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Number 176 - August/September 2017
In August and September, our attention is drawn to several issues that affect us at global level. The special gift (charism) of healing that we hold as MMMs, MMM Associates and staff unfolds as we reflect on and respond to these issues – the ‘signs of the times’ (Gaudium et Spes, 4). Our current MMM Congregational Plan lays special emphasis on this reflection.
International Youth Day, on 12 August, is dedicated to ‘celebrating young people’s contributions to conflict prevention and transformation as well as [to] inclusion, social justice, and sustainable peace’ (UN website). The UN website notes that ‘there is growing recognition that as agents of change, young people’s inclusion in the peace and security agenda and in society more broadly, is key to building and sustaining peace.’
MMMs around the world, many in areas of great conflict and violence, engage with youth in peace-building activities, such as workshops, support groups and by participation in marches for peace.
We also note International Day for the Remembrance of the Slave Trade and its Abolition on 23 August. The date was chosen because on that night in 1791, an uprising in Santo Domingo (present-day Haiti and the Dominican Republic) played a crucial role in the abolition of the transatlantic slave trade.
The UNESCO website says that the day is intended ‘to inscribe the tragedy of the slave trade in the memory of all peoples’. This should encourage us to work for the abolition of modern forms of slavery, including trafficking in persons. The means used in both forms of slavery differ greatly, but both involve the violation of human rights and dignity. Millions of people today, mainly women and children, are victims of this crime.
MMMs in several countries are involved in activities to prevent trafficking in persons and to support those affected.
‘One child, one teacher, one book, and one pen, can change the world’ (Malala Yousafzai).
The aim of International Literacy Day on 8 September is ‘to promote literacy as an instrument to empower individuals, communities and societies’. Literacy is essential for full participation in society. In the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, ‘the vision of literacy is aligned with lifelong learning opportunities with special focus on youth and adults’ (UNESCO website).
Through our generous supporters, MMMs provide resources, especially for young people, to complete basic education and find employment. Being able to support themselves and their families builds self esteem and makes them less vulnerable to exploitation from false promises of a better life elsewhere.
The theme of International Day of Peace on 21 September is ‘Together for Peace: Respect, Safety and Dignity for All’.
United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres stated, ‘In times of insecurity, communities that look different become convenient scapegoats. We must resist cynical efforts to divide communities and portray neighbours as “the other”. Discrimination diminishes us all. It prevents people — and societies — from achieving their full potential.... Together, let us transform fear into hope.’
The message this year will be shared with communities hosting refugees and migrants, and people concerned that refugees and migrants may bring physical and economic insecurity to their lives. It is important to acknowledge and address the legitimate concerns of host communities. Ultimately, it is about bringing people together and reminding us of our common humanity.
In this newsletter we include a tribute to the life of Doctor John V. Kelly, obstetrician and gynaecologist, who died on 4 July 2017. An internationally renowned clinician and teacher, he generously made his skills available to us, our staff and to many in great need.
In May, thirteen women completed the School of the Lord’s Service as part of their discernment for final commitment in the Medical Missionaries of Mary. We have a description of this challenging experience. There is also a story from Nigeria that shows how the quality of life for families can be improved when there is adequate access to maternal and child health care - still not the reality for far too many in today’s world.
Thank you again for your interest and support, which help to bring God’s healing to so many. We remember you in prayer each day and wish you health and peace. Please pray for us, too.
Sister Carol Breslin, MMM
'I do not want the peace which passeth understanding, I want the understanding which bringeth peace' (Helen Kelleher).
John V. Kelly, MD 1926-2017
Many MMMs, AMMMs, staff and friends will have known and worked with Doctor John Vincent Kelly, obstetrician and gynaecologist, who generously shared his skills with us in Nigeria and Tanzania over many years. We were sorry to hear the news that Doctor Kelly died aged 90 on 4 July 2017 in Phoenix, Arizona, from complications of Parkinson’s disease. He had been in a nursing home for the last four years. The obituary composed by his family, mainly by his son, John, aptly described him as an ‘internationally renowned doctor, clinician, professor, mentor, father, grandfather and faithful and tireless servant of the poor and sick.’
It notes that Doctor Kelly was born in London, Ontario, Canada to Irish immigrant parents. Raised in Grosse Pointe, Michigan, he joined the Navy at 18, serving as an electronic technician’s mate until the end of World War II. He then obtained a BSc from the University of Michigan and an MD from Wayne State University. He did his obstetrics and gynaecology training in New York City and completed his residency in 1955. During that time the United States was involved in the Korean War and he was a ship’s doctor for the Coast Guard and a medical officer for the Army.He then became a research fellow in gynaecology at the Free Hospital for Women in Brookline, MA, and at Harvard Medical School, where he worked with experts in the field of human reproduction. He was awarded a Fulbright scholarship and completed his fellowship in Stockholm, Sweden in 1957.
In 1958, John Kelly became an instructor and then assistant professor in obstetrics and gynaecology at UCLA School of Medicine, where he taught until 1964. During this time that he met and married France Marie le Grand de Mercey, a vibrant French oil painter who was teaching at the Santa Catalina School in Monterey, CA. Their romance endured for over 30 years, until France’s untimely death in 1992.
Generous with his talents With his wife and young son, John, Doctor Kelly went to Anua, Nigeria in 1964 and worked in obstetrics and gynaecology at Saint Luke’s Hospital. In 1967, after the birth of their second child, Manou, and with the outbreak of the Biafran War, the Kellys returned to the USA, where Doctor Kelly became Director of Medical Education and Professor of Obstetrics and Gynaecology at the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine. He wrote numerous medical articles and received awards including the Lindbach Award for Distinguished Teaching and the Stanley Cohen Biomedical Research Award. He and France Marie had two more children, Cecilia and Marc.
In 1975, the family moved to Phoenix, Arizona, where Doctor Kelly became Chairman of the Department of Obstetrics and Gynaecology at Maricopa Medical Center and a professor of obstetrics and gynaecology at the University of Arizona Medical School. He developed a residency programme between Maricopa Medical Center and Saint Joseph’s Hospital that attracted medical students from around the United States. He was also a visiting professor at several universities and served on the boards of numerous organizations. He was president of the Catholic Physician’s Guild for several and was named Catholic Physician of the Year in 1990.
A man of varied interests He found time to be a reader and usher in his parish and in his later years cycled to daily Mass. A long-distance runner, he participated in the New Times 10K Marathon at age 60. He coached his sons’ soccer teams to state and regional championships.
When Doctor Kelly ‘retired’ in 1996, Makiungu, Tanzania was to benefit from his many gifts. He again contacted MMM and asked if there was a place where he could contribute. In 2004, Sister Marian Scena, who was then Medical Officer-in-Charge, said, ‘Since 1996, Dr. Kelly has spent between four and eight months every year with us, passing on his skills, experience and wisdom to the other medical staff at the hospital. He is very popular and has developed a large practice dealing with problems of infertility. He has also helped to train our younger Sister-doctors in obstetrics and gives them the encouragement and confidence to go forward for advanced study in this very difficult field. Apart from sharing generously his medical and surgical skills, Doctor Kelly has used every opportunity to talk with friends and colleagues about Makiungu.’ Part of his legacy in Makiungu is the hospital ward that he funded, named ‘The JVK Ward’ in his honour.
Doctor Kelly is survived by his children John, Manou, Cecilia and Marc, and twelve grandchildren. In lieu of flowers, the family asked that donations be made in Doctor Kelly’s name to MMM. We are grateful for our long association with Doctor John Kelly and his legacy continues in the countless lives he touched in such a variety of ways. We send our sympathies and gratitude to his family.
The Samaritan woman: An open mind, courage and thirst
Saint John's Gospel relates the encounter of Jesus with a woman of Samaria as he rests at a well during a tiring journey. Little did the woman know that her routine trek to draw water would lead to Jesus' revelation of himself as Messiah and a radical transformation of her life (Jn 4:4-29).
In 2017, thirteen MMMs from four countries of origin completed the School of the Lord’s Service (SOLS), held in Ngaramtoni, Tanzania. This time of renewal and exploration is part of preparation for final commitment as a Medical Missionary of Mary.Held a few years after first commitment, Sisters have usually completed their basic studies and had some time on mission in another culture. Using the theme of the Samaritan woman, the participants were invited to a deeper relationship with Jesus and to a deeper knowledge of themselves and the MMM way of life.
Sisters Chibuzo Joy Aloka and Miranilza dos Santos compiled a reflection on behalf of the group just before they returned to their countries of mission.
‘On 18 February 2017, the SOLS participants: Pauline Kongo, Jacinta Mahakwe, Margaret Nakafu, Cecilia Kanulor, Josephine Ezior, Obianuju Egwuatu, Chibuzo Aloka, Vivian Igwe, Theresa Adewole, Miranilza dos Santos, Juliet Ezekwere, Jacinta Okechukwu and Nwanneka Uduh, arrived in Ngaramtoni. We were warmly welcomed by our MMM Sisters and the AMMMs of Ngaramtoni Community. Our three facilitators: Sisters Ekaete Ekop, Maria José da Silva and Helen Omeya, were already waiting to greet us at the edge of “The Well of SOLS”. This made us feel at home in Tanzania after our journey from our different mission countries: Honduras, Kenya, Uganda, Ireland, Brazil and Nigeria.
‘At our opening liturgy our facilitators dramatized the story of Jesus and the Samaritan woman at the well. Like her, we began to thirst for the living water that enabled us to embrace every activity that unfolded throughout the three months’ programme. From this point, each one of us began a personal conversation with Jesus. These conversations developed each day as we accompanied one another on the journey.
‘Listening to one another’s stories facilitated mutual acceptance and reverence, creating the bond we needed as a group. The variety of nationalities brought diversity into this extraordinary adventure, enriching our time together and creating a beautiful tapestry. We deepened our appreciation of our common roots in Benedictine spirituality. Discussions on eco-spirituality intensified our connection with the whole of creation. Visits to different non-governmental organizations that work with vulnerable people gave us opportunities to be in solidarity with the marginalized and expanded our ideas on how to give varied expression to our healing charism [gift].’
Chibuzo and Nilza said that there were opportunities to teach and learn from one another by presenting seminars and debates. They explored topics such as participating in Jesus’ healing mission, expression of the MMM charism in community and ministry, formation of the MMM woman in the 21st century and internationality. They were shown how to appraise these presentations and gained more confidence with practice. They shared skills such as making cards and dressmaking.
A time for self-discovery and acceptance The reflection continued: ‘The turning point for the Samaritan woman was recognizing Jesus as the Messiah. Our own turning point occurred during the workshop on the Transformation Process, facilitated by Father Donal Dorr and Rosanna Bradley. In this process, our gifts, vulnerabilities, struggles and realities were more vividly revealed. It took courage to engage with these discoveries, but they gave us renewed energy and willingness to give ourselves fully in our various missions.
‘The “Well of SOLS” was the source of reflection on the heart of our identity as MMMs in the present day. It became clearer that the “why” of our actions (the core of who we are) flows out into the “what” (the visible activities). This enabled us to develop more compassion in our relationships with one another - to bring about authentic community living, vibrant meaningful ministries and relevant responses to today’s realities. Each of us – participants and facilitators - was individually and collectively part of the experience. It was more of an experiential rather than an intellectual journey, giving it more impact on our lives.’
Sister Mary Ann MacRae, from the Congregational Leadership Team, visited for several days and gave valuable input on communicating the MMM story. The participants reflected on our MMM heritage and the implications of our Mission Statement.
‘Every morning as we went for Mass at the parish, we were saluted from behind our house by Mount Meru, which was sometimes gloriously snow-capped. In our visits to the Arusha Cultural Heritage Centre and Manyara National Park, we enjoyed the uniqueness and beauty of the vast wildlife and the beautiful landscape of this Land of Kilimanjaro.
‘Sixteen women leave this beautiful country, the “Soul of Africa”, with the joy and enthusiasm of the Samaritan woman. As women who allow ourselves to be loved passionately by God, we become channels of Christ’s healing love in the world. By listening, being present and sharing our lives with others, we will help them to discover within themselves the light and healing that is God’s gift.
‘We are grateful to the Congregational Leadership Team, our wider MMM family, our friends and generous benefactors for making this special time possible. May God bless you all!’
Reflection and response
Sister Eunice Okobia is on mission in Abuja, in the north of Nigeria. She recently wrote about the challenges that many women face in gaining access to basic health care. These have further impacts on the health of their families and communities. Because MMM’s special concern is the care of mother and child and the fostering of family life, our Sisters in Abuja have made the provision of basic maternity care a priority.
‘Mrs. Ibrahim lives near Gosa, one of the villages where we go to for outreach. She had had four births at home and all the infants had died within twenty-four hours of delivery. She said they all had the same problem: when she delivered, the babies would not cry and after a few hours they died. One day in June 2013, Mrs. Ibrahim and her baby were rushed to our clinic at about 4:00 p.m., several hours after delivery. The mother was bleeding heavily. The baby was alive but had not cried. Thankfully the Sisters and two other staff members were still around. By then the rest had gone home.
‘Mrs. Ibrahim was prepared to bleed to death as long as her baby survived. When we brought her inside, one of us looked after the baby, clearing the airway and trying to stimulate breathing.
'Another Sister attended to the mother, attempting to find the cause of the bleeding, but the woman would not cooperate. Afraid that this baby would die like others, she begged us to concentrate on him. Thank God, within ten or fifteen minutes the baby cried. The mother’s joy was restored immediately she heard her baby’s cry.
‘By this time the cause of the bleeding had been discovered. The mother had not expelled the placenta and she had a large tear. She was so happy that she was not even aware of the treatment she received. The whole family were happy, as were the neighbors, who hung around the clinic waiting for news. When Mrs. Ibrahim recovered we encouraged her to attend the antenatal clinic for subsequent pregnancies and to bring the baby for child welfare.’
An all-too-frequent experience ‘It was after this incident in 2013 that we MMMs in our Abuja community requested approval to start a comprehensive maternity service in the local clinic. As we awaited approval from our Congregational Leadership Team (CLT), we continued to attend to other complications from home deliveries, such as vesico-vaginal fistula. When we went from village to village to educate people on the importance of delivering at the hospital, they told us that they could not afford the hospital bills. We wanted one of our policies to be making the maternity services accessible and affordable for the poor and the vulnerable.
‘In 2016, Guidelines for the Provision of Maternity Services in MMM Apostolates were issued. Our plans were in keeping with the guidelines and we received approval for this new ministry. In February 2017 we had the official opening of our maternity unit. His Eminence John Cardinal Onaiyekan, Archbishop of Abuja, officiated. He encouraged us to make our maternity available for both rich and poor so it would be sustainable. We in Abuja community are happy to be the first to implement the MMM comprehensive maternity policies in the West Africa Area. We encourage other communities to follow.
‘Illustrating the benefits of accessible maternal care, we are happy to present Baby Oluchi (above), a girl, the first baby to be delivered at the new facility. Not long after, Baby Emmanuel (left) was delivered on 4 April 2017, the 80th anniversary of our MMM foundation. Indeed, God is with us.’
An issue of human rights In May 2017, a report was submitted to the Special Rapporteur on Health at the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights in Geneva.'1 Prepared by Ms. Maureen Gilbert, author and writer, and Ms. Bríd McGrath, researcher, it was titled: ‘Special Rapporteur on the right of everyone to the enjoyment of the highest attainable standard of physical and mental health.’
The following is the Executive Summary. A link follows to the full report.
Fulfilling the human rights of women with obstetric fistula
Executive summary Obstetric fistula is a devastating but easily preventable childbirth injury caused by prolonged, obstructed labour. At present it affects around two million women, mostly in sub-Saharan Africa and Asia. Obstetric fistula can cause both urinary and faecal incontinence, as well as often resulting in psychosocial (mental health) difficulties, mobility impairment (in about 20% of cases) and a host of adverse economic and social consequences, including stigmatisation and isolation from families and communities, and lack of development.
The denial of human rights is both cause and consequence of obstetric fistula. Poverty is the main underlying cause. Younger, poorer, less well-educated, first-time mothers living in rural parts of developing or emerging countries – or women whose lives encompass any or most of these factors – are the most likely to develop the condition, especially in societies in which the views of men, or traditional healers, are likely to trump those of women in childbirth.
Most attention to date has focussed on achieving surgical repair. The serious psychosocial effects of obstetric fistula, the need for community education and reintegration and, critically, human rights-based prevention strategies and actions, have received less attention, as has the role of men, and the status of women with fistula as people with disabilities. Even in the area of repair, progress is slow. Most women who endure obstetric fistula today will die without receiving the necessary surgery.
The withdrawal of US Government funding from UNFPA threatens to weaken the situation further. Given the extent of obstetric fistula and its devastating effects on women, in the light of the SDGs and in clear recognition of the condition as a human rights abuse, this paper urges the Special Rapporteur and the Human Rights Council to assume vigorous and determined leadership on this issue, and for ensuring that affected States are both supported and held to account for their actions to eradicate it.
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