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Number 171 - February 2017
Of special meaning for MMMs and MMM Associates, committed to sharing Christ’s healing mission, is the 25th World Day of the Sick, which takes place on 11 February, the feast of Our Lady of Lourdes. Pope Francis wrote that it is ‘an occasion for those who generously assist the sick, beginning with family members, health workers and volunteers, to give thanks for their God-given vocation of accompanying our infirm brothers and sisters.’
World Day of Social Justice, on 20 February, is an opportunity to renew our efforts to eradicate poverty and promote self-reliance and social well-being for all. The United Nations calls on governments to recall ‘the commitment to promote national and global economic systems based on the principles of justice, equity, democratic participation, transparency, accountability and inclusion’ (UN website).
The need to work for social justice was recently highlighted in the USA by National Human Trafficking Awareness Day on 11 January.
In an article for Global Sisters Report by J. Malcolm GarciaSoli Salgado on 10 January 2017, Sister Esther Hogan from O'Fallon, Missouri, said, ‘Sex trafficking is so covert....The women who are trafficked are vulnerable and invisible.’
The article continued: ‘Midwestern states like Missouri have become hubs for sex trafficking because of their central location. An extensive highway and interstate system with hundreds of truck stops and rest areas make it a target location for sex trafficking.’
Salgado quoted Bailey Patton Brackin, of Wichita State University's Center for Combating Human Trafficking, as saying that though someone might be grabbed off the street and taken somewhere to be trafficked, that is in a small portion of trafficking cases.
‘Most commonly, we're talking about a person who is exploited through an understanding of one of their vulnerabilities,’ Brackin said. ‘Oftentimes, a trafficker ends up building a relationship with a young person by finding out what they're missing in their life. Someone involved in foster care who doesn't have a family to rely on — that's a vulnerability the trafficker can exploit and say, “I'll provide that for you, I'll be that person.”
Russ Tuttle with the Stop Trafficking Project in Kansas City, Missouri, blamed much of the trafficking trade on online advertisements for sex. A 2013 study in 15 metropolitan city areas by Arizona State University's Office of Sex Trafficking Intervention Research, found that 5% of men over the age of 18 were soliciting sex through online ads.
Tuttle said, ‘There's a need to educate people on what's going on on the demand side. They don't understand the ramifications ... the tragic and heartbreaking stories.’
Law enforcement and social services say that a hospital is often a victim's first stop. Sister Margaret Nacke, founder of the coalition U.S. Catholic Sisters Against Human Trafficking, informs staff members at hospitals and motels of signs indicating a trafficked individual: • An inconsistent or scripted history or rehearsed responses; • Unaware of the current city; • Few or no possessions; • A striking age differential between the guests, e.g. a young woman accompanied by an older man; • Possesses items he or she can't afford or carrying large amounts of cash; • Lives with his or her employer
This information alerts us to the fact that trafficking frequently happens within national borders. At the same time, a recent incident in Ireland brought home the international scope of the lucrative trade in people.
Three men were arrested as part of an investigation into an illegal immigrant smuggling network through Dublin Airport. An RTE report on 23 January 2017 stated that the Garda [Police] National Immigration Bureau believed the scam has been running for years and that up to 100 illegal immigrants a year may have been smuggled through Dublin Airport. Gardaí identified a so-called travel agency based in Rome, allegedly involved in channelling illegal immigrants from Asia...into Dublin....Many were then able to travel on to other European countries.
Human trafficking is the acquisition of people by improper means such as force, fraud or deception with the aim of exploiting them (UNODC). While the above arrests were for smuggling, Ireland’s Tánaiste and Minister for Justice Frances Fitzgerald said, ‘We see this [incident] in relation to women being trafficked into the country for prostitution [and] illegal immigration and it is important that this is fully investigated.’
MMMs in the USA, Kenya, Nigeria and Ireland are especially dedicated to combating this violation of human rights. They remind us that victims of trafficking can be found in our own backyard.
In our February newsletter you can read how women in Rwanda learned skills to support themselves and how HIV continues to take its toll in Kenya. In Ireland, carers provide skilled and loving service for our elderly and frail MMMs.
Thank you for working with us to bring about justice and healing in places of great need around the world. We remember you in prayer each day.
‘Happy are those who dream dreams and are willing to pay the price to make them come true’ (Leon Cardinal Suenens).
Signs of God's enduring love
‘In our changing world, where many elderly people are no longer respected and valued for their presence, wisdom and life experience: we affirm our prophetic witness in the way that the elderly, sick, and ageing are esteemed and cared for with dignity, both within MMM and in our ministries.’
This quote from the documents of our Tenth MMM Congregational Chapter is illustrated by the lives of the many people who look after our frail and elderly MMM Sisters in our nursing facility, Aras Mhuire. They give their service with great dedication and compassion. One of them kindly offered her reflections on what it means to be a carer.
‘My name is Marie McCumiskey. I live in the countryside, just ten minutes' drive from the nursing home in Drogheda. Having completed the Fetac Level 5 course, I did my training to become a health care assistant at Healthcare Training Solutions, run by Mary McLoughlin. I carried out my work experience for this course in Aras Mhuire Nursing Home. I received very good training here and I thoroughly enjoyed it. In February I will have worked in Aras Mhuire for two years.
‘The size of this nursing home appeals to me because it enables the residents to receive proper care. I have built up a relationship with the Sisters here and I love each and every one of them. Their life stories are amazing in how much work they have done on the missions, their contributions to society both at home and abroad, and their strength as individual women to have gotten to this stage of their lives, having worked very hard.
‘A carer has many roles to play. We tend to the Sisters’ physical needs on a daily basis but on a deeper level we must also cater for their mental and emotional needs. Age brings many life challenges and dementia is one of them. Dealing with dementia requires patience, kindness, compassion and love. As carers we respect and understand where the Sisters are in their life's journey now.’
Faith in practice ‘Religion may teach us to have a relationship with God, but for me putting this into action in daily life is to connect with those we are caring for, to love them in a way that they feel loved, and to show them understanding. Love is at the core of everything in life. I believe that aged people return to childlike qualities, and can live in the past, as far back as returning to their memories from childhood. Children crave love as do old people. The Sisters who reside in Aras Mhuire, like all residents of nursing homes, need to feel loved, valued and connected. As carers we form relationships and build trust with them. Everything in life is about relationship, whether it is with God, another human being or with ourselves. Connection is our gift as human beings to be given to another. ‘No [one] is an island.’1 Hugs are great medicine; they work wonders.
‘Unfortunately, I feel that society does not value the role of the carer. This is evident in the lack of resources provided by the government for carers of elderly parents in their own homes, carers of children with disabilities, and the treatment of nurses, who are the ultimate carers in our hospitals and who are constantly under pressure. The job of carer is undervalued across the board. This amazes me as we cannot escape the fact that those of us who live long enough will get old. We will need to be cared for. Nursing homes will not be able to cater for the increase in numbers. It makes more sense to have people looked after in their own homes and to have a system put into place to allow this to happen. Nursing homes do and will continue to provide a very important service. Hopefully the role of carer will get the recognition that it deserves on a national level.
‘The residents in Aras Mhuire are a testament to the power and strength of the female spirit. I have great admiration for them all.’
 John Donne,Meditation XVII All captions are from the Message of Pope Francis for the 25th World Day of the Sick 2017 and Grandparents’ Day 2016.
A simple machine makes a big difference in Kirambi.
Sister Helen Ahern, now based at our Motherhouse in Drogheda, recently heard from Sister Elizabeth (Betty) Naggayi in Rwanda. Betty wanted to tell Helen how a group of women in the village of Kirambi used a simple knitting machine to improve their lives and become more self-reliant. Helen’s cousin, Michael Ahern, who lives in Kinsale, County Cork, provided the funding for the machine.
Betty wrote: ‘I am sending you the update on the women’s knitting group. Because of you, the knitting machine that the group of women bought has started to make a difference. They are happy that hope is coming into their lives because of the skills they have acquired and the income they are making from knitting the cardigans and caps. Thank you and thanks to your cousin.
‘After they bought the knitting machine it was difficult to get someone to teach the group in Kirambi how to use it. The village is in a remote area and anyone willing to come was charging more that the group could afford to pay. The members didn’t rest. They kept searching and praying.’
A chance encounter? ‘Then Theresa, one of the women from the Kirambi knitting group, met a friend she hadn’t seen for a long time. The friend belongs to a women’s group in Kibeho Parish. The Kibeho women invited Theresa to come for knitting lessons and she started on 26 December last year.
'Today, 14 January, she came back to show us how far she had progressed. She has learned how to knit caps, cardigans and trousers for children. She sells these for about 1,000 to 4,000 Rwandan francs (1.2 to 4.8 euros). Then she then buys more yarn.
‘Theresa went back to learn how to make cardigans for adults. She refined her skills and was taught to make items such as purses. By the third week of January 2017, she will come back to Kirambi qualified to teach the other members of the knitting group.
‘Thank you for helping to make such a positive difference for the women of this area. May God bless you for your generosity. Best wishes of the New Year to you and those you love.’
In the heart of Munyaka
HIV/AIDS remains one of the world's most significant public health challenges, especially in low- and middle-income countries. According to the World Health Organization, over 36 million people were living with HIV at the end of 2015. Worldwide that year, over one million people died from HIV-related causes and about two million people were newly-infected with the virus. Sub-Saharan Africa is the most affected region.
While there is no cure, effective antiretroviral (ARV) drugs can control the virus and help prevent transmission. People with HIV can enjoy healthy, long and productive lives but globally, only about half of those living with HIV in 2015 were receiving ART. Nevertheless, substantial progress has been made as a result of great efforts by national HIV programmes, civil society and development partners. Between 2000 and 2015, new HIV infections fell by 35%. Progress has also been made in eliminating mother-to-child transmission. In 2015, almost 80% of pregnant women living with HIV received ARVs.
HIV is the greatest risk factor for developing active TB disease. In 2015, about 11% of the 10.4 million people who developed TB worldwide were HIV-positive.
Sister Evelyn Akhalumenyo, on mission in Kapsoya, Eldoret, Kenya, and newly-qualified in medicine, has experienced the disastrous impacts that HIV and TB continue to have.
Just being present ‘It was a beautiful morning in Kapsoya. We, the social department team at Saint Mary’s Health Centre, set out on our home and support group visits. In about fifteen minutes we were in the slums of Munyaka.
‘Shortly afterwards we arrived at the support group, one of many groups around Eldoret begun as a result of the HIV pandemic. Its members are clients infected with the virus and their relatives. It provides an anchor for all those affected. They give each other financial, physical, spiritual and psychological support.
‘They were delighted to have us sit with them and listen to their challenges and progress. They shared their limitations and achievements, along with the sad news of the loss of one of their members from AIDS. We paid our condolences to his mother, an elderly woman who had cared for her son during the last stages of his illness. Amid her tears, she told us about the last moments of his life, his pain, his hopes and fears. As we listened, we witnessed the devastating effects HIV has, not just on individual families but on the wider community. We promised to pay her a visit soon and kissed her goodbye.
‘We walked for another twenty minutes and were joined by one of our Munyaka caregivers. She briefed us about the men and women we were to see that day. Our first visit was to a middle-aged woman called Njeri (not her real name). She had been diagnosed with HIV and tuberculosis at the district health centre and refused to take medication, endangering her family and neighbours. We had been asked to help.’
A difficult encounter ‘We arrived at a long row of mud houses consisting of very small rooms packed together. We knocked on Njeri’s door but got no response. A neighbour asked whom we wanted. After knocking several times, she insisted Njeri must be asleep, but opened the door to check. At that moment we heard a scream. It was Njeri, furious at the intrusion. She approached us, then went back into her room and shut the door. We continued to talk to her and she finally opened the door, offering us a seat outside.
‘I noticed the poorly-lit interior. Buckets, plates, cooking utensils and a charcoal pot occupied a quarter of the floor; clothes took up another quarter. The other half of the room was partitioned off by a red curtain, hiding the sleeping area. Njeri was quite unstable emotionally. She was cross with us for greeting her neighbour. We had yet to explain why we had come when she sprang to her feet and walked out. We followed her across the road into another compound, where another woman offered to help us.
‘We introduced ourselves as staff of Saint Mary’s Health Centre who had come to help Njeri. To our amazement the woman walked over to Njeri, who now was quite calm, and they began talking. At the end they beckoned us over. Now Njeri was all smiles. She stretched out her hand for us to shake and we introduced ourselves and explained why we had come. This time she agreed to accompany us to the health centre for a better assessment.
‘There her diagnosis was confirmed and our counsellors explained her illness to her. Njeri received medication, which she assured us she would take. As we said goodbye, she asked if we would be visiting her soon. We assured her we would come the next day to see how she was.'
Working for human wholeness ‘It took about six visits for us to gain Njeri’s trust. She began to understand the implications of her health and now comes regularly for her supply of TB and HIV medications. She has cleaned and aired her room. We were able to test other members of her family, all of whom were positive for tuberculosis, and registered them in our TB treatment programme. Njeri smiles more now and looks forward to our visits.
‘Njeri was quite thin and sickly at first. Her nutrition has improved and she has gained weight. She loves the porridge our health centre provides!
‘During my time in Kapsoya, Eldoret, I am discovering that it is not so much what we do but who we are as MMMs that is important. Njeri and many others continue to challenge me. I am learning about patience, perseverance and courage. As we journey with so many in Munyaka affected by HIV, I am reminded of the words of Pope Francis: “Jesus is calling you to leave your mark on life: one that transforms your own life and the lives of others.”’
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