Congregational Register No. 28
First Profession 08.09.1942
Aged: 85 years
Mary Margaret Corcoran was raised in Carraroe, Lanesboro, Co. Longford. She was introduced to MMM by Fr. Kieran Ryan, one of the volunteers who answered Bishop Shanahan’s call to go to Nigeria during the 1930’s. She joined MMM in 1939. By the time she began her general nurse training at St. Vincent’s Hospital, Dublin in 1941, Sr. Damien was an ‘old hand’ in MMM.
In 1939, Monsignor Callaghan had given Mother Mary an empty building in Beechgrove, Drogheda, to which a wing had been added, stipulating that the work for a hospital be completed in two months. Nurse Inagh Stanley volunteered to set up the hospital with the help of Sr. Brigid Kavanagh and Sr. Damien (both postulants). The original hospital and Our Lady of Lourdes Chapel of Ease opened on 8 December 1939. Sr. Damien took charge of the kitchen and other chores and was sacristan of the new Chapel of Ease – all within two months of entering MMM. She was one of the founding members of the hospital in Drogheda that we know today!
After general nursing and midwifery training, Sr. Damien nursed in Drogheda. In 1948 she accompanied Mother Mary Martin on a trip to Rome and east Africa. This was her first sight of the peoples and cultures to whom she would later dedicate her life. But first, in 1952, Sr. Damien was assigned to Airmount Maternity Hospital in Waterford, where she was to spend the next eleven years as matron. From Ireland she went to Regina Mundi in Rome for renewal before beginning a two-year assignment at the Clinica Moscati.
In 1967, the call that Damien had longed for finally came, and she was assigned to Kabanga Hospital in Tanzania, just in time to celebrate her silver jubilee! She was to dedicate the rest of her life to the patients, the staff and the outreach programmes of the hospital. She started her work with her customary high energy and dedication by donning rubber boots and being driven out to the new villages being developed under President Nyerere’s policy of social change. What she saw – the malnutrition, high mortality rates among children, and lack of access to clean water, clinics, and health education – motivated her to spend the next thirty-five years working for the poor. She organised clinics and vaccination and health education programmes, starting with little but her own determination and energy. She raised funds for vaccines, transport, etc. and began to build what was to become in time one of the best health programmes in Tanzania.
Damien took student nurses from the school and brought them to the clinics, teaching them about public health and mother and child care. How the local women loved Mama Damien! Her energy and enthusiasm drew others to her and helped inspire them in those early days in Tanzania. Her latter years were difficult for her. She found it hard to let go of the projects she had started. She loved Tanzania and wanted to remain there, but ill health finally forced her return to Ireland in 2001. She moved to Áras Mhuire where she died on 24 February 2005. These words from the second reading at her funeral Mass, 2 Tim. 4: 6-9, were so very apt: “I have fought the good fight to the end; I have run the race to the finish; I have kept the faith.”