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The Medical Missionaries of Mary: On fire with the healing love of God

bySister Cheryl Blanchard, MMM
6/19/2015

Sister Bernie Kenny, MMM third from left who is from Arlington with volunteers in Appalachia for the annual visit of RAM (Remote Area Medical) to the people of Wise County Virginia. Courtesy photo

The Medical Missionaries of Mary (MMM) is an international congregation of religious women founded by Marie Martin, in 1937 under remarkable circumstances. Born in Ireland she went to Nigeria, West Africa, in 1921 as a lay missionary. During her years there she saw the great need for health care particularly for vulnerable women and children. Not many people will hold on to an uncertain dream for 20 years, but that is what Marie did before she was able to establish the Medical Missionaries of Mary.

Marie chose as our motto: Rooted and Founded in Love (Ephesians: 3:17) and wanted to graft her new missionary society onto a spiritual tradition that had been tried and tested over the centuries. She chose the spirit of the Rule of Saint Benedict believing that it would provide precisely the freedom and, at the same time, the commitment she saw as so necessary to achieve her vision of a medical missionary congregation. The Rule was carefully crafted into the Constitutions of MMM.

In 1950 our Foundress, now called Mother Mary Martin, visited the United States at the invitation of Archbishop Richard Cushing who was a close friend and great benefactor of MMM. That same year, our first community was established on Commonwealth Avenue in Boston and within a year the first American women joined us. With the help of Cardinal Cushing, a novitiate was opened at One Arlington Street in Winchester. From there our American Sisters set out for faraway places after they had completed their novitiate and their professional studies. Presently, in the Archdiocese of Boston we have communities in Somerville and Malden.

The Medical Missionaries of Mary follow in Marie Martin's footsteps by sharing Christ's healing love in bringing health care to people of different cultures where human needs are greatest. As envisioned from the start, the congregation is international, with sisters coming from 20 countries who are trained in a variety of health related professions with our focus on healing the whole person. For more than 75 years MMMs have served around the world, with our newest mission in the Republic of South Sudan. With Mary as model, the story -- known in the Gospels as "The Visitation" -- has energized MMM Sisters to go forth in faith.

Our ministries in the Archdiocese of Boston have varied over the years. Mission animation/education have always been part of our outreach. We share about the people whose lives have impacted our own while living overseas. Vocation Ministry for MMM and the Church is something we have done from the beginning and we continue to do this wholeheartedly.

In the archdiocese of Boston we collaborate with other congregations and agencies: such as volunteering at the Safe House sponsored by LCWR (Leadership Conference of Women Religious) for women who have been trafficked either for labor or for sex. This ministry is one of presence to the women who are courageously trying to escape from "the life"; it is hard to believe the scope of the problem here in the US. Also we join with others in providing pastoral ministry in detention centers. Recognizing the needs of the elderly and home bound, our sisters visit the residences of those in our surrounding neighborhoods. In addition, complimentary ministries such as massage therapy are provided. As more American sisters return from decades of service overseas, our Boston houses are receiving communities for them, supporting them and caring for them as they age.

Throughout our history lay people have been our partners in mission. In recent years, the MMM Family is greatly blessed by the commitment of dedicated Associate Members. MMM is greatly enriched by our many associates all over the world.

Today we continue to strive to embody Marie Martin's words: "Whatever you do, do all out of pure love", and our congregational mission statement sums up who we strive to be: "Women on fire with the healing love of God".

Sister Cheryl Blanchard MMM originally from Michigan, is a nurse midwife who has served in Kenya, Ethiopia and on the border with Mexico. Currently she resides in Somerville. Website: www.mmmworldwide.org.