The Seventh Decade: 1997 – 2006: ‘Be ready to walk in paths that are new.’
In 1997 MMM inaugurated our Seventh General Chapter. We were facing unprecedented challenges. We could see clearly that there is no health without justice; there is no health without peace. Our MMM journey continued in a Church and in a society that denies the giftedness and the gentle power of women. We yearned to bring to birth the fullness of our feminine potential.
We embraced a new, more organic model of leadership, where each member has a place at the tables of discernment, dialogue and decision-making. As racism, ethnic conflicts and dominance in our world called out for healing, we affirmed that multicultural living is an essential element in the expression of our MMM charism.
The MMM Associate Movement was born at this Chapter. The delegates responded to a request from both Sisters and lay people to embrace this opportunity for collaboration in living our charism.
Also in 1997, we decided to hand over our services at Sacred Heart Hospital in Obudu, Nigeria.
In 1998 Hurricane Mitch blew up from the South Atlantic, devastating the many countries in its path, especially those of Central America. This prompted MMMs, who had been contemplating expansion of our work in Mexico, to look to the desperate plight of the people of Honduras. The work in Marcala in the State of La Paz, among the indigenous Lenca people, began the next year.
Meanwhile, MMMs in several countries were helping local communities to survive another natural phenomenon, El Niño, which wrought particular havoc in East Africa.
From the early 1990s onwards, the growth of the Internet was opening up great new possibilities for rapid communication between our houses. This most welcome development also put new demands on us: to acquire computer literacy and put equipment in place even while the Internet was still in its infancy. Living with one foot in the world of high technology and the other in the world of severe under-development requires a balance that is not understood in most computer training institutes!
While in 1999, we handed over Mater Misericordiae Hospital in Afikpo, Nigeria, as the new Millennium approached, we were ready to embark upon another new venture. This time an all-African team of MMMs pioneered a mission in the Republic of Benin, where we had been invited to inaugurate a health service among the people of Zaffé, in the Diocese of Dassa-Zoumé. On 6 January 2000, Sisters Maria Obotomah and Ekaete Ekop from Nigeria, and Radegunda Shayo from Tanzania, set out from Lagos on a day-long journey to their new French-speaking home. The people there were eagerly awaiting the opportunity to improve their health status and had worked hard to make everything ready for the newcomers.
MMMs marked other significant events as the millennium dawned.
In early 2000, Sisters Joan Cosgrove, from Ireland, and Felicitas Egeolu, from Nigeria, moved into our new mission in Abuja, Nigeria. Located in a housing estate in New Lugbe on the outskirts of the new capital city, there were plans to build a health centre for this rapidly-growing population.
In 2000, we also began health services in Huambo, Angola’s second largest city. It had been devastated by bombing during the war. The pioneering MMMs were Sister Opportuna Cypriani Sanka, an experienced missionary from Tanzania, and Sister Laurinda Bundo from Angola. They said, “We have been waiting to go to Huambo for years. Now the war has quietened down a bit. We hope and pray we will be able to stay there. We have been asked to take over a clinic in the parish run by the Redemptorists.”
There are times for beginnings and there are times for moving on. That year we handed over Saint John’s Hospital in Mzuzu, Malawi and in 2001, we handed over Kitovu Hospital, in Masaka, Uganda. In both cases some Sisters remained on locally to provide support during the transition time. In 2002, MMM handed over the hospital in Chiulo, Angola, where we had worked for fifty years.
We marked another milestone in 2003 as MMMs gathered for our Eighth Congregational Chapter at Tallaght, in South Dublin, Ireland. Among the topics we addressed at this meeting was that of developing programmes for our Associate Movement was slowly taking root in the Congregation. Our documents from that Chapter said, “Living our life to the full requires that we share our charism, our mission, and our life in multi-cultural communion with others, among them our Associates. We affirmed the efforts made throughout the Congregation to bring to birth and nurture the MMM Associate Movement and to actively involve the laity in this process.” We called ourselves to encourage leadership to emerge from among the MMM Associates.
In 2003, in order to better co-ordinate our mission awareness work in England, we opened a new house in Solihull, Birmingham. We also handed over our work to others in Ogoja, Nigeria and Loolera, Tanzania.
In 2004 MMM celebrated 50 years in Makiungu Hospital in Tanzania. That year we began a second mission in Choloma, Honduras. The Bishop asked us to share our healing charism in the north of the country, living and working in poor communities, deeply affected by violence.
In 2006, we had the first international meeting of MMM Associates. This three-day gathering was held at our Motherhouse in Drogheda, Ireland, and included delegates from Tanzania, Ireland, the USA and Scotland. While their main task was to update the guidelines for Associates, they discussed how to maintain a balance between their primary vocation and their calling as MMM Associates and how the relationship between Associate MMMs in a particular country could be strengthened. Toni Cameron, the delegate for Ireland said, “The one central and burning question was how best to live our lives in partnership with MMM, spreading the healing charism of Christ.”