Ahanonu, Sr. Grace
Sister Grace, called Nda Gee or Nda Gra, was born in Uzoagba, Owerri, Nigeria in 1940. She completed her early education at the Holy Rosary School, Uzoagba. In 1961, Grace came in contact with MMMs at Saint Luke’s Hospital in Anua, where she did her nursing and midwifery training before joining MMM in 1962. Like our first six Nigerian MMMs, she completed her postulancy and novitiate in Drogheda, Ireland. She made her first profession in 1966 and then obtained her general nursing registration in the IMTH.
Sister Grace always looked forward to use her nursing skills to bring healing to others. She was assigned to Nigeria in 1970 and served for six years as matron at Abakaliki (Mile Four Hospital) in the maternity, Hansen’s disease (leprosy) and TB units. In 1978, she went to Scotland, where she completed a certificate in education and then obtained her ‘O’ Levels in Newry, Ireland.
On her return to Nigeria in 1980, she obtained a West African Health Sisters’ Diploma at the School of Hygiene. MMM emphasised primary health care and outreach programmes, in which people are reached in their communities without having to travel long distances. Diseases are prevented, making the best use of health resources.
She then served for fifteen years at Saint Mary’s Hospital, Eleta, Ibadan, as co-ordinator of primary health care (PHC) programmes and as assistant matron.
After training in reflexology, in 1998 she moved to Afikpo, where she was in charge of the chest unit for a short time. She was then responsible for PHC services at our clinic in Abuja for two years and in Gussoro for three years.
In 2004, when she felt the need to retire from a very active life, Sr. Grace chose her first mission, Abakaliki. Her plans changed after arriving. Grace again began to do what she loved most – midwifery. For eight years she continued to work part time in nursing. She demonstrated her clinical dexterity and expertise at the antenatal clinic. Once she diagnosed a triplet pregnancy after an ultrasound had shown twins. She cared for patients with Hansen’s disease and often helped with dressing of wounds. Some of these patients’ children are employed in Mile Four Hospital and are very grateful to Sr. Grace. She later worked part time in the sterilising unit of the hospital.
She experienced several years of poor health and was cared for in Abakaliki community, where some of her close friends and nephews visited her. One of her nephews said that they will miss her ‘constructive and well reasoned contributions to issues in her family.’ She participated in chaplaincy work in Mile Four, serving at Mass, especially at the TB unit. When one of the house staff wished to become a Catholic, Grace assisted her and became her godmother. This woman became one of her carers in later years.
Noted for her appreciation of the kindness of others, she died peacefully on 4 March 2016.