205 MMM E-Newsletter July/August 2021

205 MMM E-Newsletter July/August 2021


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

Number 205 - July/August 2021

Dear Friends,
The issue of human trafficking is highlighted each year on 30 July as we mark World Day against Trafficking in Persons. This year’s theme is ‘Victims’ Voices Lead the Way’. Its website says that this ‘puts victims of human trafficking at the centre of the campaign and will highlight the importance of listening to and learning from survivors.’ It focuses on the crucial role that victims play ‘in establishing effective measures to prevent this crime, identify and rescue victims, and support them on their road to rehabilitation.’
It says that many victims of human trafficking have experienced ignorance or misunderstanding in their attempts to get help, noting that ‘some have faced re-victimization and punishment for crimes they were forced to commit by their traffickers.’ MMMs in several countries are working with people affected by trafficking. They report that traffickers are taking advantage of the ongoing consequences of COVID-19 to recruit more victims.

A crime of global proportions
On 31 March 2021 the website of the UN Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) announced that new measures were being launched to combat human trafficking among refugees in Malawi. It was discovered that criminal networks were operating within the Dzaleka Refugee Camp. Home to more than 48,000 refugees and asylum seekers, the camp was established in 1994 to accommodate people fleeing genocide, violence and wars in Burundi, Rwanda and the Democratic Republic of Congo. In April, UNODC, UNHCR, the UN International Organization for Migration, and Malawi’s Ministry of Homeland Security, began procedures that were developed after an initial staff training conducted by UNODC.
According to Maxwell Matewere, the UNODC National Project Officer in Malawi, ‘There’s very little knowledge of human trafficking among the camp staff, so the first training was to raise awareness and explain how to identify and interview the victims and recognise the indicators of this crime, including during the registration process....Some staff wanted to do something straight away and implement what they had learnt. Others were quite upset and felt guilty, because through the training they realised that trafficking was taking place.’
Men are subjected to forced labour inside the camp or on farms in Malawi and other countries nearby. Women and girls are exploited sexually in Malawi or transported to other countries in southern Africa. Children are trafficked for farm labour and domestic work.
The camp is also being used as a transit point for victims. Traffickers recruit victims in their home countries, then arrange for them to cross the border into Malawi and enter the camp. Mr Matewere said, ‘The victims usually believe they’re going to join their families in South Africa or will get work there.’
Following the training, camp staff rescued thirty men from Ethiopia. Two Malawian nationals were arrested for human trafficking offences. The traffickers had planned to smuggle the men into Zambia and then transport them further to South Africa for exploitation. This illustrates the truly international nature of trafficking.  

On 15 August we celebrate the Assumption of Mary, a model and mentor for MMMs and MMM Associates. A letter by Pope Paul IV in 1974 described this woman of action and contemplation, who ‘pondered all these things in her heart’ (Lk 3:51).
‘Mary of Nazareth, while completely devoted to the will of God, was far from being a timidly submissive woman ...; on the contrary, she was a woman who did not hesitate to proclaim that God vindicates the humble and the oppressed, and removes the powerful people of this world from their privileged positions (cf. Lk. 1:51-53)... Mary “stands out among the poor and humble of the Lord,” a woman of strength, who experienced poverty and suffering, flight and exile (cf. Mt. 2:13-23). These are situations that cannot escape the attention of those who wish to support, with the Gospel spirit, the liberating energies of [people] and of society’ (Marlalis Cultis, #37).
International Day for the Remembrance of the Slave Trade and Its Abolition is marked on 23 August. According to its website, the theme for 2021 is ‘Ending Slavery’s Legacy of Racism: A Global Imperative for Justice’. It notes that the this ‘reflects the global movement to end injustices whose roots lie in the slave trade. It highlights the importance of educating about the history of the transatlantic slave trade, to bring about an acknowledgment of slavery’s impact on the modern world, and action to address its long-lasting effects.‘
In his message for this day, UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres wrote: ‘Today, we honour the memory of the millions of people of African descent who suffered under the brutal system of slavery and the transatlantic slave trade. This trade created and sustained a global system of exploitation that existed for more than 400 years, devastating families, communities and economies....We must work together to address the pernicious and persistent consequences of slavery....We will do this by renewing our determination to tackle racism, injustice and inequality and by building inclusive communities and economies. ‘
A concerted approach
Many churches are involved in efforts to combat modern-day slavery, which is so deeply connected with human trafficking. An example of collaboration was described in the World Council of Churches' (WCC) newsletter for 18 - 24 June 2021: ‘In Ghana, churches emerge as leaders in combatting child slavery.’
A workshop in Ghana on 16 June, co-organized by the Christian Council of Ghana, the WCC and The Clewer Initiative, addressed this issue in the country. WCC deputy general secretary Prof. Dr Isabel Phiri, said, ‘COVID-19 has further increased the risk of modern slavery. However, the pandemic crisis also brings an opportunity for lasting and sustainable systemic changes.’
In this newsletter, you can read a contribution by one of our MMMs to Global Sisters’ Report. Two more Sisters celebrate fifty years of commitment this year and we mark the perpetual commitment of our first MMM from the Republic of Benin.
Thank you for your continued interest and support in so many ways. We remember you and your intentions in prayer each day.

Yours sincerely,

Sr. Carol Breslin, MMM

‘I'm convinced of this: Good done anywhere is good done everywhere. As long as you're breathing, it's never too late to do some good’ (Maya Angelou, American poet, memoirist, and civil rights activist).

Writing for Life

For several years our Sisters have contributed to ‘The Life’, a monthly feature of Global Sisters’ Report (GSR). The stories in this publication are a source of news about Catholic Sisters around the world and the issues facing the people they serve. The edition on 26 April 2021 comprised articles on the theme ‘With spiritual motivation, sisters actively care for the Earth'. Sister Margaret Nakafu, MMM, from Uganda, was a contributor.

The editor of 'The Life' said that ‘panelists took time out from enjoying nature and celebrating Earth Day on April 22 to answer: How are you and/or members of your community promoting the beauty of creation and the care of our common home?’ She noted that ‘with an academic background in sustainable human development as well as HIV counseling and computer science, Sister Margaret has lived and worked in six countries: Uganda, Rwanda, Kenya, Tanzania, Ireland and Honduras. Currently, she ministers in Honduras, doing parish pastoral work, and advocating for youth, vulnerable families and the elderly.’

The following is Margaret’s response to the question.

‘During my school days in Uganda, we carried our lunches wrapped in banana leaves. We reused bottles that originally contained cooking oil to carry our drinking water. In schools where lunch was provided by the school administration, students would bring reusable plates and cups from home. Baskets and bags made of natural materials were used to both carry and store items. These practices, which some might see today as "primitive", give a natural flavor to the food, promote the use of naturally available resources in the cooking and packaging of food, promote the reuse of plastics, and value and preserve natural resources that provide raw materials for handcrafts.

‘Though even today we still wrap some food in banana leaves for cooking, unfortunately, many of these ecologically sustainable practices are being replaced as we begin to use all sorts of plastics and disposable materials that continue to feed the increasing culture of consumerism.

‘A story is told of a young man who was walking along the beach when he noticed a boy throwing things into the ocean.

‘Approaching the boy, he asked: "Young man, what are you doing?"

‘The boy replied, "Throwing starfish back into the ocean. The surf is up and the tide is going out. If I don't throw them back, they'll die."

‘The man laughed to himself and said, "Do you realize there are miles of beach and hundreds of starfish? You can't make any difference."

‘After listening politely, the boy bent down, picked up another starfish and threw it into the surf. Then, smiling at the man, he said: "I made a difference to that one."

‘In his encyclical Laudato Si, Pope Francis calls us to become aware of and dare to turn what is happening to the world into our own personal suffering and, in so doing, discover what each of us can do about it. Like the young boy in the story, we have dared to let the pain of our Mother Earth penetrate our hearts. We know that a one-minute act makes a difference. Sometimes, it is as simple as saying no to using a drinking straw in a restaurant. We are creating awareness and reducing the use of one-use materials

‘Here in Honduras, we concretely promote the beauty of creation through:

  • Adopting the methodology of the five 'R's': reducing, refusing, reusing, recycling, reforesting;
  • In collaboration with our parish and with youth, planting 2,500 pine trees (the national tree of Honduras) in areas where we are assured of their growth;
  • Making 150 reusable shopping bags bought by families of our parish; and
  • Using our own reusable shopping bags and carrying our drinking water from home.’
Margaret's article suggests that with a little reflection, we can find ways to apply the five ‘R’s’ in our own situations. Surely care for our planet is worth investing that time.

Gratitude for Jubilee

Two more MMMs celebrate fifty years of religious profession this year. Interestingly they have both shared their gifts on mission in Malawi and in their home countries - Sister Anne Carr in Ireland and Sister Mary Ellen Sambuco in the USA. First, Sister Sheila Campbell tells some of Sister Anne's story.

Anne Carr is small in stature but mighty in personality. Describing herself she says, 'I was a determined youngster!'

A Dubliner by birth, Anne grew up and had her early education in Cork. When she was a young teenager her family returned to Dublin. She had her secondary education in Kiltimagh, Co. Mayo.  Anne’s mother was an ardent supporter of the Medical Missionaries of Mary and several of her uncles were missionary priests. She found she was attracted to a missionary life herself.

After first profession in Drogheda her group stayed in the Motherhouse for a year, helping in the kitchen and with other housekeeping tasks. Then Anne did her general nurse training in Our Lady of Lourdes Hospital in Drogheda and her midwifery training in Scotland.

Hidden gifts emerge.
Anne´s first assignment was to Malawi in Central Africa, a country she came to love deeply the more she came to know the people and learn their languages. At first, she worked as a nurse but after less than a year she was in a car crash, which left her badly injured. Anne was first treated in Malawi and nursed by her MMM Sisters. She later returned to Ireland for further treatment.

Her stubbornness and strength of character paid off. She worked hard at regaining her health and returned to Malawi after two years. It was during this second period in Malawi that MMM began responding to requests from various parishes to teach Natural Family Planning. Anne developed this ministry to the extent that she eventually had a team at national level, with the support of the Malawi Bishops’ Conference. Training and passing on skills to her Malawian counterparts illustrates an essential part any MMM work.

Life can take unexpected turns. In 1986 Anne had been an MMM for twenty-five years and had spent most of those years in Africa. MMM leadership suggested a break – a time of rest and recuperation. She was asked to go to the USA to help with mission awareness for several months, prior to doing a course in clinical pastoral education (CPE). Anne realized almost immediately how helpful this would be in hospitals in Malawi. She saw CPE as ‘spiritual midwifery’, bringing new life to the sick and dying and their families. She completed the required modules of CPE in the USA and registered with the Irish Chaplains Association before returning to Malawi in1999 and introducing CPE there.

A legacy of life and hope
CPE had great appeal for the various church groups in Malawi. The interdenominational nature of the training for hospital chaplains was well accepted. It attracted dedicated people to be trained for government and non-government hospitals and facilities. By the time Anne left the country in 2011 the interdenominational pastoral centre and chapel had a well-established training programme.

Since returning to Ireland in 2010, Anne has been involved with mission awareness in dioceses all over Ireland and for several years in Scotland. She has used her wide experience and many gifts to tell our MMM story and her experience of mission.

She also has had time for some of her hobbies. She loves to read and write down her thoughts. She loves being by the sea; the wild coast of the Fanad peninsula in Donegal is one of her favourite destinations. She also enjoys photography and makes beautiful cards with her photographs.

Anne is enjoying her Golden Jubilee year – in spite of COVID-19 restrictions! May she enjoy good health and happiness in the years ahead.


'Your hand will guide me' (Ps 139).

Sister Mary Ellen Sambuco joined MMM in the USA. She worked for some time as a nurse with Native American people before turning her life in another direction. She told us some of her story as she marks fifty years of commitment and service.

‘I grew up in Irwin, Pennsylvania, with my Italian/Polish parents. When I was eight years old my brother, Sonny, was born. He was a Down syndrome baby and we were blessed to have him.

‘Right after high school, I enrolled in training as licensed practical nurse. Upon graduation, I worked in Pittsburgh for a year and then went to Pierre, South Dakota, for ongoing training in obstetrics and paediatrics. My work there was on the reservation with the Sioux Indians. There the idea of "missionary" was planted somewhere in my brain. During that time, I also took instructions to enter the Catholic faith.

'I had exposure to the Catholic Church throughout my life and now felt it was time to choose. While working in South Dakota, I was connected with Benedictine Sisters and the idea of "religious life" was also planted. The priest who gave me instructions was from Drogheda, Ireland, and knew the MMMs. He informed me they were "somewhere in Boston" and advised me to contact Cardinal Cushing - so I did.

‘At this point I wasn't convinced that this was really the path I should be on but I went through the motions. There were letters back and forth with the MMMs as well as other religious congregations. I was attracted to the MMM correspondence because it was typed and there were a few corrected spelling mistakes. It was obvious that someone had actually sat down to write them. The "someone" was Sister Madeleine Leblanc.

Responding to an invitation
‘The correspondence continued for awhile. Back then, we didn't visit if we lived a long distance away, so when I finally joined on 12 September 1968, I saw my first MMM – Sister Anne Marie Hubbard. My reasons for making that decision were not pious by any means. I couldn't seem to make any other decision. It was like an itch that needed to be scratched. My motive for entering was to prove I didn't belong there. And here I am fifty-three years later still waiting to prove it.

‘Over the years, I grew into our MMM way of life. There were many struggles along the way but they made me stronger. My first time out of the country was to Ireland for training in midwifery and that was a time of tremendous growth. The Sisters there were kind to me and midwifery was my dream. It's where I began to see the hand of God. After completing midwifery training, I was missioned to Malawi, where I spent my years truly loving the people there, learning from them and appreciating how simple life can be.

'I worked in Mzuzu, Nkhata Bay and Chipini - all very different experiences and life-giving. There were days of great difficulty and in those times I again experienced the hand of God.

An ongoing journey

‘Since returning to the USA in 1992 I've worked with mothers and children in the migrant camps in California and as a nurse and midwife with the Visiting Nurses in Boston and Pennsylvania. I have also worked with children with developmental delay and children with autism. Before COVID-19, I was doing music therapy with non-verbal autistic children.

‘So with a grateful heart, I am listening to what else the Lord has to offer me.’

We wish Mary Ellen peace and happiness in the days to come.


Saying ‘Yes’ for Life

MMM began in the Republic of Benin in January 2000, when an international group of Sisters - Ekaete Ekop, Maria Mark Obotamah, and Radegunda Shayo - set out from Lagos, Nigeria, on a day-long journey to Zaffé. In this village in the heart of the country the nearest health services had been at the government hospital, twelve kilometres away – not so far unless you had to walk there on a poor road. So the people of Zaffé built a clinic and asked the bishop to invite Sisters to operate it.

It took them ten years to build that clinic, using the proceeds of the cotton harvest. That was how committed they were to improving their health. It was a plain building with spacious rooms – not necessarily designed to be a clinic – but the Sisters started with what was available. Our MMMs developed a community-based health programme. In 2004 a maternity section was added. Over the years, many other MMMs have worked in Zaffé and have also been involved in activities in the local community.

As Medical Missionaries of Mary, our ultimate aim, wherever we are, is to ‘proclaim the Good News through participation in Christ’s healing mission’ (MMM Constitutions). When a woman feels a call from God to join us as a member of MMM, sharing in our charism (special gift) of healing, she begins a mutual process of discernment to discover ‘in freedom and openness the authenticity of her vocation’. In the Republic of Benin, Bernadette Fadegnon felt that call and, in faith, embarked on a journey. Its culmination was the day when, with great joy, we celebrated the perpetual profession of our first Beninese Sister.

When in July 2020, Sister Bernadette received the news that she had been granted admission to perpetual commitment, she was on mission in Salvador, Brazil. With the uncertainties about international travel the ensuing months were ones of great anxiety for her even as she was preparing – remotely – for the ceremony.

‘I prayed and waited’ (Marie Martin).
In May 2021, on the eve of her departure for home, Sister Bernadette wrote: ‘I received the news last year of my admission to perpetual profession with excitement in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic. I thought that by the time we started planning for the ceremony, the pandemic would be a thing of the past. Unfortunately the situation had not changed much with second and even third waves [of the virus].... To my bewilderment, up to a couple of hours before my departure from Brazil to the Republic of Benin, COVID-19 was still a public health issue all over the world.

‘I learned that the announcement of the news of the perpetual profession of their daughter was a thing of great joy for my people. It was celebrated with drums, cymbals, and trumpet blasts amid dancing in my home church in Zaffé. This supports the African adage that a child only belongs to the family while in utero; once born the child belongs to the community. Ubuntu: “I am because we are.” We proceeded with online planning, with translations of MMM ceremonies and other materials into French.

‘I have been nourished by a serene joy and hope, amid uncertainty around travelling restrictions and flight cancellations, to the possibility of being able to travel home. I took a leap of faith from Mother Mary Martin, “If God wants the work, God will show the way.” I am so excited.

‘I look forward to celebrating this great step on my religious journey, hoping that it will not only be an opportunity to celebrate but also [a source of] sanctification for my soul and an opportunity for new vocations in the Republic of Benin.  I am grateful for the supports, prayers and love that I have received from all. God bless.’

A dream fulfilled
And so on 29 May 2021, dancers in brilliantly-coloured outfits led the procession into St. Thérèse of the Child Jesus Catholic Church in Zaffé, which was packed with family and friends. They were followed by MMMs, many priests and Msgr. François Gnonhossou, Bishop of the Diocese of Dassa-Zoumé. The Mass was live-streamed so MMMs, Associates, family and friends around the world could take part. This was a great celebration especially because Zaffé is not a parish but an outstation. To have such a celebration in the village was an honour for the people.

In welcoming those assembled, the parish priest referred to Sister Bernadette as ‘a daughter of our community, of our diocese, of our country, of the whole world and all people.’ Songs and readings in several languages were followed by the singing of the Gospel passage of the Annunciation, so integral to our MMM spirituality, in French.

The joy of the local community was palpable as Sister Fidelia Ogujawa, Directress of Junior Professed Sisters, called Bernadette by name. She came forward accompanied by her parents. Responding to the question ‘What do you ask of God and of God’s church?’ she expressed her desire to serve the sick as part of the Medical Missionaries of Mary until death.

‘Begin anew, each day.’
In his homily, Msgr. Gnonhossou said that Bernadette had found the treasure for all of her life. ‘In spite of our weaknesses God has called us for [God’s] mission.’ He spoke of Mary, also a young woman, chosen and entrusted with the mystery of the Incarnation. He continued, ‘[Sister Bernadette’s] profession is a total unconditional commitment, expressed not only in words but in living her vows each day.’ In English, he welcomed the guests who had come from far and near. ‘For the first time we are celebrating the vows of one of us.’

After the Litany of the Saints was chanted Sister Bernadette recited her formula of perpetual profession. Her vows were received by Sister Justina Odunukwe, MMM Area Leader for West Africa. Bernadette then received her ring – a sign of love and fidelity. All the other perpetually professed MMM Sisters who were present came forward to welcome her into the congregation. A radiant Bernadette danced with happiness.

At the end of Mass, Sister Justina gave thanks for ‘a unique day for MMM’. The Eucharist concluded with the singing of the Magnificat and expressions of thanks for having this special celebration in Zaffé.


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