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In this section of our website, you will find a short entry about the life of each of our Sisters who has been called by God to embark on her eternal life. No doubt you will find inspiration in reading how each one responded to her calling while on earth. We pray to them to help us on our journey.

If you knew one or more of these Sisters personally, or are connected through family ties, or simply like what you read, please contact us and tell us what you would like to add to that entry.

"The death of those can never leave us free from grief whose friendship during life was a solace and delight." Saint Augustine, City of God.

When Loved Ones Leave Us...

Breege Breslin resized aSr. Breege Breslin, baptised Brigid, was born in Ballina, Co. Mayo, Ireland on May 3rd, 1931. She was the seventh child in a family of twelve children, six boys and six girls. All her brothers and sisters pre-deceased her with the exception if one brother, Joe.

Brigid was educated locally in Ballina, first in the local National School and then in the Mercy Convent School for secondary level education. When she was eighteen, she moved to Dublin and found employment in the General Post Office. She had two brothers also working in Dublin at that time, so she had family nearby. She enjoyed life in the city and was a sociable, out-going person, but the idea of a religious vocation was at the back of her mind.
Brigid joined MMM in March 1955. By this stage her older sister, Mary (Sr. Gemma), was already in MMM but Breege always insisted, “Gemma being in MMM had nothing to do with my joining the Congregation”.

Sr Mary Burns MMMSister Mary Burns was born in Moneymore, Co. Derry in 1933. From a family of two girls and one boy, she had her early education in Moneymore and her secondary education in Magherafelt. She began training as a nurse before joining MMM in 1954.  After profession she completed her training as a nurse-midwife in Drogheda and worked there as a staff midwife for almost two years.

In 1963 Mary was assigned to the Clinica Mediterranea in Naples, Italy, where she served for six years. This was a busy general hospital staffed by MMM. She worked in the neonatal department and then as a general nurse. She had to learn Italian but mastered it very quickly. She returned to Ireland in 1969 and worked as night sister in the IMTH (now Our Lady of Lourdes Hospital) for six years. During her time in the IMTH Mary completed a diploma in social and economic studies in the Drogheda Technical College. In 1976 she completed a diploma in religious studies in Maynooth.

Sr Gemma Breslin2c MMM 1Sister Gemma was born Mary Breslin in Curroy, Ballina, County Mayo in 1923, the third in a family of twelve children. After completing two years of post-primary education in Ballina, she attended vocational school in Castlerea, County Roscommon. She worked in her aunt’s hotel in Castlerea as a receptionist and manageress for seven years and was very successful, developing her innate ability to relate with people. She met Bishop Thomas McGettrick and Sister Magdalene O’ Rourke, MMM, and heard many stories about the missions overseas and the needs there. Mary was an active member of the Castlerea Red Cross and other organizations before joining MMM in 1945. Her decision came as a great shock to her family.

After her first profession she helped in the Spiritan (Holy Ghost) seminary in Kimmage, Dublin for two years. During that time Gemma met Bishop Joseph Kiwanuka, who came to Ireland in 1950 to ask for Sisters to staff a hospital in his diocese in Uganda. He told her that he had asked many congregations to come to Masaka, but they had all said no. The next day he would be going to ask Mother Mary. Sister Gemma promised to pray that Mother Mary would agree.

In 1951 she was assigned to join Sisters Margaret Garnett and Evangelist O’Connor in beginning a new mission in Kabanga, Tanganyika –now Tanzania. That foundation group remained firm friends all their lives. Gemma was a real homemaker for all the missionaries as well as the MMM community. She was also responsible for the administration, fundraising and accounting as the mission developed into a general hospital with general nursing and midwifery training schools.

In 1955, Sister Gemma was one of the pioneers who would make Bishop Kiwanuka’s dream come true. She was asked to help begin MMM’s first foundation in Uganda, at Kitovu, on a hill above Masaka. Once again a hospital was started as well as a number of outstations. Later, services were developed for people affected by HIV/AIDS and for women with obstetric fistula that became models for other countries.

When Bishop Jobidon of the White Fathers requested Sisters for a new foundation in Mzuzu, northern Nyasaland (now Malawi), Gemma joined Sisters Edel Weir and Maria Goretti O’Conor in yet another country in 1961. Saint John’s Hospital gradually developed into the regional hospital for northern Malawi, with midwifery and general nurse training schools. Local nurses were proud to say that they were trained in Saint John’s. In the early years Gemma drove the staff to the outstations, which provided an opportunity to relate with the local people and learn their language and culture. During this time Gemma attended the first MMM General Chapter in Ireland in 1962.

In 1974 she went to Nkhata Bay, on the shores of Lake Malawi, as housekeeper and bursar, but she was soon elected a general councillor in MMM Congregational Administration for a five-year term. Following a course in community development she returned to Mzuzu in 1981 as projects secretary and Sister-in-charge of the community.

In 1987 the Propagation of the Faith accepted the resignation of Bishop Jobidon. He had invited MMM to Malawi and was a wonderful support to them and all missionaries. Father John Roche, SPS, was appointed as apostolic administrator of the diocese.

At this time the Malawi Episcopal Conference was becoming more concerned about the plight of the poor in the country. Education and health care facilities were inadequate. Archbishop Chiona, chairman of the conference, suggested that a pastoral letter be written, addressing human rights and good governance.  All the bishops and the apostolic administrator of Mzuzu agreed. Tensions developed between church and state and Mzuzu Diocese was greatly affected. On Good Friday, 17 April 1992, Mgr. Roche was given twenty-four hours to leave the country. He was expelled along with other Irish missionaries. Sister Gemma and other religious women and men joined the convoy of cars that accompanied him to the Zambian border on Holy Saturday. Gemma’s wisdom, motherly care and trust in God were a source of calm and hope for many during this turbulent time.

Gemma became the mother figure of Mzuzu Diocese. Local people, religious, and lay missionaries from various countries and religions found a sacred space in Mzuzu. She had her office away from the hospital, at the side of the convent. The door was always open and she was ready to receive anyone anyone who needed a listening ear and time. The warmth of her hospitality often gave new life to flagging spirits as they enjoyed ‘Gemma’s infamous scones’.

Serving as bursar and visiting the sick whenever possible, Gemma remained in Mzuzu until 2000, when MMM handed over the administration of Saint John’s Hospital to the diocese. She retired to the MMM community in Lilongwe before returning to Ireland in 2001.

She spent the next four years in the Motherhouse, helping where necessary and being a friend to many returned missionaries. Her health continued to deteriorate and in August 2005 she transferred to Áras Mhuire for extra care. The staff loved Gemma and found her to be ‘totally undemanding ‘and a joy to care for. Missionaries who worked in Malawi often visited her. As verbal communication became difficult, her gracious smile communicated peace, joy and appreciation for the care she received.

Sister Gemma died very peacefully in Áras Mhuire on 22 February 2018. Her sister, Sister Breege, MMM, was with her, as were her long-time friend Sister Jude, Áras Mhuire staff members, and other MMMs. Her funeral was a reunion of the extended family and friends who had always supported her missionary work through their prayer and financial support. It was a real celebration of her life of service.

In her family, Gemma learned the virtues, values, and skills that marked her life: concern for others through caring and sharing, total self-giving, managerial skills and patience. We received many messages of condolence and stories of happy memories of Sister Gemma from the Bishop of Mzuzu and missionaries who had worked with her.

Nationality: Irish
Congregational Register No: 102
D.O.B. 28.05.1923
First Profession: 18.03.1946
Died: 03.10.1996 Aged: 73 years

Kathleen, from Newry, Co. Down, came to MMM on 30 August 1943. Her forte was in secretarial work. She helped in the MMM Magazine Office in the early days and in bookkeeping, but being the versatile person she was, promotion work was also among her talents.

Sr. M. Della Strada BreslinNationality: Irish
Congregational Register No: 258
D.O.B. 26.04.1908
First Profession: 06.04.1953
Died: 05.10.1983 Aged: 75 years
Dublin born Agnes Mary entered MMM in Drogheda on 1 August 1950. She was very musical and belonged to Our Lady's Choral Society, along with Sr. Eithne Fay, before she entered.

Sr Mairead ButterlyMMMSister Mairead was born Maire Eilish in Dublin in 1946 and joined MMM in 1964. After profession she trained as a social worker at University College Dublin, obtaining an Honours B. Soc. Sc. Degree. In 1970 she founded and worked in the Community Services Centre in Drogheda.

In 1972 Mairead was assigned to Kenya and for two and a half years she was coordinator of women’s development in Eldoret Diocese, working to improve the quality of life of local women. This was followed by two years in social work in the IMTH (Our Lady of Lourdes Hospital) in Drogheda and in mission awareness.

Sister Louis Marie was born Mary Elizabeth Brett in County Sligo, Ireland in 1926. Known as ‘May’, she attended her early education in Tubbercurry, County Sligo. She then helped on the family farm.

At the age of twenty-four she moved to Dublin and worked for three years as a governess for a Jewish family. When their mother died, she returned home to care for her younger siblings and look after the farm housekeeping.

Sr du Sacre Coeur Byrne MMMSister du Sacre Coeur was born Mary Julie Byrne in Dublin on 22 April 1927. From a family of five, two boys and three girls, she was known as ‘May’ by her family. After attending local schools she completed a commercial course in shorthand, typing and bookkeeping. For seven years, May worked as a secretary and bookkeeper, or personal assistant as it would be known today, to a solicitor in Dublin. When she told him she had decided to join MMM in February 1952 he was sorry she was leaving.

After first profession Sister du Sacre Coeur worked in the magazine office in Drogheda. In 1958 she was assigned to Nigeria, where she served as secretary, bursar and social worker in Ogoja, where MMM provided services for people affected by Hansen’s disease (leprosy).

Nationality: American
Congregational Register No. 532
D.O.B. 15.08.1934
First Profession 08.09.1957
Died: 01.02.2004 Aged: 69 years
Mary Ann Brow, the eldest daughter of seven children, grew up in Braintree, Massachusetts, USA. She spent much of her early life on bed-rest, recovering from four bouts of rheumatic fever. During this period she dreamed of working with children and occupied herself by sketching pictures of children of different nationalities.

PATRICIA BYRNE resized for obitSister Patricia was born in Dunboyne, Co. Meath in February 1933. She had her early education locally and then went on to study in Dublin in book-keeping and secretarial skills. She entered MMM in 1958. Even during her initial religious formation, Sister Patricia was already working in the I.M.T.H. (Our Lady of Lourdes Hospital) in Stores and later in administration. Soon after her First Profession, she switched over to the Lourdes Maternity Hospital where she worked as a medical secretary and in charge of records.

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