199 MMM E-newsletter July/August 2020

199 MMM E-newsletter July/August 2020

MMM Communications, Rosemount, Booterstown, Dublin. Ireland. Tel :353-1-2887180 Fax:353-1-2834626
To contact MMM Email: mmm@mmmworldwide.org

Number 199 - July/August 2020

Dear Friends,

Our world continues to be affected by the consequences of the COVID-19 pandemic. An article in The Guardian on 12 June 2020 stated that ‘the World Health Organization has warned that the coronavirus pandemic is accelerating in Africa, after the continent hit 200,000 cases earlier this week .... [On 11 June], Doctor Matshidiso Moeti, the WHO’s regional director for Africa, said, “It took 98 days to reach the first 100,000 cases, and only 18 days to move to 200,000 cases.”’ Still, these account for less than 3% of the global total and the article noted that Africa had recorded fewer than 6,000 deaths. Doctor Moeti commented that early action by African countries had helped keep the numbers low but constant vigilance is still needed.

The USA faces the world's largest outbreak. On 29 June, the Johns Hopkins Resource Center reported that there were over 2.5 million cases, with new cases continuing to trend upwards in many states. Brazil, the second hardest-hit country, had a case total of over 1.3 million, with over 57,000 deaths.

MMMs and Associates in these countries express their concerns about those they serve. Lack of food in some areas has led to civil unrest. Lack of public transport means people cannot access health services. With increasing unemployment there may be a rise in dependency. According to Trócaire, most governments are doing everything they can to protect their people and emergency restrictions may be legitimate and justifiable to protect public health, but some are taking advantage of lockdown to carry out human rights violations. In countries like Kenya and Honduras there is police brutality and increased militarisation (https://www.trocaire.org/news/human-rights-under-threat-during-covid-pandemic, Blanca Blanco, 18 April 2020).

Our Sisters remain with the people and are finding ways to reduce dependency, e.g. with small scale businesses so families can support themselves. MMMs and Associates distribute food and medicines to those at risk. They are working with partners in prevention, e.g. Doctors Without Borders in Honduras.

To bring out other consequences of the pandemic, a virtual event, Beijing+25, was hosted on 12 June by three UN agencies. The meeting commemorated the twenty-fifth anniversary of the Fourth World Conference on Women and adoption of the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action.

As well as a reminder of the commitments made in 1995, the meeting focused on how COVID-19 is affecting women and girls. Brazil’s Ambassador to Austria, J. Antonio Marcondes, chair of the Commission on Crime Prevention and Criminal Justice said, ‘Collective action needs to be taken to tackle the specific impact of the COVID-19 crisis on women and girls, including addressing and tackling the rise in domestic violence against women, occurring during the lockdown period.’

On 11 July we mark the feast of Saint Benedict of Nursia. MMMs and MMM Associates follow the spirit of his Rule in their daily lives. A patron saint of Europe, Benedict promoted universal values that are still relevant today. He also lived during a time of great crisis, in the late 5th and early 6th centuries, when Rome was decaying and there was great civil upheaval.

The Rule of St. Benedict offers the ideal of a balanced life of prayer and work. It encourages an awareness of the ways in which God is present in the human mind and heart and a reverence for all creation. We are to seek God in all things. The most important value is love of God and love of neighbour.

The value of stewardship means caring for and using material goods for the good of all and distributing them according to need. Hospitality gives special attention to the care of guests, especially the poor and pilgrims.

Benedict urges us, ‘Let peace be your quest and aim.’ So we pursue peace and work for it – as we also work to bring about a more just society.

A central Benedictine value is obedience. The root of this word comes from audire, ‘to listen’. We listen to our leaders and to the other members of the community because each has something important to say.

In 1945, our foundress wrote to a woman who wished to join MMM: ‘What are you most attracted to in our special vocation? As St. Benedict says, the essential thing is to seek God; our works must also be done with this end in view.'

World Day against Trafficking in Persons is marked on 30 July. UNODC Executive Director Ghada Fathi Waly said,  ‘With COVID-19 restricting movement, diverting law enforcement resources, and reducing social and public services, human trafficking victims have even less chance of escape and finding help’ (UN News, 6 May 2020).

As countries have closed their borders due to the pandemic, some victims are unable to return home. UNODC said its partners report that due to the pandemic, more children are being forced onto the streets to search for food and money, increasing their risk of exploitation.

MMMs and Associates around the world are raising awareness about this crime, informing people, especially the young, about their rights, helping people to gain skills for employment and supporting victims.

On 23 August we mark International Day for the Remembrance of the Slave Trade and Its Abolition. The day honours the memory of the men and women who participated in a Santo Domingo uprising in 1791 that was crucial in the abolition of the transatlantic slave trade. It also honours all other victims of slavery for whom they stand. The memory moves us to fight against all present-day forms of enslavement that continue to affect millions of people, particularly women and children.

In recent weeks we have been acutely reminded of ongoing legacy of this terrible trade, persisting in unjust societal structures in the USA and elsewhere. The Black Lives Matter movement has helped to open many people’s eyes to these injustices, to confront them and work towards their elimination. As Pope Francis said, ‘We cannot tolerate or turn a blind eye to racism and exclusion in any form and yet claim to defend the sacredness of every human life.’

As MMMs we are told: ‘By allowing the Gospel to touch their respective cultures the sisters shall be enabled to transcend their differences and prejudices and thus their community life shall be a reflection of the universal love of Christ and a sign that he has come and given his life for the healing of the nations’ (MMM Cons.). We continue to strive to make this a reality in our lives and to bring hope to the world around us.

In this newsletter you can read short biographies of four more MMMs who mark fifty years of religious commitment this year and we congratulate one of our senior MMMs as she celebrates a century of life. MMMs in the USA and Honduras tell us about some of the ways in which COVID-19 has affected them.

Thank you for your ongoing interest and support in so many ways. We remember you in prayer each day.

Yours sincerely,

Sr. Carol Breslin, MMM

‘Let us begin anew from the numerous examples of generous, freely-given love, which in these months have shown us how much closeness, care, and sacrifice are needed to nourish [community] and civil coexistence. In this way, we will emerge from this crisis stronger’ (Pope Francis).


A Time of Opportunity

Sister Sheila Campbell, currently based in the USA, has made several contributions to ‘The Life’, a monthly feature of Global Sisters’ Report. This news source comes from Sisters around the world and describes the issues that face the people they serve.

During her many years on mission in Brazil, Sheila was coordinator of Project Consolation in Salvador, which supports families coping with the effects of violence and bereavement. Since 2018 Sheila has lived in Somerville, MA, helping to care for the sick and elderly members of our Boston Community. She has volunteered at the nearby Little Sisters of the Poor and visited our MMMs in nursing homes in the Boston area. She makes beautiful cards to raise funds for Project Consolation. She is also one of sixteen MMMs celebrating their golden jubilees of profession this year.

Sheila’s activities have been greatly affected by the consequences of COVID-19. She is unable to do her volunteer job in a podiatry clinic or visit Sister Jeane, a member of her community who resides in a local nursing home. They both missed this occasion to chat and play cards. Sheila was no longer able to bring Sisters to doctors´ appointments, the pharmacy, etc.

She had also been looking forward to celebrating her golden jubilee in Ireland with others of her group, but our official celebrations in Drogheda had to be postponed indefinitely. She had hoped to combine the occasion with visits to her brothers and sister whom she has not seen for several years.

Sheila was still able to appreciate some positive aspects of this time of restrictions. She found an appreciation of nature during her morning walks. She wrote, 'Now there was time to sew my embroidered cards and to do complicated jigsaw puzzles with Margaret Anne’ – another community member. Like many people under lockdown she also gained a few pounds – ‘that I am struggling to keep under control!’ Most important, she found ‘an enjoyment of community life, as we carry each other through this difficult time.’

Coping with separation
The May issue of 'The Life' series was titled: Learning from COVID-19 that we are not alone, but there is much separation. The panelists were invited to submit a short reflection on COVID-19 and its effect on them, their congregation, their country, or on the world.

Sheila pointed out: ‘The Chinese word that means both “crisis” and “opportunity” is appropriate for this time of pandemic.

‘On the one hand, we see global solidarity as never before: scientists sharing viral gene sequencing, countries sending volunteer medical staff to more stricken regions, and similar cooperative ventures. But on the other hand, I also note the fear of strangers — "who will infect me?" Shut the doors and keep everyone out. Our economies have crashed, but spring has still come to the Northern Hemisphere with flowers and budding trees. You can't lock down the seasons!

‘With less pollution, our planet is healing itself. This is indeed crisis time — but also a time to grasp the opportunity to walk into a more friendly future and a more sustainable one. This is my prayer during this time of waiting.’

This issue of ‘The Life’ was published on 25 May 2020. To read the article in Global Sisters’ Report, enter the title in your browser.


A Year of Jubilee

Following our last e-newsletter, we would like to share some of the stories of four more women who are marking fifty years of profession in the Medical Missionaries of Mary this year. They have served in a wide variety of ministries on four continents.

Sister Sheila Campbell
Sister Sheila is from Belfast, No. Ireland. After profession she trained as a nurse, specializing in public health, and was assigned to Brazil in 1977. She did nursing and pastoral work for three years and was nurse in charge of a hospital for three years. She also did community health work and served in MMM leadership.

After doing mission awareness in the USA, Sheila obtained a Master’s in Religious Education and spent six more years in Brazil in pastoral work and accompanying our Brazilian postulants. In 1998 she was appointed MMM Congregational Secretary. Back in Brazil in 2004 she worked for six years in a programme for women in prostitution. In 2011 Sheila became coordinator of Project Consolation, supporting families coping with the effects of violence and bereavement. Since 2018 she has helped with the care of our sick and elderly Sisters in Somerville, MA, USA.

Sister Nuala Horgan
Sister Nuala is from Jenkinstown, Co. Kilkenny and trained as a nurse-midwife before joining MMM. She made first profession in Tanzania and continued her assignment there until she began training as a nurse-tutor in England in 1973. In 1977 she returned to Tanzania and was a tutor in several missions for seventeen years. In 1994 she returned to Ireland. She did promotion work there and mission awareness in the USA before assignment to Malawi in 1997. She served as tutor for four years at St. John’s Hospital.

In 2004 Nuala was assigned to Ethiopia, where she spent five years, teaching in Wolisso Hospital and helping at the MMM Counseling Center in Addis Ababa. In 2010, she went to Tanzania and did community-based care for three years. Since 2014 she has been based in Ireland, initially as a volunteer in Dublin, and now lives in our Motherhouse.

Sister Mary McNamara
Sister Mary is from Creggaun, Ennis, Co. Clare. After profession she trained as a nurse-midwife and in 1976 she was assigned to Nigeria. She spent thirteen years there as a nurse and in MMM leadership. In 1990 she spent several months in Malawi before being assigned temporarily to Kitovu, Uganda, where she was assistant matron.

For most of the next thirty years Mary worked in Malawi.  In addition to nursing, she served in local and Area MMM leadership and in administration and finance. She opened a new mission in Kasina, where MMM took over a health centre and developed a community outreach programme. Mary returned to Ireland in 2019 to take up a new assignment in our European Area.

Sister Noeleen Mooney
Sister Noeleen grew up in Naas, Co. Kildare. After profession she trained as a laboratory technologist and was assigned to Tanzania in 1977. Over nearly twenty-six years she served in a number of missions as a lab technician, in training staff, in MMM leadership and administration, and helping with hospitality. She did lab assessments and in-service training in Kenya, Ethiopia and Sudan. In Ireland she also helped in our Communications Department and completed a diploma in sacred liturgy.

In 2005, Noeleen was assigned to Kenya. She did laboratory work and pastoral care, working in Kitale until our programme there was passed over. She then moved to Eldoret. She also served in MMM leadership and provided hospitality at our main house in Nairobi. She returned to Ireland in 2015 and has since been based in our Motherhouse, serving in local leadership.


COVID-19 in Rural Honduras

Sister Cleide Daniel da Silva, from Brazil, is based in our mission in Siguatepeque. In mid-May she described the situation in this town in the central mountains of Honduras. Reports from Johns Hopkins University showed a daily increase in the number of cases of the virus in the country throughout June.

‘When we heard for the first time about the virus epidemic in China, it seemed so far away from us. Then suddenly everything changed, almost as though the whole world stopped. Everything that was routine in our lives changed and had to be re-arranged or modified. The COVID-19 pandemic now affects almost everything in our daily lives.

‘In Honduras, the first cases were reported in March. During these months of lockdown and social distancing we have seen the impact of COVID-19 on the Honduran people. Poverty has increased, as has the rate of unemployment. Many families lost their jobs because most industries had to stop operation temporarily and could not pay salaries in the meantime. Some employers agreed to pay their employees - but only half salary. Many workers decided to leave the big cities and returned with their families to the rural areas.

‘Some people are receiving support from their families, friends and the Catholic Church. The government distributed food parcels (bolsa solidaria) nationwide but there is not enough for everybody. The really poor are usually not the ones fortunate enough to get them.

Compounding other issues
‘Another challenge for Honduras is the more than 15,000 homeless children in Tegucigalpa and San Pedro Sula who are living on the streets. The number is increasing as well in the smaller cities and towns. The children are not receiving any regular support during this critical time.

‘We MMMs in Siguatepeque are providing accompaniment and support for seventy-five families. The local people have also been very generous to us, giving food and money to support the sick and elderly that we regularly visit. Homeless people come to the gate of our house everyday asking for jobs, food, or medication. It is hard to see their faces of sadness and frustration. We feel helpless most of the time, when we have nothing to give except a listening ear and lots of compassion.

‘Because our hope is bigger than our fears we dream that the COVID-19 pandemic will soon pass. Each one of us must do our part to prevent its spread. We are never alone; the whole world is one.’


Marking a Special Century

On 13 June, MMMs and Associates joined with Sister Teresa Connolly in celebrating her 100th birthday. Teresa now lives in our nursing facility, Áras Mhuire, in Drogheda. Unfortunately, because of COVID-19 restrictions, the event could not be marked as MMMs, family and friends would have liked. Nevertheless, it was a beautiful day as the Sisters from the Motherhouse gathered outside Áras Mhuire to sing ‘Happy Birthday’ and Teresa enjoyed a special meal.

Sister Teresa’s time in MMM is a testament to a life of great faith, generosity, adaptability and commitment. She grew up in Castlerea, Co. Roscommon, with two sisters and one brother, and trained as a secretary. She worked as a legal secretary, and as she described it, ‘was on my way to my 21st birthday’ when she joined the Medical Missionaries of Mary. The congregation itself was not yet four years old. 

Teresa heard about MMM through Fr. Curran, her parish curate. He had spent some years with the St. Patrick’s Fathers in Nigeria and learned about the new congregation through our magazine. Teresa met Mother Mary for the first time when she arrived in Rosemount, in Dublin, on 31 January 1941. She later moved to Drogheda and spent much of her postulancy helping in the maternity hospital.

Then as now, needs were constantly changing and those who joined MMM learned to be adaptable. Teresa wrote: ‘I have never been able to figure out why Mother appointed me as what she called "assistant to the novice mistress"....My task was to supervise the different chores that were assigned to each of us. These chores included looking after Suzie, the stove. Often we only had wet turf to burn. It could be a full time job keeping the fire stoked.’ 

An adventure in faith
During her second novitiate year Teresa worked in the hospital until it was time to prepare for first profession on 8 September 1943. A couple of days later she was back to her job, with the understanding that she would do her nurse training in St. Vincent’s Hospital in Dublin. She was getting her uniforms ready when a request came from then Monsignor, later Bishop, McGettrick in Ogoja, Nigeria, for three Sisters to assist in a new project. He and Dr. Joseph Barnes were planning to begin services for thousands of people with Hansen’s disease (leprosy). Sisters de Lourdes Gogan, Philomena Doyle and Teresa were assigned and Mother Mary saw them off in late January 1945, wishing them every blessing on their first mission. World War II was still raging.

In Ogoja, Sister Teresa was the secretary and helped in the hospital. Soon Mother Mary, accompanied by Sister Monica Clarke, visited Nigeria. A highlight of their stay was the filming of Visitation to document the work. On her return to Ireland, Mother appointed Sisters to help in the administration of the congregation. Teresa was to be secretary general. She heard that news at the end of 1947 and prepared to leave Ogoja. 

Describing her time as secretary general she said, ‘It certainly was not a nine to five commitment, sitting at a desk typing letters, answering the telephone. Rather it was a case of always being ready for any eventuality.’ Teresa was hardly back in Ireland in February 1948 when Mother Mary announced that they would be going to London to see about the final production of Visitation. It was Teresa's first visit to that city. She recalled, ‘It was all very exciting meeting the producer, Andrew Buchanan, and Robert Spaight, the commentator, and observing Mother’s knowledge of the whole situation.’

Teresa returned to Nigeria – with two days’ notice - in 1949. She helped in Anua for two years and ‘returned to Drogheda and was back with Mother Mary as if I had never gone.‘ She was in Drogheda in 1952 when fire broke out in the novitiate. She wrote:  ‘I was up in the front of the house and I became aware of a fire. I rushed back to the office. [Sister] Berchmans was standing at the desk discussing some business. I entered with: “There is a fire upstairs.” Mother calmly said, “Get some salt”, but I was aware that something more than salt was needed. That was the beginning of a nightmare ... 

‘I can remember staying at Mother’s side outside, just helpless watching the flames - all this after the terrible exercise of checking all of us present and safe. The words “God giveth; God taketh away. Blessed be His will”, still ring in my ears. The period after the fire was the most trying time. We were all scattered around Drogheda accepting the tremendous hospitality of so many that night and many more nights, until it was safe for some of us to return.’

On the road
Teresa responded generously to her next assignment - to promotion work in the USA. On 16 March 1952, she arrived ‘with the shamrock’ to 36 Commonwealth Avenue, Boston, where MMM had its first home in America. Others joined Teresa in what she described as 'my ministry without break' until December 1966. As MMMs from the USA and Canada will attest, that ministry sowed the seeds of many MMM vocations, as Teresa and her companions travelled uncountable highways and byways, speaking in churches and schools, telling people about the congregation, encouraging women to join us and raising funds for the work.

In 1967, Teresa returned to Ireland. Assignments brought her to Bettystown, Rosemount and then to Drogheda, where she used her administration skills in the IMTH and in the Motherhouse. She was back in the USA in 1977 for promotion work and to organize jubilee celebrations. Ever adaptable, Teresa trained in pastoral ministry and helped in our mission in Clinchco, Virginia. She was secretary and business administrator in other MMM houses in Ireland, served in Nairobi, Kenya, and did pastoral work in Silvertown, London.

Teresa moved to our Motherhouse in 2007 and to Áras Mhuire in 2012. As she begins her second century, her ministry now is to pray for our MMMs and Associates and those we whom we work around the world. She knows so many of them firsthand.

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