MMM Communications, Rosemount, Booterstown, Dublin. Ireland. Tel :353-1-2887180 Fax:353-1-2834626 To contact MMM Email:
Number 189 - January/February 2019
May all our readers experience the blessings of peace and healing in 2019. We warmly welcome all our new readers as we begin a new year and continue to share the story of the Medical Missionaries of Mary.
We celebrate World Day of Peace on 1 January. In his message for 2019, Pope Francis uses the theme ‘Good politics is at the service of peace,’ and reminds us that ‘bringing peace is central to the mission of Christ’s disciples. That peace is offered to all those men and women who long for peace amid the tragedies and violence that mark human history....We know that the thirst for power at any price leads to abuses and injustice. Politics is an essential means of building human community and institutions, but when political life is not seen as a form of service to society as a whole, it can become a means of oppression, marginalization and even destruction.’
As we observe the centenary of the end of the First World War, Pope Francis asks us to ‘remember the young people killed in those battles and the civilian populations torn apart ... Peace can never be reduced solely to a balance between power and fear. To threaten others is to lower them to the status of objects and to deny their dignity ... [A]n escalation of intimidation, and the uncontrolled proliferation of arms, is contrary to morality and the search for true peace.’
Francis is also conscious of ‘children currently living in areas of conflict, and all those who work to protect their lives and defend their rights. One out of every six children in our world is affected by the violence of war or its effects, even when they are not enrolled as child soldiers or held hostage by armed groups. The witness given by those who work to defend them and their dignity is most precious for the future of humanity.’
This day is also the Feast of Mary, Mother of God. In her Magnificat, that radical hymn of God's praise, Mary proclaims: ‘You have shown strength with your arm. You have scattered the proud in their hearts’ fantasy. You have put down the mighty from their seats, and have lifted up the powerless’ (Lk 1:50-52 Mother Thunder Mission). Mary was a woman familiar with many of today's issues. After her son was born, she and Joseph set up house in Bethlehem. Jesus wasn't even two years old when the family had to flee by night to escape the threats of a tyrant and became refugees in Egypt. (Mt 2:1-16) Mary had many questions to ponder in her heart.
On 27 January, MMM Sisters and Associates celebrate the life of Mother Mary Martin, foundress of the Medical Missionaries of Mary, who died on this day in Drogheda, Ireland in 1975. As a young woman she felt called to commit her life to the service of God and others through a ministry of healing. It took many years of searching and suffering to discover what this commitment would entail.
International Day of Prayer against Human Trafficking is held on 8 February. The December 2018 Bulletin of the Global Alliance against Traffic in Women pointed out that ‘a migrant worker can be a trafficked person and a refugee, an asylum seeker, a smuggled migrant, [or] a person in a situation of forced labour...The same person may have all these identities.'
Its editor suggested that ‘we need to change the way we use our power. From the more traditional way of using our power to control others, we will need to learn to use our power with others. This is easier said than done. It requires continuous self-reflection and self-correction to be able to do that....No single group on their own can effect the change that is needed ... There is a need to build and strengthen movements across issues and across sectoral and geographical borders.’
On 11 February, two related events occur that have special significance for MMMs and Associates. The Feast of Our Lady of Lourdes reminds us of a place to which, for over 160 years, pilgrims have travelled in search of healing of every kind. Many who do not find physical healing often come away with a sense of great peace and acceptance.
World Day of the Sick is a special day to remember and offer prayers for those who are ill and for those who work to alleviate their sufferings. Saint John Paul II initiated the day in 1992, a year after he was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease.
In this newsletter you can read about two women, contemporaries of Marie Martin, who were also pioneers in nursing and helped to advance opportunities for women. MMM Associates exhibit the balance of reflection and action that characterize our spirituality. There are stories about MMMs who are bringing stakeholders together to combat human trafficking.
Thank you for all the ways in which you have worked with us to bring healing to others, especially in 2018. We remember you in prayer each day. Please pray for us, too.
Sr. Carol Breslin, MMM
‘There is a land of the living and a land of the dead and the bridge is love, the only survival, the only meaning’ (Thornton Wilder, writer).
Women Called to a Life of Healing
In 1952, our foundress, Mother Mary Martin, gave a talk in Boston, MA to members of the Guild that supported MMM in the USA. Reflecting on her personal calling she said: ‘When Gallipoli1 was finished, then we were sent to France. From there I came home once again to my happy home. One of my brothers had been killed and the other seriously wounded. But I got the welcome from Mother. She was so glad to have me back. But during that time in France I saw what one can do nursing, as a nurse. I just thought, what a wonderful thing it would be if we could have a group of women dedicated to God, heart and soul, with only one thought, to love Him and to love souls. How this was to be done I’d no idea but that stuck in my mind so I prayed and waited.’
When Mother Mary died on 27 January 1975 she left a legacy of contributions to healthcare, of opportunities for women and men in medicine and nursing, in the education and health of mothers, and in improvements in child health. She was born in the nineteenth century, when opportunities for women to exercise their gifts were few.
As we celebrate her life, we call attention to two of her contemporaries who also felt a call to the love and service of God and humanity. These three women had much in common. All from privileged backgrounds, they defied convention and the expectations of women in their day - and were often dismissed as eccentric, to put it mildly. From different faith traditions, they shared gifts of vision and perseverance – and sadly the fact that much of their inspiration was drawn from their personal experiences of nursing in wartime. We give thanks for all those women and men who have brought, and continue to bring, healing to others - and who have advanced the dignity and rights of women around the world.
Bringing light in the darkness
Considered the foundational philosopher of modern nursing, Florence Nightingale was born in 1820 into a wealthy English family. According to the Encyclopaedia Britannica, she was well-educated, and like many privileged girls of her day, received her schooling at home. Encouraged by her father, she excelled in mathematics and languages.
From a Unitarian tradition, Florence believed she had a calling to reduce human suffering. She felt nursing to be the best way for her to do this, but her family viewed her attempts to seek training as inappropriate for a woman of her standing. Despite their reservations, she eventually enrolled at a school in Germany for short courses. She learned basic nursing skills, the importance of the observation of patients, and the value of good hospital organization. After a short time as superintendent in a small London hospital, Florence realized that she could do more in an institution where she could train nurses. The outbreak of the Crimean War in 1854 initially led her in another direction.
Reports about the incompetent care and terrible facilities for wounded British soldiers led to a public outcry for improved conditions. Asked to lead a group of nurses to work in the hospitals, Florence brought an official party of thirty-eight women to Scutari. She was not welcomed by the medical staff at first, but soon many injured soldiers arrived and overwhelmed the facility. Florence established standards of care, requiring bathing for patients, clean clothing and dressings, adequate food and basic sanitation. Other needs were addressed with assistance for soldiers in writing letters and educational and recreational activities.
When the war ended in 1856, Florence remained until the hospitals were ready to close. She had kept careful records about the running of the Barrack Hospital and causes of illness and death. She designed charts to illustrate her statistics. Unfortunately she contracted ‘Crimean fever’, probably brucellosis, for which no active treatment was available. The effects of the illness continued for twenty-five years, frequently confining her to bed with severe pain.
On her return to England, Florence began her great achievements in reforming health care and nursing. As a result of the data she provided there was a marked improvement in military medical systems. She established the scientifically-based Nightingale School of Nursing at Saint Thomas’ Hospital in London. Opened in 1860, the school made nursing a viable and respectable option for women who desired employment outside the home. A school for midwives was established at King’s College Hospital in 1862. Believing that the most important location for the care of the sick was in the home, she established district nurse training to improve the health of the poor and vulnerable, including those in workhouse infirmaries. Her statistical models and basic nursing concepts remain applicable today. Florence Nightingale died in 1910 and was buried in East Wellow, Hampshire.
Called ‘The American Florence Nightingale’, Anna Caroline Maxwell was inspired by Florence’s example. According to the Jacksonville University website (www.jacksonvilleu.com/blog/nursing/anna-caroline-maxwell), Anna was born in 1851 in Bristol, New York, the eldest daughter of John and Diantha Maxwell. Her father, a Baptist minister, had attended the University of Scotland and Anna studied mainly under his guidance. In 1874, Anna moved to Boston and worked at New England Hospital as a matron. She enrolled in the Boston City Hospital Training School for Nurses in 1878 and received her diploma in 1880. She was hired by Montreal General Hospital to implement a nurse training programme but left after six months to visit hospitals in Europe. In 1881, she became superintendent of Massachusetts General Hospital’s Training School for Nurses.
Anna was a strong advocate for higher education and advancing the nursing curriculum. In 1890, she became superintendent of nursing at Presbyterian Hospital in Manhattan, NY, and established the first school of nursing in New York City. Founded in 1892, nursing students and staff were housed in an unused ward on the top floor of the medical building. Maxwell stayed with the nursing school, which later became the Columbia University School of Nursing, until 1921.
Compassion in times of conflict
During the Spanish-American War in 1898, Anna Maxwell trained and organized 160 nurses to care for soldiers in a hospital in Chickamauga, Georgia. She found poor sanitation and many suffering from malaria, typhoid and measles. Her efforts led to the establishment of the Army Corps of Nurses in 1901.
Shortly after the US entered World War I (WWI) in 1917, Presbyterian Hospital, under its chief surgeon and Anna Maxwell, formed one of the first hospital units for British forces in France. It was situated in Etretat, France, down the coast from where a young Marie Martin had nursed troops near Hardelot the year before. France awarded Anna Maxwell the Medaille de l’Hygiene Publique (Medal of Honor for Public Health).
In WWI, US nurses assigned to military service had no rank and could not direct orders or handle administrative problems, though many remained to assist with relief. Anna Maxwell tried to resolve the issue. Finally, in 1920, officer status was granted to Army Nurse Corps members, though they were not paid as much as the men.
Continuing to serve
Though she retired in 1921, Anna helped to raise funds for a nurses’ residence for Presbyterian Hospital. Opened in 1928, it was named Maxwell Hall in her honor and was used to educate nurses until 1984. Anna Maxwell was a member of the American Red Cross and helped found the American Journal of Nursing. She was named the most influential nurse of the 20th century by the American Nurses Association and was buried with full military honors in Arlington National Cemetery in 1929.
1The Gallipoli Campaign in WWI – 1915-16. Marie nursed soldiers wounded in that campaign.
The editor is grateful to Gerry Brodnitzki for the idea for this article and for some of the photos. A graduate of Columbia University School of Nursing, she is the sister of Sister Margaret Anne Meyer, MMM. Photos of Florence Nightingale are from the Wellcome Collection.
MMM Associates: Bearers of the Gift of Healing
Our MMM Congregational Plan encourages us to increase our awareness of our interconnectness with all creation, caring for our planet, ourselves and others. Many different networks bind us together on our planet. Discoveries about plants show that they communicate with each other via chemicals in the air and soil and through networks of threadlike fungi, continually adapting to the information they receive. So this original 'worldwide web' has been in operation for billions of years – certainly before the emergence of computers and the digital age.
Associates of the Medical Missionaries of Mary (AMMMs) are developing their own webs of communication to share news and lend support to one another. The most recent edition of their newsletter The Narrative, in October 2018, revealed that they are involved in an astonishing array of activities.
We are blessed by the resilience and commitment of our AMMMs in Honduras, who daily experience situations of material poverty and political insecurity. The Marcala and Choloma groups had their first meeting together in April 2018. They described it as a time ‘to share and exchange experiences, activities and opinions about the work we are doing as MMM Associates.’ With our MMM Sisters, they had space to pray, rest and reflect. They talked about what drew them to a deeper living of MMM spirituality and how it helped in their personal growth.
Spiritual and physical exercises, such as Tai Chi, allowed them to connect with nature and reduce stress. On Mother Earth Day, they ‘celebrated the interdependence between people, other living species and our planet.’ They came away refreshed – each with a copy of a retreat booklet based on the spirit of Saint Benedict. One participant wrote after the meeting: ‘I consider all AMMMs as my family.’
All things new
When our Associates in Uganda celebrated together in May 2018, Clotilda Nanteza, an aspirant to the group, was also present. Married to Kasujja Emiliano, she has known MMM since 1983. A trained nurse and counsellor, Clotilda worked in Kitovu Mobile until she retired. She supports women’s groups and does consultancy work in counselling. A founder and member of Saint Benedict’s women’s self-help group, Clotilda was drawn to be an Associate because of MMM’s emphasis on prayer, love for the poor and support for local people. She has ‘zeal to contribute to the healing charism of Jesus’.
Three AMMMs in Rwanda continue to embody the gift of healing in a country that was devastated by war and genocide. Deeply committed to their covenants as Associates, social workers Aloysie Mukamana and Xavier Bizimana and schoolteacher Dominique Ndayisenga have carried on projects with the most vulnerable people in the Kirambi community since MMM handed over to the local diocese in January 2017.
They meet for prayer and celebrate days of special significance for MMM. They organize refresher meetings with Associates in orientation and facilitate contacts with women who feel called to join the MMM Congregation. They were proud to be part of the perpetual profession celebration of Sister Odette Nahayo, the first MMM from Rwanda.
In the spirit of Saint Benedict
In September 2017, AMMMs from England and Ireland spent two days of reflection together in a Benedictine monastery in Rostrevor, Co. Down. As it was for the Associates in Honduras, this was a time for reconnecting. On the whole it was also a time for silence. One participant recognized her first experience of a silent retreat as an opportunity to hear God’s voice. She now tries to create a ‘silent space’ in her life each day.
The schedule included prayer five times a day and talks on the theme of mercy. Anticipating the World Meeting of Families in Ireland in 2018, they discussed the importance of family and of celebrating and treasuring all families. The life of a Benedictine monk is one of prayer, reading, study and work, striving to live every moment in an awareness of God’s presence. The retreatants were encouraged to think about their presence to God, self and others. The retreat was also an opportunity to reconnect with nature and to be aware of the beauty that surrounds us.
Co-responsibility as part of interconnectedness
In England, AMMM Mary Bradley is an ambassador for fair trade. In 2008 Falmouth was the first town in Cornwall to be awarded Fair Trade Status by the Fair Trade Foundation. A steering group is essential but two years ago the leaders of the town’s Fair Trade group either relocated or could no longer commit their time and interest. Mary joined two other members of St. Mary Immaculate Parish to work with the town council to promote the local sale and use of Fair Traded (FT) goods. Producers of FT goods are paid a just wage, with an added FT premium that they use in community projects. The Fair Trade Mark independently certifies that products meet economic, social and environmental standards.
The steering group ran a campaign about fair trade. The work of the group, now with four members, has been acknowledged at Council meetings. Municipal buildings have been made available for activities. As a result, the first FT rice is now available for sale.
Mary said that her eyes have been opened to the many injustices suffered by workers all over the world. She noted that 75 million cloth workers still live in poverty and are subject to various forms of abuse. Some good news is that clothing industry brands now publish the locations of factories and hundreds of these are now safe places to work. She urges members of the public to ask clothing and shoe manufacturers to reveal the actual cost of cheap clothes and shoes. By 2015, Tesco will only use FT cotton. Mary sees creating awareness as part of her vocation as an AMMM.
Sharing our gifts and skills
Joan Marie Gagnon, an Associate from the USA, described her second year of volunteering at the Guerrero Eye Clinic in Mexico. With Rotary Clubs of Texas, the clinic does cataract operations and eye examinations and distributes eyeglasses. Joan and her husband helped in the unit for cataract surgery. Some of the 240 people who had operations had been blind for many years. It was an emotional experience for them and their families when they were literally able to see each other again. Joan Marie said, ‘I am grateful to God every day for my eyesight and will never take it for granted.’
In Tanzania, MMM Associate Moira Brehony manages a village-based health outreach programme to mothers and to children under five years of age. Two nurses and a driver head out each day and set up a clinic in a church, school or house. Sixteen villages are visited once-monthly and two are visited twice-monthly in a mountainous area – which can be challenging in the rainy season. With numbers of attendees increasing a second team is contemplated. The need for more staff was indicated when a new village was visited and it was found that children up to ten years of age had not been vaccinated. As for so many similar programmes, ongoing funding is needed.
These are only a few of the stories unfolding within the Associate movement of the Medical Missionaries of Mary. There are now 146 MMM Associates in 15 countries, with many preparing to join. Whether gathered in prayer or involved in ministry, AMMMs are spreading a network of healing wider and wider around the world.
A Scandalous Trade
On 8 February, International Day of Prayer and Awareness against Trafficking in Persons, we are invited to host or attend services to support survivors of modern-day slavery. It is the feast of Saint Josephine Bakhita, a Sudanese girl who was kidnapped and sold into slavery around 1877. Freed with the help of the Canossian Sisters in Italy, she chose to remain with them and later joined their institute. Pope Francis established the Day of Prayer in 2014.
The website of the International Catholic Migration Commission calls attention to ‘the vulnerability of people on the move — migrants, refugees and internally displaced people — to human trafficking. Refugees and unaccompanied children are some of the most vulnerable targets of labor and sex traffickers. Approximately 40.3 million people around the world are victims.’ A study published in January 2018 by the anti-slavery group Polaris stated that US traffickers make $2.5 billion a year forcing women to work in massage parlours. Their victims are mostly new immigrants with debts and no language skills.
Human trafficking is a complex issue and eliminating it requires action on a number of fronts. Among the groups in Europe collaborating to bring about an end to modern-day slavery is an organisation of religious congregations: RENATE (Religious in Europe Networking against Trafficking and Exploitation). This year members plan to mark the Day of Prayer with collective prayers, a film screening and musical performances to raise awareness. See www.renate-europe.net
Virtually every country in the world is affected by human trafficking (HT), as a point of origin, transit and/or destination for victims. The challenge is to target the criminals who exploit desperate people, and to protect and assist victims of trafficking as well as smuggled migrants. As Medical Missionaries of Mary, we officially adopted working against human trafficking as a priority issue in 2003. MMMs in several countries are especially dedicated to combating this crime and assisting those affected.
A step forward in Kenya
In an overcrowded large slum area in Nairobi, Sister Mary O’Malley raises awareness about HT and assists victims, the majority of whom are trafficked within the country. Because prevention is critical, Mary and her staff reach as many of the public as possible, especially youth, through interactive awareness workshops. (MMM E-newsletter, Feb 2015) Her team has also helped many victims in holistic ways to begin to put their lives together afterwards. Unfortunately there is no ‘afterwards’ for those exploited for organ harvesting.
Countless women and children, and sometimes men, have been enticed by promises of work or education. Single mothers from Kenya, struggling to raise their children, are promised jobs in Saudi Arabia. Students from Nairobi looking for their fees answer ads for local domestic help. Young women from surrounding countries come, thinking they will be attending secondary school. Girls aged from 8 to 14 years from Uganda, Tanzania, Rwanda and the DRC have been recruited for sex in the Nairobi slums. Mary has sent us their stories, one more horrific than the next.
In 2018 Sister Mary strengthened the legal foundation for programming to counter HT in Nairobi by supporting the registration of a new legal entity. Called Counter Human Trafficking Trust-East Africa (CHTEA), it is based under the Ministry of Lands. Among the trustees, who also act as the Board, is Francis Mutuku Nguli, a former Catholic lay missionary and technology expert within the non-governmental organisation sector.
Increasing collaboration in Tanzania
In March 2018, Sister Mary and George Matheka were invited to visit Singida, Tanzania to support Faraja Center CBHC with a counter human trafficking project. They spent almost three weeks with Faraja staff and other key groups. The experience helped greatly to focus efforts on a more effective campaign against modern day slavery. It also encouraged Faraja Project Manager Sister Catherine O’Grady in her resolve to increase Faraja’s leadership and cooperation with other stakeholders. She requested a second visit from the Nairobi trainers. This took place in early December 2018. They were joined by Francis Mutuku.
Among the aims of the visit were creating a coordinating platform for interaction and networking between Church and government agencies in addressing HT and also providing an update on the evolving human trafficking issue in east and central Africa. Bishop Edward Mapunda of the Catholic Diocese of Singida presided at the meeting at Faraja Centre and key organizations were represented. The Secretary of the Member of Parliament (MP), ‘special seat’, represented the government. She said their role has been expanded to include countering HT.
It was agreed to form a platform (jukwaa) with those present to fight against HT in Singida Region. Its first meeting was held on 7 December 2018. It was decided that Faraja would remain the lead organisation, and would designate two staff for the work and a desk for coordination. At the same time, all stakeholders will have the responsibility to market the jukwaa as a best practice model to donors, government, and others. It will address areas such as awareness and advocacy, fundraising, emergency and rescue, security and investigations, protection and rights.
Desperation in Nigeria
Until recently, Sister Justina Odunukwe worked with forty volunteers in Lagos and Benin City in awareness-raising about HT. They organized seminars and workshops and were involved in advocacy. The challenges of this ministry were indicated by Justina’s comment: ‘It is not easy to wipe out this crime totally because the root cause has not been addressed, namely poverty. Many young people are jobless and many want to migrate, looking for greener pastures. Traffickers prey on young people by promising them jobs overseas.’
A CNN report on March 21, 2018 said that many of the tens of thousands of Nigerian women who have been trafficked into Europe for sexual exploitation come from a single city, Benin City. It quoted Roland Nwoha, a NGO worker in the city, who has devoted his career to stopping the trade. He said that the few stories about the success of migrants in Europe continue to be a powerful motivator in a city where so many live in desperate conditions.
The report said that women were often brought through Lagos and then to Europe by air, but increasingly they go north through Libya and across the Mediterranean. According to the UN's International Organization for Migration (IOM), over the past three years there has been a 600 percent rise in potential sex trafficking victims arriving into Italy by sea. The IOM estimates that 80 percent are from Nigeria. CNN said that in February 2018, the bodies of 26 Nigerian women were recovered from the Mediterranean in a single day, bringing 2018’s total migrant deaths in that sea to at least 3,000.
Sister Justina was recently appointed MMM Area Leader for West Africa. She will be based in Benin City, where she will continue to be reminded of this human rights issue.
Networking in Ireland Sister Isabelle Smyth is involved with Act to Prevent Trafficking (APT), under the Justice Desk of the Association of Leaders of Missionaries and Religious of Ireland (AMRI).
Preparations are now being made for an important conference in Dublin that APT-AMRI will be running on 1 March at the Anti-Human Trafficking Unit of the Department of Justice. Titled ‘Human Trafficking in Ireland - Hidden in Plain Sight’, there will be a keynote speaker with responders in the morning and in the afternoon. The objective is to raise awareness about the extent and multifaceted realities of human trafficking in Ireland.
The target audience is the wider community through teachers, especially of Civic, Social and Political Education (CSPE), a Junior Certificate course in active citizenship based on human rights and social responsibilities. The event is also targeting parents' associations, boards of management, principals, the Bishops’ Conference, pastoral workers, and other groups active against human trafficking. One of these is the Young Social Innovators, who ‘want to give everybody an opportunity to use their creativity to respond to social issues and contribute to building a fairer, more caring and equal society.’
APT-AMRI works closely with the Mercy Sisters' organisation MECPATHS, dedicated to training hotel staff to be aware of the signs of trafficking, and with RENATE.
A ministry of healing in the USA Sister Kay Lawlor is based in Boston, MA and volunteers at Bakhita House (BH), a shelter set up by Boston Intercommunity Ministries for women recruited as labourers or sex workers through force, coercion or fraud. There are an estimated 1.5 million victims of human trafficking in the USA. While some are brought to the country as domestic help, more often the women that Kay meets are Americans who are trafficked for sex. Many come from homes marked by ‘poverty, abuse and lack of love’ and are forced into prostitution with the promises of the first person who tells a girl that she matters.
At BH, Kay’s role is to provide acceptance understanding and support. ‘The whole idea is to create a loving environment where they are accepted as they are. They are challenged to grow and are guided into different programs but are allowed to be themselves.’ Unfortunately', she said, ‘they are vulnerable and exploited. They are victims of a system.’ While accompanying them on their journey towards healing, ‘at times we cry; at other times we want to scream in anger at a society that has such low regard for women and a system that seems to be stacked against them.'
Of the women who have spent time at BH, Kay said, ‘Some are now doing very well and some are struggling to keep going.’ Sadly, some revert to previous behaviour. As one woman said, 'All I can get is less than minimum wage work. Prostitution is much better paid.'
If you would like to support our healing ministry with an online donation, please click here.
If you do not want to receive our eNewsletter in the future, you can
unsubscribe here or contact Sr. Carol at