We also called ourselves to encourage emerging leadership among the Associates. For this purpose a meeting among Associates in Africa was held in Nairobi, Kenya in February 2013. Twenty MMMs and AMMMs attended.
At this time there are 109 MMM Associates in fourteen countries on six continents.
The call to serve
Medical Missionaries of Mary Associates around the world live out their call to service in a great variety of ways.
In Ireland, Lucy Mwangi, from Kenya, works in the nursing facility for our MMM Sisters in Drogheda. She also participated in the recent Women’s Mini Marathon in Dubin to raise funds for MMM women’s projects in Honduras. Mary Coffey is a general practitioner and worked as a volunteer in Makiungu, Tanzania. Mary Bradley, in Falmouth, England, volunteers at a centre that provides hospitality to ships’ crews that are far from home. Pat Deeny, in Australia, is a Metropolitan Area Chaplain, providing various kinds of support to twenty-nine other chaplains in schools. In Malaysia, Anne Choon is a palliative care nurse.
In 2011, MMMs and AMMMs gathered at our national meeting in the USA. Remembering that they were called to corporate works, the Associates asked, “Why don’t we have services that we can do together?” Because they are scattered across the country it is difficult to get together. Nevertheless, their AMMM mentor and other MMMs in leadership were interested in the idea, so a committee of Associates began to draft a proposal in January 2012.
Anne Marie Kenny, Marianne Grisez, and Ann Hook each researched approximately six religious congregations that had service opportunities or volunteer organizations. They wanted to: 1. Bring the MMM charism to others 2. Provide a service to others where needs are greatest 3. Work with existing MMM missions and AMMM activities 4. Provide a community experience with time for prayer and reflection 5. Provide mutual support for AMMMs and MMMs, especially in difficult times
The committee members felt that it was best to start locally but were open to opportunities to work together in other countries.
Sister Bernadette Kenny, MMM, has lived for many years in Appalachia, a very poor rural area in the USA. She suggested working with the Remote Area Medical Volunteer Corps (RAM), a Tennessee-based medical relief organization. It provides free health, dental, and eye care, as well as technical and educational assistance, to people in remote areas of the United States. Sister Bernie was involved in organizing this service in Virginia. Associates could also help in vacation Bible schools.
A new Associate, Jill Garrou, volunteers with Into Your Hands, a Colorado-based organization that send workers to Makondo, Uganda, where MMMs are involved in a wide range of activities. Some AMMMs might work with this group.
Associates who are not available for a specific ministry opportunity might sponsor other members who can participate but have limited resources.
AMMMs will be Each Other’s Keepers to be sensitive and provide practical support to members in times of need.
These ideas are in their early stages and we are exploring the way ahead. They are an illustration of the MMM Associates’ desire to work together to bring healing. Jesus has told us, “Where two or three are gathered in my name, I am there among them.” Mt 18:20
Leadership for the future
The introductory booklet for MMM Associates, “Come Let Us Listen”, speaks about including men and women called to a healing mission and to sharing our charism. It says that their different life experiences and commitments can enrich us. This mutual enrichment will enable “a new unfolding of the MMM charism for the third millennium.”
We have indeed been enriched since beginning our first formal exploration of the Associate Movement in 1985. Over one hundred Associates have committed themselves to a deeper living of the MMM spirit. They have attended gatherings, spoken in churches about our work, and joined us on mission.
In 2012, for the first time in our history, we invited MMM Associates (AMMMs) to participate fully in a congregational meeting: our Finance and Fundraising Meeting in Ireland. Unfortunately, an AMMM from Nigeria was not able to attend due to immigration difficulties, which meant that Associates from East and West Africa were not able to meet at that time.
Later, MMM leaders discussed how we could build on the developing energy and relationships. We talked about having a gathering of Associates from Africa who are showing leadership potential. So another step forward for our Associate Movement took place in February 2013 at Emmaus Centre in Nairobi, Kenya. AMMMs from Kenya, Nigeria, Tanzania, and Uganda gathered with MMMs to share stories and experiences.
After prayer and welcome each AMMM was asked to tell her or his own story of deciding to become an Associate, naming MMMs who had influenced them. Each Sister was asked to share her encounter with AMMMs. There was a presentation on our healing ministry and Benedictine spirituality. Participants worked on defining what an AMMM is and does and on an Action Plan that will be presented at the MMM Extended Leadership Meeting.
What an inspirational group! To tell you about just a few: From Kenya, Thomas Nyawir began Mirror of Hope, a project that helps women and children in great need. In Nigeria, Georgenia Ndulaka has been working with with our Sisters in Lagos, assisting those affected by HIV and TB. She has since been appointed matron of Mile Four Hospital in Abakaliki. In Tanzania, Francesca Maselle is a volunteer anaesthetic nurse with MMM at Makiungu Hospital. From Ireland and living in Tanzania, Eamonn Brehony works with us in Mission Development and Moira Brehony is our Liasion Officer with Misean Cara. In Uganda, Charles Matovu is director of an HIV/AIDS home care programme and organizes teams to visit the sick and elderly in his parish.
Andrew Otsieno, also from Kenya, recently helped MMMs do a needs assessment and develop an action plan for our newest mission in South Sudan. He described how he feels the MMM charism and spirituality are important in the world today.
“I live in Karen, Nairobi, with my wife and two sons. My wife, Hedwig Nafula, is also an Associate MMM.
“In 2002 the Medical Missionaries of Mary invited me to Arusha to conduct training on organizational development. Ironically, I only went because my wife, who should have gone, had just delivered our first born and could not travel. The encounter left me with a stirring in my heart: I got deeply challenged by their spirituality.
“In January 2012 I felt ready to apply to become an associate member of the MMM. I had learnt that as much as we may practice different spiritual disciplines, the goal is to experience the presence of God in our lives. Otherwise I saw it as a contradiction of sorts to even consider becoming a member of a Catholic congregation when I am from the Anglican Church.
“Before I started my spiritual formation, I could be described as compelled to lead a spiritual life. By His grace, I am now working on being illumined – learning to respond to God out of love. I now know that what separates a leader from a professional manager is the ability to build an organization that is a source of self-fulfilment and personal integrity for its members, taking a holistic approach – more like holistic healing. This is now my calling in life, to help organizations grow through growing their people. I believe we need to let God open new doors through us, for we may be the ones whom He uses to go where no one has gone before.”
Our Associate MMMs around the world give us much of which to be proud, as part of “a new unfolding of the MMM charism for the third millennium.”
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