Sister Fergal Kenna, MMM
02th March, 1928—01st October, 2021
Sr. Fergal was born in Portarlington, County Laois, the daughter of Vera (née Whelan) and Michael Kenna. She was baptised Mary Josephine and was known as Mary. Her early education was with the Mercy Sisters in Monasterevan and from there she joined the Civil Service and worked for fifteen years in the Department of Posts and Telegraphs. She enjoyed the work but always felt called to do more with her life. A chance encounter with Mother Mary Martin in the Post Office in Balbriggan where Mary worked changed the whole course of her life.
Ever since Mother Mary Martin set off by canoe to visit villages in the delta area of Nigeria transport has always been a major factor in delivering health services. Many roads in the areas of Africa where we work are not tarred. Often, they are mud roads, or tarred in the past but tropical rain causes large pot holes. Vehicles need to be tough – and so do the sisters!! MMMs are often assigned to some of the world’s most remote and poor areas. Access to these areas is a challenge that like many things, the MMMs have to overcome on a minimal budget. Ever resourceful, MMMs use whatever they can find to get them where they need to go often in an emergency or urgent situation.
MMM uses trucks, pickups, and land rovers where necessary. In the early days, bicycles were in common use for students going to college in Dublin. There was great excitement in 1960 when the Archbishop of Dublin gave the Sisters the gift of two motor scooters for this purpose. Bicycles are still often used for visits when roads are impassable. They can also be adapted to serve as stretchers for carrying patients in areas where an ambulance cannot pass.
In the more remote areas, like the desert area of Turkana in Kenya where MMM ministered for many years, there were no roads at all. Some of the Sisters learnt to fly small planes so that they could carry medical supplies and patients for treatment. Sr. Nina Underwood was nicknamed “The Flying Nun”! In Ethiopia, lack of roads saw the Sisters take to riding mules on the mountain tracks.
Other areas are challenged by water. Sometimes the rivers rise, flooding the roads. Ambulances and trucks stop, the journey continues by foot to the river bank and small boats are used to ferry people and supplies across the river for yet another walk on the far side until reaching some form of transport again. Bridges are also often swept away as the rivers rise.
Wherever we go, whatever we do, we will use whatever means of transport that is available to reach out to those in need. Planes, ships and trains bring Sisters from their home countries to the most needy areas. But that is just the start of the journey…
Since the early years when our MMM’s Founder Mother Mary Martin began the Congregation in 1937, the Sisters have been in the news and making headlines. Mainly because of our overseas work and pioneering spirit, the Sisters are often featured in news or media stories.
Here is a sample of some of the stories told about MMM Sisters in the news.
Sister Sheila along with other walkers taking “Steps for Hope.”
Medical Missionaries of Mary’s new awareness event for Lent (Drogheda Life)
The former Bakhita House, in Malden, Massachusetts, was home to human trafficking survivors
and the sisters from Boston congregations who helped them recover. >>> more
MMMs are global medical missionaries Sisters. We make a difference in the world by bringing healing to those in most need. The Congregation’s name is the Medical Missionaries of Mary. This means that, like Mary, we go in haste to care for the most vulnerable. We provide holistic healthcare with a particular care for women and children. As Missionaries we are “sent forth” to serve in our world, often deeply and violently divided.
In 1937 by Dublin-born Mother Mary Martin founded the Congregation. She responded to the need she saw as a young lay missionary in Nigeria. Today we strive to ease poverty and suffering throughout the world, inspired by the same Gospel values. Most MMMs train in professions linked to some area of healthcare or social services. This gives us specific skills to bring to the communities we serve. Our particular concern is the health of mothers and children and the promotion of family life.
Today we are over 300 members of the Congregation. We carry on the vision of Mother Mary Martin, present among peoples of other cultures, religions and ideologies. We create medical, social and religious projects which enhance the quality of life for people who are suffering. We are funded by Donor agencies, individuals, families and groups. We also receive help from governments of various countries as well as service-user fees. We are deeply grateful to all these donors who enable us to provide health care and other social programmes.
Today, any concept of Mission today involves collaboration. We work with other organizations and institutions in our relief of suffering and care for our planet. MMM Associates and co-workers work with the Sisters to create a world of justice, love and peace.
MMMs provide different services at different locations in response to local needs. We provide quality, affordable health care to those who most need it. We work to empower local people to take responsibility for their own health.