196 MMM E-Newsletter January/February 2020


MMM Communications, Rosemount, Booterstown, Dublin. Ireland. Tel :353-1-2887180 Fax:353-1-2834626
To contact MMM Email: mmm@mmmworldwide.org

Number 196 - January/February 2020

Dear Friends,

We mark World Day of Peace on 1 January. Proposing this observance in a message on 8 December 1967, Pope Paul VI wrote: ‘Peace is both necessary and threatened. The proposal to dedicate to Peace the first day of the new year is not intended, therefore, as exclusively ours, religious, that is, Catholic. It would hope to have the adherence of all the true friends of Peace.’

A papal message has marked the occasion each year since then. Pope Paul’s message for 1972 was notable for his reflection: ‘It is difficult, but essential, to form a genuine idea of Peace... if we look for its true source, we find that it is rooted in a sincere feeling for [humanity]. A Peace that is not the result of true respect for [humanity] is not true Peace. And what do we call this sincere feeling? We call it Justice....

‘It is precisely from this place that the invitation we give to celebrate Peace resounds as an invitation to practise Justice: "Justice will bring about Peace" (Cf: Is 32:17). We repeat this today in a more incisive and dynamic formula: "If you want Peace, work for Justice."'

In his message for World Day of Peace in 2020, Pope Francis speaks of peace as ‘a journey of hope: dialogue, reconciliation and ecological conversion'.  He says that ‘many times, in the darkness of wars and conflicts, the remembrance of even a small gesture of solidarity received can lead to courageous and even heroic decisions. It can unleash new energies and kindle new hope in individuals and communities....

‘Faced with the consequences of our hostility towards others, our lack of respect for our common home or our abusive exploitation of natural resources – seen only as a source of immediate profit, regardless of local communities,...we are in need of an ecological conversion.’

On this day, also designated the Solemnity of Mary, he says, ‘All this gives us deeper motivation and a new way to dwell in our common home, to accept our differences, to respect and celebrate the life that we have received and share, and to seek living conditions and models of society that favour the continued flourishing of life and the development of the common good of the entire human family....May Mary, Mother of the Prince of Peace and Mother of all the peoples of the earth, accompany and sustain us at every step of our journey of reconciliation.’

On 8 February we observe International Day of Prayer and Awareness against Human Trafficking (HT). It is the feast day of St. Josephine Bakhita, who was kidnapped as a child and sold into slavery in Sudan and Italy. She was freed and became a Canossian Sister, dedicating her life to sharing her story of deliverance from slavery and comforting the poor and suffering.

‘If just one person realizes from this day that they or someone they know is being trafficked, we will have made a difference’ (Bishop Eusebio Elizondo, MSpS).

World Day of Social Justice is marked on 20 February and has been observed by the United Nations since 2008. Echoing the words of Paul VI, the General Assembly recognized that ‘social development and social justice are indispensable for the achievement and maintenance of peace and security within and among nations and that, in turn, social development and social justice cannot be attained in the absence of peace and security or in the absence of respect for all human rights and fundamental freedoms.’
The Year 2020 has been designated the International Year of the Nurse and the Midwife by the World Health Assembly. Named in honour of the 200th anniversary of the birth of Florence Nightingale (May 1820), the WHO website states that the year is significant for strengthening nursing and midwifery for Universal Health Coverage. WHO is leading the development of the first-ever State of the World’s Nursing report, to be launched in 2020. WHO is also a partner on The State of the World’s Midwifery 2020 report, which will be launched around the same time.

Nurses and midwives are essential to the achievement of universal health coverage and constitute more than 50% of the health workforce in many countries. Many Medical Missionaries of Mary have qualified as nurses and midwives and for many years training of nurses and midwives was a major component of the work of MMM. In addition to providing essential health workers this training advanced the education and standing of women, enabling them to contribute to the development of their families and communities. We salute them all and thank them for their great dedication and compassion, which has brought healing to countless millions around the world.

Other news
On 27 November 2019 Dr. William Howlett received the Presidential Distinguished Service Award for the Irish Abroad from Ireland’s President Michael D. Higgins. A specialist in tropical medicine and a neurologist, Dr. Howlett has worked in Africa for almost 40 years. He has been a great friend and helper to MMM and many people have benefitted from his concern, clinical skills and training. The award recognizes the service given to Ireland or to Irish communities abroad by those who live outside Ireland.

In the December 2019 MMM e-Newsletter we described the groundbreaking ceremony for the new Sister Bernie Kenny, MMM, Clinic in Clintwood, VA, USA. Bernie has written a book about her experiences. It is called Better for Being with You – A Philosophy of Care by Sister Bernadette Kenny, MMM, with Tauna Gulley. We recently heard that the book has become available on Amazon (Amazon Smile). If you purchase it from Amazon Smile and put Medical Missionaries of Mary, Inc. as your charity, MMM will get a percentage of the proceeds.  

We were sad to hear the news of the death of Frances Laterza on 14 December 2019. One of the first ‘lay mission helpers’ from the Archdiocese of Los Angeles, CA, Frances worked with us as a physiotherapist in Chala, Tanganyika in the 1950’s.

In this newsletter you can read about recent MMM receptions and professions in Nigeria. The life of an MMM was part of the early story of the Church in East Africa. Sisters in the USA and Kenya raise awareness and work with those affected by human trafficking. Another article describes what has sustained Sisters working in war situations.

Thank you for your interest and support in so many ways during 2019. We wish all of our readers good health, peace and happiness in the coming year. Be assured of our prayers for your intentions.

Sr. Carol Breslin, MMM

‘It is better to look ahead and prepare than to look back and regret’ (Jackie Joyner-Kersee, track and field athlete, Olympic medal winner).


‘When You Begin a Good Work...’1

Our international novitiate in Eleta, Ibadan, Nigeria, hosted two very special events in 2019. Eight women were received into the novitiate and three women made their first profession of vows. We are grateful to Sisters Clara Chikwana, directress of novices, and her assistant, Sister Helen Omeya, for describing these joyful ceremonies.

1.    Reception into the MMM Novitiate
Sister Clara wrote, ‘Some time ago, I saw an article on the early beginnings of MMM. It contained a quote by Jesuit scientist Teilhard de Chardin: “Nothing is so delicate and fugitive by its very nature as a beginning.” For the eight young women, the day marked the beginning of the life they hoped to live for the rest of their lives. Though delicate and fleeting, it was filled with much hope and excitement.’

Since the day they arrived in Ibadan, Caroline Nakalili and Agatha Bakahirwa from Uganda; Lauretta Zakalia from Malawi; and Esther Okonkwo, Otibhor Uwagbale, Magdalene Tyosaah, Alice Joseph, and Ese Idogen from Nigeria felt at home with their new religious and local parish communities. There were warm greetings. ‘The parishioners have not ceased to say, “Ekabo ooo; ekabo ooo”(Yoruba for “welcome”) at every opportunity.’ The Archbishop of Ibadan, Most Rev. Gabriel Abegunrin, visited with gifts to specially welcome them.

The reception ceremony took place on 28 August in the beautiful novitiate chapel with a liturgy that was deep with meaning. The candidates presented symbols that showed themselves as being open to the work of the Spirit. One carried a painting of a sunflower and the sun, showing their readiness to seek and follow Christ. A lighted candle symbolized the light of Christ in their hearts. A crucifix reminded them of the need to carry their crosses daily. They presented a symbol of Mary, a model for MMMs, asking that she grant her maternal love on the journey. The Holy Spirit was symbolized by a dove, reminding them of God who forms them. They each received a crucifix and a copy of our MMM Constitutions.

Seeking God
MMMs follow the spirit of the Rule of Saint Benedict. In the Prologue, Benedict says, ‘We intend to establish a school for the Lord’s service.’ The new novices were reminded that the purpose of the novitiate is to know Christ more deeply; to learn how to listen to the Holy Spirit ‘with the ear of your heart’; to be conformed to the image of Christ; and to learn how to be Christ’s disciples. In the words of Joan Chitistter, it is a time of ‘becoming the presence that lights a fire…to become the flame’. It is a time of developing a deeper self-awareness, learning how to live life as a religious and as a Medical Missionary of Mary. It is a time to discover more about the charism, spirituality, history, values and mission of MMM in the Church.

After the ceremony they enjoyed the evening with the Sisters from the MMM Eleta community. Sister Clara said, ‘There was plenty of laughter and joy as we shared our meal, songs, stories and dance steps. It was a beautiful evening, full of life. No wonder Pope Francis said, “Wherever religious are, there is joy.”’

As they continue their journey in MMM, our eight novices want to say, ‘We thank God and the Congregation of the Medical Missionaries of Mary for granting us the gift of sharing in this joy by accepting us into the novitiate.‘

2.    Another step in faith
Three women made their first profession of vows in MMM on 10 September. Sisters Patience Nwambeke and Beatrice Iyioku, from Nigeria, and Philomena Imalingat, from Uganda, took this important step after completing their early religious training in the nearby international novitiate.

On the morning of the event the novitiate community was buzzing with activity. The profession Mass was at Our Lady of Fatima Catholic Church and began with a colourful procession of priests, MMM Sisters, the Sisters to be professed and their family members. The beautiful decorations and attire of all present, including the parishioners and other friends, added a special touch to the occasion.

The chief celebrant of the Mass was Rev. Fr. Fintan Daly, SMA, a long-time friend of MMM. He welcomed friends and familes to the ceremony. Archbishop Abegunrin also joined in the celebration. Liturgical dancers processed in with the Bible for the gospel reading with reverence, joy and thanksgiving, and the choir sang beautifully. Rev. Fr. Gabriel Ihunanya, a Carmelite missionary, gave the homily in a simple but captivating way. He encouraged everyone present to strive for holiness daily and to always be open to learn because formation is an ongoing process.

Like the young Samuel, each Sister responded freely: ‘Here I am, Lord’, as she made her vows, which were received by Sister Justina Odunukwe, MMM Area Leader for West Africa.

A deepening commitment
Afterwards there was a simple celebration at the novitiate community. The children from the parish entertained with a lovely cultural dance.

Clara again expressed our thanks to God for a wonderful celebration and for calling our Sisters to share in God’s healing charism with love. We congratulate them for their ‘yes’ to God and wish them well in their new missions. Patience has been assigned to Fuka, Nigeria; Beatrice to Huambo, Angola; and Philomena to Nangwa, Tanzania.

The newly-professed expressed their gratitude to the MMM Congregation, the Congregational Leadership Team, the West Africa Area Team, and their formators who journeyed with them. They also thanked their family members and friends, who came from far and near to witness and celebrate their commitment.

1 Prologue of the Rule of Saint Benedict

Be Part of the Wave

The International Day of Prayer and Awareness against Human Trafficking (HT), on 20 February, brings home to us the consequences of this evil and how ordinary people can work to prevent it.

MMM Sister Mary O’Malley is based in Nairobi, Kenya. She helped to found Counter Human Trafficking Trust - East Africa (CHTEA). In an overcrowded section of a large slum village, Mary and her staff reach as many of the public as possible through interactive awareness workshops. In September 2019, her young trainers gave 52 workshops, reaching over 1,000 people, mostly senior primary and out-of-school youth. Victims, the majority of whom are trafficked within Kenya, are assisted with counselling and medical services, as well as training, micro-finance, and support to finish education. Mary often sends us stories about victims she has encountered.

One is Agnetta (not her real name), a 28-year-old single mother. Orphaned as a child, Agnetta struggled to meet the demands of her grandmother, who insisted that Agnetta look for work. In her desperation she met a woman who was looking for girls to send to well-paying jobs in the Middle East. She turned out to be an agent for an overseas recruitment agency fronted by a Kenyan government official. Agnetta was asked to undergo ‘specialized training’ in Nairobi before her travel documents were prepared.

During the training she got permission to leave the building. Fortunately, she met a woman who directed her to CHTEA, where the staff advised her about the job to which she was going. Agnetta changed her plans and did not contact the agency that was to arrange her travel. Sr. Mary offered to help her begin a business selling second-hand clothes. Agnetta says, ‘I know I can succeed and take care of my baby and my life.’ She has become an ambassador for CHTEA, speaking to others planning to go to the Middle East.

Having nothing to lose
Another victim is Lilros, also a young mother. Her parents were peasant farmers and Lilros worked as a casual labourer, washing clothes and being a house-help. When she received an offer to earn more money in Saudi Arabia, she was hopeful of changing her life and gladly accepted. Once there, her employer, the woman of the house, accused her of having an affair with her husband. True enough, the husband used to rape her when he returned from work. Lilros incurred severe injuries and an infection. Her employer also abused her physically. One day she  put industrial gloves laced with a chemical on Lilros' face. The resulting burns disfigured one side of her face. Lilros managed to escape and was eventually deported back to Kenya with nothing to show for the months she had worked.

When Mary first found Lilros she was quite sick and struggling with life. She was able to have medical investigations and treatment, as well as counselling. Later Lilros was given 6,000 Kshillings (about 55 Euro) to begin an egg business. Her face is now much improved and her business is growing. However, she needs further counselling because the hardship and pain she endured.

The need for action
For many years Sister Margaret Anne Meyer worked in Africa as a physician. Now based in Boston, USA, she has taken a special interest in raising awareness about the reality of trafficking. She wrote an article titled ‘Anti-trafficking action feels like joining a wave.’ for the 26 September 2019 issue of Global Sisters Report (GSR). At the time, Talitha Kum, the international anti-trafficking network of religious, was marking its 10th anniversary. GSR ran a special series of articles during Talitha Kum's first general assembly.

In learning about Sisters who are working against human trafficking and rescuing victims Margaret Anne said she was particularly struck by a comment along the lines of: ‘Do not think of your efforts to be as a drop in the ocean but that we are an ocean of many drops.’ She reflected on her own efforts and how she often felt they were only a drop in the ocean, especially when she was getting on in years!

While based in Nigeria, she was aware of the work of another MMM, Sister Blandina Ryan, who raised awareness through the Nigeria Conference of Women Religious and collaborated with women religious in Italy. They met trafficked Nigerian women and restored them to their families. This was dangerous work.

A global problem
Margaret Anne found other ways to help upon returning to the United States in 2002. Julie Tanner from the Christian Brothers Investment Services suggested that letters be left at hotel and motel managers’ desks, asking them to train their staff to look out for human trafficking. After several years Margaret Anne was encouraged to hear from ECPAT (End Child Prostitution and Trafficking) that most of the hotels contacted had complied.

Her next project was to use the same sort of letter for the airlines, asking them to sign the Code to protect children. Delta Airlines had already signed, so she wrote to the American Airlines CEO, asking him to do the same, and to train flight attendants to recognize trafficking. A year later her sister Gerry travelled with American Airlines. A woman sitting next to Gerry told her she was in charge of training the American Airlines flight attendants. Margaret Anne later learned that American Airlines had also signed the Code. She wrote, ‘I thanked God because if my sister had not told me this story I would have given up hope. I learned that many Sisters have been alerting airlines to the tragedy in human trafficking through the efforts of the U.S. Catholic Sisters against Human Trafficking (USCSAHT).’

She heard that a Sister with USCSAHT used to 'corner’ the flight attendants on every flight she took. The success of these approaches may be indicated by the rescue of a six-day-old baby by airline staff in the Philippines in 2019. They found a woman trying to smuggle the child out of the country in a sling (https://time.com/5670240/us-woman-arrested-baby-in-bag/).

Strength in numbers
In New York, two Indian Presentation Sisters working at the United Nations suggested that Margaret Anne attend meetings of the NGO Committee to Stop Trafficking in Persons. There she met committed people of all ages and religions working together.  She learned how the International Labor Organization and the International Organization for Migration are fighting against the evils of forced labour and labour trafficking. She also learned about Goodweave, a team of business-minded experts and advocates for social change dedicated to ending child labour, forced labour, and bonded labour in global supply chains (Goodweave.org).

'When the Sisters of St. Joseph in Boston told their senior high school students about [forced labor] the students asked Nike to better control their supply chains or they would buy their footwear from Adidas. Adidas was ranked number one by the anti-slavery organization KnowTheChain in its 2018 Apparel & Footwear Benchmark Findings Report.’

When Margaret Anne moved to Boston she joined the Boston branch of the Leadership Conference of Women Religious, which works against human trafficking. In one activity, Sisters and guests from local parishes hold large banners and wave to people in passing cars, asking them to join the effort to stop human trafficking. Others participants pray during this time.

In concluding her article, Margaret Anne wrote: ‘I see now that my feeling of being a drop in the ocean is more like joining a wave. The wave comes and goes but more waves appear to take its place...Let us trust in the ocean of divine mercy, and together we can become a tsunami to stop human trafficking.’

Her complete article can be found at https://www.globalsistersreport.org/news/anti-trafficking-action-feels-joining-wave.


‘Because of the woman’s testimony’ (Jn 4:39)

When Sister Aloysia Lagween died in Ngaramtoni, Tanzania, in October 2019, MMMs, family and friends gathered and recounted events that were part the early Christian story of Tanzania. Reminiscent of the encounter of the Samaritan woman with Jesus at the well, these events speak of courage, openness and great integrity.

Sister Aloysia was born Emeliana on 13 April 1933 in Tlawi-Mbulu, Tanzania, or Tanganyika as it was then known. ‘Ally’, as we affectionately called her, was a twin; her sister’s name was Theresia. Their mother died in childbirth and the twins were separated. A neighbour took in Theresia as her ‘last born’, but sadly the infant died a few weeks later.

Emeliana was initially cared for by a heroic Maasai woman who was responsible, with three other Maasai women, for bringing the Christian faith to the Wairaqw people in the northern Great Rift Valley in East Africa. The four women were Juliana Kamalla, Maria Salisi, Leokadia Binti (‘daughter’) Ole Kirway and Blandina Naitacha. On 18 November 1909, along with Joseph Lagween of the Wairaqw tribe, they turned up at the new mission of the White Fathers (now Missionaries for Africa). This seemed extraordinary in view of the remoteness of the area. The White Fathers came to Tanganyika in August 1907 and had only decided to create a mission in Tlawi in July 1908. The evangelization of the Wairqw began with these five lay people.

The first Wairqw convert, Joseph Lagween, and his young wife, Juliana, adopted Emeliana.  During their life together they adopted seven children and had three more of their own. Emeliana lived a happy life with her many sisters and brothers. Her father often lifted her up in his arms and taught her a great deal. Juliana was a great mother and gave each of her children household tasks. Ally was grateful for all she learned from her, especially cooking and sewing. Juliana died when Ally was sixteen. Joseph later married Klara and  Ally had seven more siblings. Ally loved Klara, also a supreme evangelizer, and was at her bedside when she died in 1965. She felt greatly loved and even spoiled in her family, saying that she was the first to get a lovely skirt with pleats! She never knew of her adoption until she was joining MMM.

Joseph and his large family are remembered with reverence and admiration: for their efforts to bring Christianity to their area, for their holiness, and for their lives of kindness, hospitality and care for others. Several became religious Sisters and one became a priest.

Not looking back
Emeliana was fourteen when the first MMMs arrived in Tlawi to set up a dispensary – our first mission in East Africa. Her faith journey continued as she joined MMM in 1957, already a qualified midwife. One of our first two MMMs from Tanzania, she travelled to Ireland for her novitiate and then trained in nursing and midwifery in Drogheda. In 1963 she was assigned briefly to Uganda, helping for a few months in Masaka Hospital. In 1964 she returned to Tanzania, where she served as matron in Kabanga Hospital for twelve years. During that time she trained in management in Glasgow Royal Infirmary and in Dar es Salaam. 

From 1994 to 2005 she again worked in Arusha, offering reflexology services at the AICC Hospital. She then suffered a severe illness, which necessitated extended care at our house in Makiungu. Her condition imposed many limitations and she became physically frail.

Ally was remembered as a good cook, a keen gardener, excellent at languages, and as caring and intuitive as a nurse-midwife. She was a sociable person who made friends and enjoyed a good story. She loved the liturgy and had favourite saints who never seemed to let her down in her long life of service and sanctity.

In 2018 she moved to Ngaramtoni for ongoing care. She died there peacefully on 8 October 2019 and was laid to rest beside Sisters Opportuna Sanka and Theresia Samti, also MMMs from Tanzania.  

Sister Aloysia loved to sing the hymn ‘The Harvest Indeed Is Great but the Labourers Are Few’. As one of the labourers in that harvest she is surely now sharing in the hundredfold.

The editor is grateful to Sister Sheila Devane, MMM, who shared excerpts about Sister Aloysia’s family from the book Wanawake Wanne Wa Kimasai Miongoni Mwa Wairaqw, by Eloi Grondin, a Canadian Missionary for Africa.


The Power of Love

On 31 October 2019 Sister Irene Balzan graduated from the Waterford Institute of Technology with an M.A. in Applied Spirituality. Irene described her study year as ‘a space for meaning-making...a year unlike any other.’ From Malta, Irene has spent almost twenty years on mission – in Nigeria, the Republic of Benin, and most recently in South Sudan. One of the pioneers of our mission in Wau in March 2013, she spent five years in this war-torn country, living at the epicentre of military patrols, heavy gunfire and bombings. There was an exodus of foreign personnel and the lingering question for her was, ‘Should I also leave?’  

After much inner searching she decided to stay in Wau: in her experience solidarity in her community was essential, as was connectedness with the wider community. The decision to stay conveyed a deep sense of hope to the people, who were ‘clenching to the last straw of life’. God became very real; prayers were mostly wordless but ‘heart-laden’. Irene found that this time gifted her with a deep sense of the sacredness of life and a profound sense of gratitude for all of life. She witnessed how war-related trauma can affect people in physical, psychological, emotional and spiritual ways.
A time to reflect
The Spirituality Institute for Research and Education (SpIRE) at Milltown in Dublin supports and hosts the master’s programme. Irene’s research dissertation was entitled ‘Spirituality during a time of war: an exploratory study of meaning-making, resilience and witness in missionary religious women’. While part of processing her own life’s journey, she also explored the role of spirituality in the lives of other MMMs who lived in similar situations.

The concept for her research came from the marking of the centenary of the end of World War I on 11 November 2018. Referred to as ‘the war to end all wars’, over sixteen million people lost their lives in the conflict. In commemorating that day Pope Francis declared, ‘Let us say with force: let us invest in peace, not in war.’ He argued that ‘a third world war is being fought piecemeal today.'

Irene gained deep insights from the life of Etty Hillesum, a Dutch Jewish woman who died in Auschwitz in 1942. She was struck by Etty’s extraordinary resilience and mystic stance towards life in a war situation. With a deep connection to everyday life, Etty transfigured ‘the little things into her inner life’. One of Etty’s contemporaries, Dietrich Bonhoeffer, referred to ‘an inner order despite the outer disorder and chaos of war, battles and unrest’ and to ‘the importance of silent daily reflection on the Word of God’.

The film Of Gods and Men is based on the story of nine Trappist monks who were missionaries in Algeria during the civil war in the mid-1990s. Seven of them were kidnapped and murdered in 1996. Reflecting her experience in South Sudan, Irene was particularly interested in the spirituality that guided these men. The key question for them was: to leave Algeria or not to leave.

Irene was awarded a first class honours degree for her dissertation.

‘Catching a glimpse of the incarnate God’
Irene’s core question was: ‘Where is the God-encounter in traumatic situations such as war?’ She interviewed five MMMs who lived and worked either in Nigeria during the Biafran War in 1968 or in Angola in 1975, asking what sustained them during these times.

The Sisters worked in hospitals, outreach clinics or refugee camps. They described harrowing land and air attacks, continuous noise, and having to shelter under tables or beds in hospital wards. Treatments were disturbed by air raids and there were many close calls. Despite the risks, they crawled down to wards in the dark to feed the orphans, change drips or put up blood. Some were arrested or captured. One described crossing a bridge. ‘There was dynamite on the bridge ready to be blown up to keep the enemy back, but we got over it.’

Several themes emerged from the interviews. All five Sisters worked in these situations from a choice they had made. They had been given the option to leave but each freely chose to stay. All were guided by a sense of purpose. Despite the fear they experienced ‘as the war came nearer and nearer, we wanted to stay, we really wanted to stay with the people.’ ‘We loved the people...and we saw their suffering.’

A sense of connectedness lived in community was an anchor. ‘We were more a group than individuals; we were together.’ When they took risks ‘we were so supportive of each other.’ This led them to experience deep faith in God. They felt connections with people outside the community - the priests, Norwegian doctors and local young people. ‘The dedication of the nurses and doctors was fantastic.’ ‘There is a bond that everyone is working together.’

They improvised. ‘A school table was used for everything: for surgery; we used it for maternity deliveries; we used it for Mass; we used it for eating on; we used it for everything.’

Full of contradictions
They dealt with the paradoxes of conflict. One remembered how people were innocently killed even when the end of war was declared. Despite the cruelty of war, they could see goodness in the soldiers. ‘They wanted to share the tinned meat or something they had...yet there was the streak of toughness that they probably had to build up in the army.’

The Sisters’ focus was outward: ‘We weren’t really thinking much about ourselves.’ They still went to deliver women every day and looked after injured soldiers, treating soldiers on all sides equally. They worked long hours. ‘We just kept on going. We saw people had needs and we tried to do something about it.’  

War affected their spirituality in many ways. Most experienced a sense of gratitude – for peace, for blessings in life, for the support of others, attributing people’s prayers to their safety. There was a deepening trust in God. After the war ‘when things got rough it helped me to keep going.’ One said that she always read scripture very carefully, a line from which ‘may be enough to do me for the day'. Another experienced ‘a deep sense of compassion and solidarity with all those who have been displaced through warfare or violence’ and coming to ‘an appreciation of what real suffering is for the people’.

The experiences these women shared left an indelible mark on Irene. She hopes that her dissertation will bring to light 'a largely forgotten worldview of courage and strength among humanitarians, missionaries and church personnel'.

One MMM spoke of the gratitude she experienced at the end of the war. ‘The people said, “Thank you. You stayed with us when we most needed you. You didn’t run away.”’ She was deeply moved when she later bade farewell to the people she loved and had served for fifty-two years ‘where every grandmother wanted to give me a hug.’ Then she knew that there is no limit to love and loving.   

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