207 MMM E-Newsletter November/December 2021

207 MMM E-Newsletter November/December 2021

MMM Communications, Beechgrove, Hardman's Gardens, Drogheda, Co. Louth Ireland A92 XKX0
Tel: 353-1-288 7180

To contact MMM Email: mmm@mmmworldwide.org

Number 207 - November/December 2021

Dear Friends,

Over the past few years our MMM E-newsletter has called attention to international days marked especially by the United Nations (UN). The UN website says that these are 'occasions to educate the public on issues of concern, to mobilize political will and resources to address global problems, and to celebrate and reinforce achievements of humanity. The existence of international days predates the establishment of the United Nations, but the UN has embraced them as a powerful advocacy tool.’ Unfortunately we cannot mention all of them, but they can help in reflecting on some of the challenges we face today and in showing how MMMs and Associates are working with others to deal with them.

On 16 November we mark International Day for Tolerance, which aims to foster mutual understanding among cultures and peoples. Its website emphasizes its importance 'in this era of rising and violent extremism and widening conflicts that are characterized by a fundamental disregard for human life’.

In 1995, UNESCO adopted a Declaration of Principles on Tolerance, affirming that ‘tolerance recognizes the universal human rights and fundamental freedoms of others .... The diversity of our world's many religions, languages, cultures and ethnicities is not a pretext for conflict, but is a treasure that enriches us all.’

For Medical Missionaries of Mary, ‘our own belief in the inter-relatedness of God’s creation urges us to embrace holistic healing and to work for reconciliation, justice and peace’ (MMM Mission Statement). One of our aims is to have ‘a fuller understanding of the depths of our call to internationality, [being] witnesses of tolerance and acceptance of difference’ (after 10th Cong. Chapter).

International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women is on 25 November. Gender-based violence (GBV) transcends borders and cultures, affecting millions of people each year. It threatens lives and undermines families and communities. According to the USAID website, more than one in three women worldwide have experienced violence, mostly by husbands or male partners.

GBV also affects economic stability and has been estimated to cost the world more than 5% of global GDP. During conflict and crisis, gender-based violence often increases, with the selling of women and girls to generate income; demanding sex in exchange for food, water or safe passage; or forcing girls into marriage to meet basic needs or secure a child's future. COVID-19 has presented us with new challenges and around the world MMMs are incorporating activities for public education and empowerment of women into our programmes.

World AIDS Day is marked on 1 December. This year is the 40th anniversary of the emergence of HIV as a global epidemic. This first ever international day for global health reminds people and governments that HIV has not gone away. The theme for 2021 is: ‘End inequalities. End AIDS. End pandemics.’  UNAIDS states that ‘without bold action against inequalities, the world risks missing the targets to end AIDS by 2030, as well as a prolonged COVID-19 pandemic and a spiralling social and economic crisis .... Structural inequalities obstruct proven solutions to HIV prevention and treatment.'

Many of our programmes include activities to increase awareness of HIV’s impact on people’s lives, to end stigma and discrimination, and to improve the quality of life of people living with the virus. With current treatments people living with HIV in many countries lead normal lives and have a life expectancy similar to that of the general population, once they have been taking medication for a few months.  

International Day for the Abolition of Slavery occurs on 2 December. The theme for 2021, ‘Ending Slavery’s Legacy of Racism: A Global Imperative for Justice’, reflects the global movement to end injustices whose roots lie in the slave trade. It highlights the importance of education about the transatlantic slave trade and slavery itself, to bring about both an acknowledgment of slavery’s impact on the modern world and action to address its long-lasting effects. Its website notes that the focus is on ‘eradicating contemporary forms of slavery, such as trafficking in persons, sexual exploitation, the worst forms of child labour, forced marriage, and the forced recruitment of children for use in armed conflict’. According to the International Labour Organization there are currently about 21 million forced labour victims worldwide, creating US$ 150 billion in illegal profits in the private economy each year.

MMMs and MMM Associates on four continents are involved in programmes that raise awareness about human trafficking, engage in prevention activities, and provide support for victims.

World Human Rights Day on 10 December encourages everyone to speak up and take action to end discrimination in all its forms. In 2021, its emphasis is on how rights are the beginning of peace within societies. The Declaration of Human Rights was created to be a 'common standard of achievement for all peoples and all nations'.

Eleanor Roosevelt, first chairperson of the Commission on Human Rights, asked, ‘Where, after all, do universal human rights begin? In small places, close to home - so close and so small that they cannot be seen on any maps of the world ... Unless these rights have meaning there, they have little meaning anywhere. Without concerted citizen action to uphold them close to home, we shall look in vain for progress in the larger world.’

This year the Nobel Peace Prize was awarded to Maria Ressa and Dmitry Muratov. The Nobel Committee declared: ‘Ms Ressa and Mr Muratov are receiving the Peace Prize for their courageous fight for freedom of expression in the Philippines and Russia...They are representatives of all journalists who stand up for this ideal in a world in which democracy and freedom of the press face increasingly adverse conditions.

It said that Maria Ressa 'exposed abuse of power, use of violence and growing authoritarianism in the Philippines....Ms Ressa and Rappler [a digital media company she co-founded] have also documented how social media is being used to spread fake news, harass opponents and manipulate public discourse. Dmitry Muratov has defended freedom of speech in Russia.’ He co-founded the newspaper Novaja Gazeta, ‘which has published critical articles on corruption, police violence, unlawful arrests, electoral fraud and ”troll factories” and the use of Russian military forces....

‘The Norwegian Nobel Committee is convinced that freedom of expression and freedom of information help to ensure an informed public. These rights are crucial prerequisites for democracy and protect against war and conflict.’

(The Nobel Peace Prize 2021. NobelPrize.org. Nobel Prize Outreach AB 2021. Fri. 29 Oct 2021. https://www.nobelprize.org/prizes/peace/2021/press-release/)

International Migrants Day is on 18 December. According to the UN, in 2017 over 258 million people in the world were not living in the country in which they were born. They represented approximately 3.4% of the world's population.

While some people may be seeking a better life in a different country, not everyone chooses to leave. Many countries experience war and conflict, and people are forced to leave for their own safety. Some are fleeing persecution. Others are forced out of their homes because of ‘natural disasters’ such as earthquakes, hurricanes and tsunamis that destroy their lives. For whatever reason, it can be a very daunting and dangerous journey. MMMs and MMM Associates are working with communities to provide services to welcome and assist migrants in distress.

December is a time for reflection and preparation for Christmas, when we celebrate God born as one of us. Pope Francis said, ‘One must not pursue God in dreams and in images of grandeur and power, but God must be recognized in the humanity of Jesus and, as a consequence, in that of the brothers and sisters we meet on the path of life (Angelus, 22 August 2021). Christmas reminds us that God continues to love us all.’ Jesus took upon himself our weakness, our infirmities, even our death, and ultimately became the source of hope for humankind in his resurrection. The Incarnation was a deep source of inspiration for our MMM foundress, Marie Martin.

In this newsletter there are stories about women who recently made first commitment in the Medical Missionaries of Mary and about others who marked greater milestones in their MMM journeys. We describe the handing over of our work in Honduras and introduce our new MMM Congregational Leadership Team.

With deep gratitude
Over the past eleven years I have been responsible for MMM publications. It has been a wonderful opportunity to tell our MMM story and describe the work of our Sisters, Associates and staff to our generous and loyal supporters. On 1 January 2022, I will be handing on this ministry to Sister Sheila Campbell. I know you will show Sheila the same interest, encouragement and generosity that you have shown me. Thank you and may you and your loved ones be richly blessed.

We remember you as we gather in prayer each day.

Yours sincerely,

Sr. Carol Breslin, MMM

‘I believe in God as I believe that the Sun has risen, not only because I see it, but because by it I see everything else’  (C. S. Lewis).


'Follow Me' (Mt 9:9).

On 3 September 2021, seven more women made first commitment in the Medical Missionaries of Mary. Marking the culmination of four years of initial formation, the ceremony took place at our international novitiate at Ibaban, Nigeria.

The lead-up to the event was not without its challenges. The retreat in preparation for the professions was planned to take place in Benin City, where our main house in the West Africa Area is located. Benin City is several hours’ drive from Ibadan and bags had already been packed for the journey, but COVID-19 made its influence felt. Travelling such a distance was not possible, so the Sisters prayed and reflected instead at the novitiate house, availing of the wisdom and experience of their able formators.

They were also saddened by the news of the death of their kind and helpful gardener, Mr. Philip Job, two days before the ceremony. Only 38 years old, Philip was the breadwinner for his family and MMM helped him to work towards a diploma in engineering. Unfortunately he suffered from ill health, and the stress of work, study and other responsibilities took their toll.

Positive signs
September is at the heart of the rainy season in Nigeria but the sun shone on the day of the profession itself - at least for the ceremony! Again, adherence to COVID-19 regulations meant that the beautifully-decorated church was less than 30% full and some parents were not able to witness the occasion in person. Nevertheless, the Sisters felt connected with family and friends who were also able to join in through live streaming on Facebook.

A good friend of the community, Father Anthony Igbekele, was the main celebrant. He had also given classes in liturgy to the group, so they made sure to put what they had learned into practice for the Mass, which was ‘simple, solemn and inspiring.' The hymns represented the group's diverse cultures and the choir rendered them beautifully. The homilist, Father Noel Eshikena, CSsR, took his time in ‘breaking the word’ with those who participated.
A variety of gifts
The Sisters do represent a diversity of nationalities, cultures and talents.

Sister Alice Agada is from Nigeria and trained as a secretary and in computer studies before joining MMM. She is assigned to our challenging mission in Torugbene, in the creeks area of Nigeria.
Sister Agatha Bakahirwa, from Uganda, has a degree in business administration and management. This will be of great help in her first assignment at our health centre in Eldoret, Kenya.

Also from Nigeria, Sister Ese Idogen obtained a Bachelor of Science in health education and trained in first aid before joining us. These are much needed skills at our clinic in Viana, Luanda, Angola.

Sister Caroline Nakalili is from Uganda and has a diploma in midwifery. She is looking forward to working in our clinic in Nangwa, Tanzania, where there is a great emphasis on mother and child health.

Sister Magdalene Tyosaah, from Nigeria, is a trained nurse. She will be very welcome and gain great experience at our rural clinic in Zaffé, in the Republic of Benin.

From Nigeria, Sister Otibhor Uwagable, has an economics degree and a master’s degree in business administration. They are much-needed skills for managing health projects in Nairobi, Kenya.
Sister Lauretta Zakalia, from Malawi, will find her computer training very useful in her first assignment to Uselu, Benin City, Nigeria.

Continuing the journey
The beautiful and joyful day came to an end with a simple thanksgiving liturgy and a festive meal for MMM Sisters and family members. There were special prayers for the newly-professed.

The seven Sisters expressed their gratitude ‘for the support from our MMM Sisters, novices, postulants, our families, friends and parishioners. We are very grateful to the Congregational Leadership Team, the Area Leadership Team and our formators.' The newly-professed called to mind ‘a journey full of expectations and uncertainties; joys and adventures; beautiful memories and opportunities for growth.

‘Thank you! Zikomo kwambiri! Mwebale! Mwebare! Msuuu! Mugode so saii! Obilu!’

What We Are About

MMM first went to Honduras in the aftermath of the devastation caused by Hurricane Mitch. Now our Sisters share their reflections as they hand over our programmes after a generation among a strong and resilient people.

‘As MMM prepares to leave Honduras in 2021, we reflect on 22 years of an extraordinary adventure that began at the 1997 MMM Chapter, when a decision was made to open a new mission in Latin America. Sisters Mary McKearney, Renée Duignan and Rita Higgins, and lay woman Mary Egan, were assigned from the USA. MMM USA had done research on possible ministries in Mexico City and, after language school, the group entered a process of discernment to explore these possibilities. They found that the reality had changed.

During the discernment, a call came from the Congregational Leadership Team alerting them to the situation in Honduras after Hurricane Mitch. Two Sisters went to Honduras from Mexico to do research and they saw the devastation firsthand. They also contacted NGOs and the Honduran Conference of Religious. On their return to Mexico it became clear that God was calling MMM to Honduras. On 1 May 1999 the group arrived there to establish a new mission in Marcala in the Diocese of Comayagua.  
‘We joined the parish pastoral social ministry and established an integrated health and development project among the indigenous Lenca people who live in isolated mountain communities. We were involved in natural medicine, home pharmacies, stove making and training traditional birth attendants. Mary Egan started a “Teacher at Home” programme, providing education opportunities for students from marginalized families. MMM continues to support this programme.

‘As levels of trust increased we worked more with the most vulnerable groups. We developed an integrated health programme in schools and formed women’s groups. The project raised awareness by building capacity and self-esteem. We encouraged women and children to recognize and break negative cycles of behavior and provided information on health, human development and human rights issues. We also supported women with Pap smear screening. Participation in the groups helped children to develop their creative skills and build their confidence.  

‘We promoted formal education and collaborated with like-minded organizations. In Marcala Parish, a pastoral care team was formed to visit the sick and the elderly in their homes.

Moving on 
‘After 15 years in Marcala, Sisters Bernadette Heneghan and Cleide Daniel da Silva moved to Siguatepeque and began working in the parish of Meambar, 40 km northeast. The project focuses on capacity building in health and human development, awareness-raising on human rights issues, and care of the environment. Sister Margaret Nakafu arrived in 2016. She works in Siguatepeque Parish in pastoral, social and youth ministries.

An urban ministry 
‘In 2004, Sisters Renée Duignan, Joanne Bierl and Rosalinda Gonzales opened a new mission, Casa Visitación, in Choloma, in the Diocese of San Pedro Sula. The emphasis is on integrated health care and human rights issues. In response to emerging needs and through the generous contributions of benefactors, a new centre was constructed. We provide services through an outpatients’ department, complementary therapies, counseling, dental services, income-generating activities, workshops, nutrition, home-based care, community pharmacies, and pastoral social work with community volunteers. Casa Visitación has networked with the diocese, parishes, NGOs, the ministry of health and other organizations, sharing resources with them. Sisters Maria Gonzaga Namuyomba and Danielle Darbro also contributed to that mission.
Sharing the gift
‘From the beginning we have been immersed in the daily lives of the people. This has been a blessing, enabling us to share the MMM charism of healing. We have been enriched by the people’s openness, generosity, trust and hospitality. We are grateful for the mutual working relationships with our co-workers that enabled the Sisters and staff to fulfill our mission. We appreciate the collaboration of the many volunteers and benefactors who have been our partners.   

‘One of the joys of getting to know the local people was that some were attracted by our spirituality and wanted to have a deeper relationship with us. There are now 20 MMM Associates in Honduras and many are involved in our projects. To our delight they are committed to continuing to live our MMM charism into the future, with the support of MMMs and AMMMs.

‘Because of personnel constraints MMM decided to hand over our projects in Honduras by the end of 2021. A succession plan was put in place. 

Handing over  
'Now we celebrate the positive impacts that our presence has had in the lives of the people. Many have imbibed a sense of integrated health care for their families and communities, as well as awareness of human rights, care of the environment, etc. We, too, have been transformed by the people’s deep faith and resilience in face of the challenges of corruption, drugs, violence, extreme poverty, and the country's vulnerability to natural disasters.

‘It is difficult to move on from a place in which we have invested so much of ourselves, and again it is a matter of discerning when it seems the time has come. As we leave so much of our hearts behind us in Honduras, “in hope and love we are ready to walk in paths that are new” (MMM Constitutions 2.6).’

With gratitude to you all
As they prepared to bring their presence in Honduras to closure, on 21 August 2021 the international community of MMMs gathered at the G y V Hotel in Tegucigalpa.

We are proud to share this photo with our supporters. Pictured L-R are: Sisters Bernadette Heneghan (Ireland, Europe), Margaret Nakafu (Uganda, Africa), Renée Duignan (Ireland, Europe), Rosalinda Gonzales (Philippines, Asia) and Cleide Daniel da Silva (Brazil, Americas).

A Time for Celebration

There was great rejoicing among MMMs and Associates on Saturday, 18 September 2021, when we celebrated milestones for several of our Sisters in Benin City, Nigeria.  While still aware of COVID-19 restrictions, MMMs, families and friends were able to gather in the cathedral for the Mass, which was celebrated by the bishop and eight priests. The ceremonies were live-streamed around the world, so many more of us were able to participate in a perpetual profession, three silver jubilees and two golden jubilees.

Making her perpetual profession in the Medical Missionaries of Mary was Sister Leticia Enujuba, from Enugu, Nigeria. Leticia was a qualified nurse-midwife before joining MMM and served in several of our missions in Nigeria after first profession. She was involved in primary health care programmes in Abuja and Fuka, in Amukoko in Lagos, and more recently in Benin City.

Sister Justina Odunukwe, West Africa Area Leader, received Leticia's vows and welcomed her into the Medical Missionaries of Mary for life.

Marking sixty years of commitment this year were Sisters Cecilia Asuzu and Therese Jane Oguh, who were among our earliest MMMs from Nigeria.

Sister Cecilia is a nurse-midwife and also trained in reflexology. She has served in Angola and Ireland, including time in MMM leadership. She is now based at our community in Eleta, Ibadan.

Also a nurse-midwife, Sister Therese Jane trained in community health. She used her training very effectively in many rural health clinics in Nigeria. She now lives in our community in Itam.

Sisters Clara Chikwana, Victoria Ogu, and Itoro Etokakpan actually celebrated twenty-five years of profession in 2020 but public gatherings were not possible at that time.

Sister Clara is from Malawi and is a nurse-midwife. She served in Nigeria and Malawi, including several years in vocation promotion. After completing an MA in theology in Ireland in 2015 she was assigned as novice mistress at our international novitiate in Ibadan, Nigeria.

Sister Victoria (Vicky), from Nigeria, is also a nurse-midwife. After profession she worked in several of our clinics before completing a BSc in nursing and a degree in hospital administration in Ireland in 2006. She served for several years in Malawi, including in MMM leadership, before assignment to Kenya in 2016. Victoria is now based at our health centre in Kasina, Malawi.

Sister Itoro is from Nigeria. After first profession she obtained a BA in social science in Kenya and an MA in counselling in Uganda. She was a lecturer in counselling in Kampala before assignment to Brazil in 2010. There she did pastoral and social work and served in MMM leadership and formation. She returned to Nigeria in 2018 and now is based at our community in Itam.

Other ‘diamonds’
Sisters Maureen Clarke, Ursula Cott and Lucia Lynch marked their diamond jubilees at our MMM Motherhouse in Drogheda, Ireland, on 17 September.

Sister Sheila Berthiaume in Somerville, MA, USA, also professed her first vows sixty years ago.

We send them all our congratulations and wish them every blessing in the days to come.

Meet Our New Team!

Our eleventh MMM Congregational Chapter took place in Accra, Ghana, from 1 to 17 October 2021. A chapter is an assembly representative of the whole congregation and marks a new stage in its life, ‘urging us to conversion and renewal’. All our Sisters and Associates were encouraged to be part of the preparations, so that the life and mission of MMM could be reviewed ‘in the context of changing world realities and in the light of our charism of healing’.

As has happened with other groups needing to plan well in advance for meetings, coming closer to the time we originally chose, restrictions related to travel and visa requirements made it necessary to change the original dates and venue. Enquiries showed that Ghana had appropriate measures in place to protect its citizens and deal with visitors, as well as a straightforward process for visa applications. So taking a step in faith, the Ghana Institute of Management and Public Administration (GIMPA) was booked as the venue.

We were relieved to hear on 1 October that the delegates and facilitators had all arrived safely in Accra. In the new environment, the Society of the Holy Child Jesus helped greatly with practical details and members of the local Jesuit community provided daily Mass. The chapter delegates discovered that some of the priests had previously been our neighbours in Benin City, Nigeria. It is a small world!

The Chapter Communications Committee provided regular updates on the deliberations, as the delegates reflected on what directions we should take over the next four years. One of the other chapter tasks is to elect the members of our MMM Congregational Leadership Team (CLT), comprising a congregational leader, assistant congregational leader and two councillors. We eagerly awaited the results, and so on 14 October there was a great buzz in all our houses when we learned that a new team had been chosen. The four women, from four countries, bring a wide variety of experiences, skills and knowledge to this special ministry of leadership.

Responding in Faith
Sister Ursula Sharpe is our new MMM Congregational Leader. Born in Glenties, Co. Donegal, she attended her early education in Leitrim and in Ardee, Co. Louth. She qualified as a nurse-midwife and worked for several years as a volunteer for Concern in Bangladesh, training in development. After a time as head of fundraising for Concern in Dublin, Ursula joined MMM in 1983. Her first assignment was to Kitovu, Uganda, in 1986. At that time HIV/AIDS was devastating the lives of the people and the government encouraged concerted efforts to deal with the pandemic. MMM was in the forefront of the response and Ursula was in charge of innovative projects in primary health care, in home care for people with AIDS, and in care for orphans. She was to spend seventeen years in Kitovu, also serving in MMM  Area leadership and earning master’s degrees in pastoral leadership and counselling psychology.

Sister Ursula returned to Ireland after election to the CLT in 2003. Her leadership skills were again requested in 2009, when she was elected leader of our MMM Motherhouse community. She was also on our European Area Team and spent some time in Malawi. Ursula has used her facilitation skills to help other congregations and also has talents in music!

Sister Maria Gonzaga Namuyomba, from Masaka, Uganda, is our Assistant Congregational Leader. She completed her schooling in Kampala and was a junior nurses’ aid before joining MMM in 1989. After profession she obtained a bachelor’s degree in accounting and later completed a bachelor’s in accounting and finance from Dundalk Institute of Technology in Ireland. Her first assignment was to Mzuzu, Malawi, in 1998, after which she spent eight years in Nigeria as administrator of our busy hospital in Abakaliki.

Maria then used her skills at our mission in Choloma, Honduras, for four years, working in youth development and pastoral work. She helped many young people acquire basic education. In 2014 she was in Nairobi, Kenya, preparing for her next challenging appointment as Area business administrator for our MMM East/Central Africa (ECA) Area. She had hardly started into that role when she was appointed ECA Area leader, a post that she was holding when she headed to our MMM Chapter in October. When not involved in administration Maria enjoys sewing and weaving.

Sister Clara Chikwana is a Councillor on the new team. Born in Lilongwe, Malawi, she was a trained enrolled nurse-midwife when she joined MMM in 1991. After profession she worked first at our health centre in Chipini, Malawi, and then completed training as a registered nurse and midwife in Uganda and Kenya respectively. In 2000 she was assigned to Nigeria, where she worked in the hospital we ran in Urua Akpan at that time.

When she returned to Malawi, Clara was involved in opening a new house in Kasina and taking over the local health centre. The centre developed a wide variety of preventive services, home and palliative care, a HIV programme, and maternal and child care. After several years in vocation promotion, Clara began studies in formation work in Ireland in 2013. She moved to our international novitiate in Ibadan, Nigeria, with a view to taking over as directress of novices. Sister Clara took up this appointment in 2016 and in 2019 was also appointed head of our formation team for the MMM West Africa Area.

Sister Rose Mogun was also elected as a Councillor. From Ogiedi-Elume, Nigeria, Rose joined MMM in 1977 and trained as a nurse-midwife after profession. After experience as a staff nurse in Nigeria, she obtained a master’s in pastoral studies in the USA. She then served in formation and vocation ministry for several years in Nigeria and was part of the MMM Regional leadership team. She continued to use her leadership skills when she was elected to the CLT in 1997.

Sister Rose then obtained a master’s in development studies in Ireland. Assigned to our house of studies in Nairobi, Kenya, in 2011, she developed another set of skills as a Resource Person for Management of MMM Ministries. Working with MMM Associate Dr. Eamonn Brehony she visited our projects and helped our Sisters and staff to develop good standards in delivery of services and accountability. Rose continued in this ministry when she was assigned to our new house in Kampala, Uganda, in 2019.

We congratulate these Sisters and express our gratitude for their willingness to serve in MMM leadership at this time.

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