Ward, Sr. Ann

Ward, Sr. Ann

Sr Ann Ward MMMSister Ann was born in Lifford, Co. Donegal in 1929, the youngest of three children. She attended her early education in Donegal, Dublin and Monaghan and joined the Medical Missionaries of Mary in 1947. After profession she studied medicine in University College Dublin and obtained a Master of Obstetrics from the National Maternity Hospital.

Her first assignment was to Anua, Nigeria in 1959 and she served there for six years, with two years in charge of the maternity and gynaecology units. She then completed postgraduate studies at the Hammersmith Hospital in London, obtaining an MRCOG in 1968. She later obtained an FMCOG (Nigeria), an FRCOG, and became a Fellow of the Royal College of Physicians in Ireland in 1997.

Sister Ann returned to Nigeria in early 1968 and first spent six months in Ibadan. She worked for a short time in Ogoja and then served in Calabar until early 1970. In November 1970 she was back in Anua as a consultant in obstetrics and gynaecology and she was also medical superintendent. From 1980 she was chief consultant in obstetrics and gynaecology.

In 1990 she established the Family Life Centre/VVF Hospital in Itam, not far from Anua. This facility, the first of its kind in Nigeria, provides services for women affected by gynaecological fistulae. These fistulae usually result from prolonged, obstructed labour and often affect young women with their first pregnancy. The Centre includes accommodation and education because some women need several operations. Ann received many awards for developing techniques in fistula repair and was invited to international conferences to demonstrate these procedures. She moved to Itam in 1997.

In 2005 Sr. Ann was presented with an honorary fellowship from the Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland in recognition of her specialized surgical work in the cure of vesico-vaginal fistulae. She was in Ireland for a year for health reasons and renewal and then went back to Itam. She returned to Ireland at the end of 2006. She moved to the nursing facility, Áras Mhuire, in July 2008 for ongoing nursing care. She died there peacefully on 28 May 2016.

Ann had musical gifts, including a beautiful singing voice. A great fan of Daniel O’Donnell, she greatly appreciated a visit the singer made to the Sisters and staff of Áras Mhuire. She also enjoyed playing golf.  

Sister Trinitas McMullan, who worked with Ann for many years in Nigeria, said that Ann always attributed the success of the work in Itam to good team work. Trinitas spoke of Ann’s spirituality and how she received great consolation and peace from the Divine Office. She had a great love for Our Lady.

At her funeral Mass, her nephew, John, spoke on behalf of the family and shared many stories of her visits on home leave, including some hair-raising car journeys with Ann as the driver. At the request of her nieces, ‘The Homes of Donegal’, sung by Daniel O’Donnell, was played as Ann was taken out on her final journey.