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Number 170 - January 2017
We begin the New Year of 2017 by marking the 50th anniversary of World Day of Peace. The message of Pope Francis for this day is: ‘Nonviolence: a Style of Politics for Peace’.
He prays ‘that the image and likeness of God in each person will enable us to acknowledge one another as sacred gifts endowed with immense dignity. Especially in situations of conflict, let us...make active nonviolence our way of life....When victims of violence are able to resist the temptation to retaliate, they become the most credible promoters of nonviolent peacemaking.’
He reflects, ‘Today, sadly, we find ourselves engaged in a horrifying world war fought piecemeal. It is not easy to know if our world is presently more or less violent than in the past, or to know whether modern means of communications and greater mobility have made us more aware of violence, or increasingly inured to it.’
Nevertheless, ‘violence is not the cure for our broken world. Countering violence with violence leads at best to forced migrations and enormous suffering, because vast amounts of resources are diverted to military ends and away from the everyday needs of young people, families experiencing hardship, the elderly, the infirm and the great majority of people in our world.’
Pope Francis reminds us that ‘Jesus himself lived in violent times. Yet he taught that the true battlefield, where violence and peace meet, is the human heart.' Jesus 'unfailingly preached God's unconditional love' and 'whoever accepts the Good News of Jesus is able to acknowledge the violence within and be healed by God’s mercy.’
Nonviolence in practice He stresses that ‘efforts on behalf of the victims of injustice and violence are not the legacy of the Catholic Church alone, but are typical of many religious traditions...Let us never tire of repeating: The name of God cannot be used to justify violence....I plead for disarmament and for the prohibition and abolition of nuclear weapons...I plead with equal urgency for an end to domestic violence and to the abuse of women and children.’
Pope Francis suggests that the Beatitudes provide ‘a programme and a challenge for political and religious leaders, the heads of international institutions, and business and media executives: to apply the Beatitudes in the exercise of their respective responsibilities....It is to show mercy by refusing to discard people, harm the environment, or seek to win at any cost....
‘The new Dicastery for Promoting Integral Human Development...will help the Church to promote in an ever more effective way the inestimable goods of justice, peace, and the care of creation and concern for migrants, the sick, the excluded and marginalized, the imprisoned and the unemployed, as well as victims of armed conflict, natural disasters, and all forms of slavery and torture.’
Pope Francis concluded, ‘In 2017, may we dedicate ourselves prayerfully and actively...to becoming nonviolent people and to building nonviolent communities that care for our common home.’
A plea that resonates On the same day that Pope Francis issued his message, members of Pax Christi International from different parts of Africa made a 'Statement on a Culture of Peace and Nonviolence'.
They wrote: ‘As we dream and work together towards an Africa that is free from violent conflicts, we are confronted with challenges both old and new that demand moral strength, innovative ideas and unbroken determination to build sustainable peace through active nonviolent approaches.
‘Inspired by Gospel values, the spirit of Ubuntu and the teaching of the Golden Rule which urges us to treat others the way we would want to be treated…
‘We recognize that: • parochialism, intolerance, extremism and violence are on the rise; • young people and children represent the greatest resource in Africa, and if well-harnessed would contribute to the development, well-being and peace of Africa; • current adversarial politics is exclusionary and marginalizes certain parts of the society; • the huge investment in the militarization of peace and conflict could be channelled towards active nonviolent peace-building approaches; • civil society is under threat and basic rights are being oppressed.’
They committed themselves to: • ‘advocate for nonviolence and peace education in the society; • ‘collaborate with like-minded stake holders to address the issues of migration, human trafficking, social justice, small arms and light weapons; • ‘mobilize our various constituencies to promote peace and reconciliation in countries and communities currently experiencing violence, and call for the prioritization of and investment in active nonviolence mechanisms as an alternative means of resolving conflicts; • ‘use home-grown faith-based approaches that promote nonviolent means to accelerate our efforts towards a continent free of violent conflicts.’
Of one accord for peace They called upon: ‘our governments and political leaders to respect human rights and to invest in and promote a culture of peace and active nonviolence; the media to develop peace journalism; [and] religious leaders to lift up the vision of nonviolence in their preaching and teaching ministry.’
The Statement echoes the aims of our MMM Congregational Plan, in which we undertake to be ‘bearers of peace, reconciliation and non-violent living. Connected with like-minded bearers of the healing charism, we will explore global issues such as fundamentalism, xenophobia, trafficking, and migration.’
In our January e-newsletter you can read how the charism of healing is being handed on by our MMM Associates, newer vowed members of MMM, and by MMMs who have pioneered new ways of being present to people today.
As the New Year dawns on a day dedicated to Mary, Queen of Peace, may we unite to make this dream of peace a reality in 2017.
Sr. Carol Breslin, MMM
A gift to be shared
1. Living the charism of healing in Malawi
After our 1997 Congregational Chapter we began to invite interested lay women and men to share our MMM spirituality and healing charism in a more official way. Associates of the Medical Missionaries of Mary (AMMMs) continue to live their own unique calls, life choices and commitments as part of the missionary thrust of the whole Church. There are now over 140 AMMMs in 17 countries around the globe.
Sister Chinyere Anyaorah, from Nigeria, on mission in Malawi, told us about three new AMMMs who recently made their covenants in Lilongwe. Pictured here, from left to right, they illustrate the great diversity of gifts that our Associates bring to the expression of healing. Their beautiful dresses express their joy on the special occasion.
Lilian Ngambi is a teacher by training and is now involved in business. A home-based care volunteer, she also serves as Archdiocesan Mistress of Ceremonies and is in charge of a choir and liturgical dance. A widow, Lilian has three daughters. The youngest is in university.
Benedetta Kulemeka is also a teacher and has worked in nursery and secondary schools. She is a member of the Legion of Mary and the Divine Mercy. Bernadette is married with a grown daughter and son.
Sophie Kalinde is a retired diplomat and human rights commissioner and is currently engaged in agriculture. She is a member and former chairperson of the Catholic Commission for Justice and Peace. She is a member of the Saint Vincent de Paul Society and a commission for the welfare of priests in the diocese. She is an extraordinary Eucharistic minister. Sophie is a widow with four adult children.
Lilian and Sophie made their covenants as AMMMs on 1 October, at the MMM country meeting. Because of a death in her family Benedetta waited until 4 November.
Chinyere said that she met these gifted women as parishioners of Saint Kizito’s Parish in Chigoneka . They already knew the Sisters in Lilongwe. Lilian remembers Sisters Catherine Dwyer, Mary Doonan, and Anne Carr supporting her and her family when they were sick, especially when her husband died. Benedetta visited our Motherhouse in Ireland in 2014, which sparked her interest in a closer relationship with MMM. Sophie worked with Sister Patricia Amadi and had wanted to be an Associate for several years but this was not feasible until she retired.
2. Part of a journey of healing in Angola
In September 2016, Sisters Brigid Archbold, Stella Nwoye and Angela Anigbogu, all based in Angola, were invited to a very special celebration. Chiulo, in the far south of the country, was marking the centenary of the presence of the Spiritan missionaries in the area. Medical Missionaries of Mary were in Chiulo from 1953 until 2002 and ran a hospital and nurse training school there. They were warmly welcomed back by the Filhas d’Africa (Daughters of Africa), who now live in the former MMM house.
The MMMs wrote: ‘When we arrived every place was a hive of activity. Preparations had started months before. Many people came for a week of prayer and conferences and slept in the tents they brought with them. It was wonderful to see so many gathered in the field of Chiulo Mission.
‘At one seminar, Padre Gaudencia do Rosario, Spiritan Provincial in Angola, talked about the 150 years of Spiritan mission in the entire country. Padre Urbano Gasper, the only priest from Chiulo, spoke about Chiulo Hospital and the Medical Missionaries of Mary. His mother, Maria da Cruz Gaspar, lived with the first MMM Sisters to come to the mission. All the missionaries who worked in Chiulo and are now deceased were remembered, including Father Keane, who was instrumental in bringing MMM to Angola, and Sister Joseph Moynagh, one of the first MMMs to arrive.
‘Sister Brigid Archbold and other MMMs who worked in Chiulo also received special mention and were thanked for all they did in health care over the years. In recognition of our work and commitment the Medical Missionaries of Mary received an award, as did many other groups. Radio Ecclesia and TPA (Angola Television) interviewed Sister Brigid.
‘Sister Angela met many of her past students from Chiulo Hospital School of Nursing and the teachers who worked with her, most of whom are still at the hospital. Angela exclaimed, "It is good to be back here, my first mission in Angola!"’
The growth of a seed ‘While we were there, we met with our MMM Associates, thirty from Cuamato and six from Chiulo. It was another happy reunion and several renewed their covenants.
‘The next day, two hundred and fifty people, adults and children, were confirmed at Mass. MMM again received special mention. At the end we were called to the altar. The people acknowledged us with lots of clapping, singing and other gestures of joy and gratitude.’
We have indeed been blessed in sharing the charism of healing.
A privileged time
In recent years most of our newer MMM members have completed their religious and professional training in Africa or Latin America instead of in Ireland or the UK, as had usually been the case previously. While the present arrangement has many advantages, it means that these Sisters have not had the opportunity to spend time in Ireland and see the many sites associated with our foundress and her first companions, and the growth and development of MMM in this part of the world.
Most of our older Sisters from Europe are now living in our Motherhouse. They are part of the living history of MMM and hold many precious memories. They have few opportunities to share these with younger members.
Our Congregational Leadership Team (CLT) became more aware of this reality when newer MMM leaders from the southern hemisphere came to Ireland for meetings. If they were able to stay for a few extra days they had the opportunity to visit with our older Sisters. They could also spend time in the two rooms in Drogheda devoted to the telling of our MMM story. The Mother Mary Room describes our foundress’ early years and events that influenced her and the first women who joined her. The other room illustrates our work and how that has evolved over the past eighty years.
In Dublin are the sites where Marie Martin was born and grew up. At Glenstal Abbey in Limerick, newly-arrived Benedictine monks gave conferences on the religious life to the small pioneering group who became the founding members of MMM.
After these special days, the new leaders went back to their various missions with renewed enthusiasm and a greater appreciation of events and places that shaped our history. They were eager to share the experience with other MMMs, their colleagues and staff.
The window of opportunity Over the past three to four years, many of our Sisters based in Ireland have died. At the same time, the CLT discovered that there were about forty Sisters who had never been to Ireland and were unlikely to come. They realized that time was limited for newer MMMs to meet our more senior members. The Team suggested that over the next few years, small groups might be brought to Ireland for a short ‘heritage tour’. They asked the MMM European Area Team to facilitate the arrangements.
The first group of four Sisters arrived in October 2016. The Area Team, the Sisters in the Motherhouse, and members of MMM communities in Drogheda and Dublin rose to the challenge of providing transport, arranging accommodation in the Motherhouse, planning the itinerary and offering hospitality. MMM Associates accompanied the visitors to sites of interest. All facilitated a faith-filled journey for Sisters Eunice, Elizabeth, Perpetua and Ngozika.
Sister Ngozika Nduaguba, now back on mission, offered her reflections on the experience.
‘I am Sister Ngozika from Nigeria. I joined MMM in 1997. After profession in 2001, I spent three years in our community in Ketu, Lagos. Then I was assigned to Eleta, Ibadan, until 2007, when I was admitted to the University of Benin College of Pharmacy to pursue a Doctor of Pharmacy degree. I completed my training in 2014.
‘In 2015, I began my internship at the Federal Medical Centre in Owo, Ondo State. Towards the end of the programme our Congregational Leadership Team invited me to participate in a three-week heritage experience in Ireland. We who did not have the opportunity to meet our foundress could walk in her early footsteps and those of her first companions.
‘I was joined by Sisters Eunice Okobia and Elizabeth Ogar from Nigeria, and Perpetua Ndahetekela from Angola. By 23 October 2016, we were in Drogheda for a once-in-a-lifetime experience! We had a tour of the Motherhouse, including the Mother Mary Martin Room and the archives. We saw the stamp room where a number of our older Sisters sort and pack used stamps, preparing them for purchasing by collectors.
‘We visited our Sisters who need ongoing care in the nursing facility, Aras Mhuire, and had a tour of Our Lady of Lourdes Hospital in Drogheda. We went to nearby Saint Peter’s Cemetery, where so many MMMs are buried and visited the town itself. We travelled to Rosemount, our former house of studies in Dublin, where our Congregational Centre is now located, and to other MMM communities. Monkstown in Dublin was the scene of many important events in Marie Martin’s early life. Moira Brehony, AMMM, hosted us in Limerick and brought us to Glenstal Abbey.
‘We shared our stories with the Sisters in the Motherhouse, meeting and listening to those who had been on mission in Nigeria, Angola, Tanzania, Uganda and Brazil. Each day we met with the facilitators, who helped us integrate our experiences. All the activities were enormously important and meaningful. The two that made the most powerful impression on me were the visit to the Mother Mary Room, which extended to our time to Monkstown, and our visit to Glenstal Abbey.
‘The Mother Mary Martin Room in the Motherhouse is in the place of her original room. It is arranged in a beautiful manner that evokes awe and reverence. It contains some of her personal belongings such as her habit, her kneeler, seat for prayer, and her writing desk. On the walls is inscribed the story of Marie Martin, beginning from her family history and onto the foundation and early beginnings of the congregation. As I reflected on my first entrance into the room, I realized how limited words could be in describing one’s deep encounter with the divine. I think the room is better experienced than described. I felt strongly the presence of a spirit within the room that made more alive and comprehensible the retelling of Mother Mary’s story by Sister Jo Anne Kelly: how her vocation and charism unfolded and how MMM was born.
‘The visits to Monkstown and Glenstal made the stories ‘put on flesh’; I could touch and feel what I had heard. I felt privileged walking in the footsteps of Mother Mary and seeing the places where she lived, prayed and worked. The experience has increased my appreciation of my MMM heritage. I thank God for the spirit and wisdom behind the making of the Mother Mary Room.'
Lasting impressions ‘I appreciate the wisdom in hosting the Sisters for the heritage experience. It afforded me the opportunity to meet with and interact with our elder sisters, great women for whom I have great respect; women whose lives and missionary activities nurtured my vocation to religious life and to MMM particularly. I was challenged, inspired and encouraged by how they continue to live out our MMM charism and values even in their old age. I enjoyed hearing them share their impressions of Mother Mary, whose personality was both inspiring and captivating, and how they expressed the healing charism in the missions in spite of all the challenges they encountered.
‘Some of their words that still ring strongly in my mind as I write this reflection are the following:
“She [Mother Mary] was a courageous, down-to-earth and inspirational woman with an attractive presence.”
“Though we were afraid of the war situation, we formed a vibrant community and supported one another.”
“Since I joined MMM, my life has been a life of adventure and still is.”
“Be alive in the spirit and live life to the full. Do not allow any challenge to stifle the spirit that has been given to you.”
“There was a time when we lived in the illusion that we were the only ones who could do anything good, not knowing that those who would come after us are also capable.”
‘This time deepened my commitment to MMM and my resolve not to allow the fire lit by these great women be extinguished in my lifetime. As I begin my mission after studies, I trust that the memories and graces from the heritage experience will reflect in my life as I carry on the charism that has been entrusted to me. I am grateful to the Congregational Leadership Team for this wonderful idea and to the facilitators: Sisters Helen Spragg, Brenda Swan, and Devilla O’Donnell. I wish all those embarking on the programme in the future an inspiring and enjoyable time in Ireland.’
What happened to the dream?
In October 2016, our mission among the people in Torugbene, Nigeria marked its first year. Sister Francesca Maduike, one of the MMM pioneers there, told us about some of ‘the joys and the hopes, the griefs and the anxieties’ that the Sisters have shared with the women and men of the Niger Delta (Vat II: Church in the Modern World).
A constant problem in the creeks area was back water flooding. Francesca wrote that in May 2016, ‘the people of Torugbene were agog with joy. It seemed that a dream had come true in their lifetime.’ The Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC) pulled in two dredging machines. Dredging pipes, lifted by huge cranes, were ready for fixing by engineers.
She explained, ‘Land is scarce in the creeks. The problem affects not only Torugbene but also most of the other settlements. They are almost completely surrounded by water. When the waters rise in the rainy season each year, the banks are flooded, leaving most settlements submerged. The already difficult life of the people becomes even more so.
‘In this area, there is no individual or family land ownership as in other parts of the country. Anybody ready to build meets the community chairman and council, who apportion a piece of land. The person must complete the building within a specified time or the land decision will be reversed. This method of land allocation is an attempt to make sure that everybody who is able to construct some shelter is able to do so. The societal disease in other parts of the country where rich people own large pieces of land and can leave these undeveloped or unused for decades is alien to the people of Torugbene. Even with land scarcity, their generosity has been extraordinary. Within a few months of opening our MMM mission, they donated a piece of land to us.
‘During our home visits, many local people, especially of the older generation, said that sand-filling the back of the island was needed to reduce flooding and provide enough dry land for building and farming. Now the NDDC had given them a reason to hope, these people who have been so shamefully neglected by the government for so long. The river would be dredged and settlements would be sand-filled. Little did we know that their joy will be cut short because the workers were not paid. The project was brought to a halt after only three months.’
And the rains came. ‘Then came the months of August to November, which the people in the creeks of Bomadi dread. They call it “water period”. We are really feeling their pain at this time when most of the houses have again been submerged. We see families moving their meagre belongings to stay with neighbours and friends whose houses are better off. Canoes are paddled up to the doorstep. Even our movements are somewhat limited because we have no canoe and cannot paddle. Church members sometimes offer their canoes to take us to our clients. Our garden is submerged as are our pawpaw trees. Still, we have a place to rest our heads. What a helpless situation! In spite of this, we are continuing the health survey and our home visits.
The Sisters make regular visits to elderly sick people. Francesca said, ‘Pa John (not his real name) is one of our homebound clients. He was among those who started the Catholic Church in Torugbene. His wife and all his children left him except one. Despite his condition, he always welcomes people with a captivating smile. We have grown fond of him and nothing is too small to offer. His usual comment is: “E no bad” (‘It’s not too bad’). We bring him food and medicines and sometimes help to tidy his bamboo stick house. He has a small altar with the suffering Jesus wearing a crown of thorns.
‘Pa John encourages anyone who enters the house to greet Jesus first before attending to him. We include him in our monthly Communion to the sick, for which he is ever grateful. His house was about to be submerged like the others and we were worried because he is crippled. The two sticks tied to the house that are the pathway to reach him were almost underwater. Only few days’ rain is enough to do damage. His response to our fear was: “Baba Jesus will not allow the water to reach me. He walked on the water.”
‘Pa John’s house was eventually flooded and the foam on his bed was soaked. We bought wood and got three young boys to elevate the bed. They also constructed a good pathway so we can reach him. He became completely paralyzed in November and cannot do anything for himself.’
With those at the margins of life It has been a busy year for Sisters Cecilia, Chibuzo and Francesca. One of the first issues they encountered in their home visits was teenage pregnancy. When they were eventually able to open discussions about the problem, many men denied its extent. To help girls gain life skills, the Sisters began a forum and meet with them once a month. They sometimes watch films together and discuss the issues raised.
They are also treating minor ailments and doing follow-up. Francesca said, ‘We collaborate with the Religious Sisters of Charity upland and they are a wonderful group to work with. We refer patients to their clinic.’
The MMMs in Torugbene decided to mark their first anniversary in Torugbene in a rather unique way. They would offer treatment for ringworm because many children had the condition. If they could get more people to help, they would also offer a blood pressure check for adults.
They began by contacting the town chairman and his team to discuss the idea. People were informed about the service through the local community radio, churches and primary schools. Six young people volunteered to act as interpreters and mobilizers. Medicines were purchased and were also contributed by MMMs in other clinics and hospitals. Volunteers, Sisters Theresa Adewole and Leticia Enujuba, arrived on 30 September.
On 1 October, the volunteers convened in the Sisters’ house. After duties were assigned, they prayed together before setting out. In all, 202 people were treated for ringworm and 111 adults had their blood pressure checked. Those with high blood pressure were advised to visit for follow up while those already on medication were encouraged to continue.
Sister Francesca said, ‘Our heartfelt thanks go to those who work hard to raise funds for our needs here through our Congregational Centre. Your support and prayers are our strength. We salute you all in our language saying “doooooo”, meaning “well done”.'
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