Eighty-seven years ago, a young Austrian doctor named Anna Dengel with three other young women two from the United States and one from Britain planted a new seed in the Church. The seed of her inspiration, Anna Dengel claimed, was an elderly Scottish doctor, Agnes McLaren who was deeply concerned for Muslim women who died needlessly for want of health care.
Yes, quite simply it all began with women, for women—sick women, poor women, women dying in childbirth. They were Muslim women living in Rawalpindi, an area that today is in Pakistan. Male doctors could not treat these Muslim women and many died in childbirth or of curable diseases.
It was a time in the Church when religious, priests or nuns could not practise medicine in its full scope. For eleven long years Anna Dengel was one of those who knocked at the gates of the Vatican to get recognition for religious to practise medicine. Her persistence paid off. On February 11, 1936 the gates of the Vatican opened and religious, priests and nuns, and therefore MMS, could give professional NOT just mercy care to the sick.
The seed soon became a shoot and is now a big tree with branches spread out all over India and all over the world. From a small courageous band of four we are now an international community of 603 women, of 22 nationalities in mission in 17 countries, vitally involved in healing the injustices and illnesses in the world and caring for the earth which is the bedrock of the human family. For us MMS the heart and center of our charism is to be a healing presence wherever we are, in whatever ministry we do, in our work with likeminded people and our care of the earth. In so doing we continue to be inspired by the Gospel text which from our inception has been our lodestone, “Let your light shine, so that all may see your good works and give glory to God our Creator.” (Mt.5:16) It challenges us to be alert to the invitation of the moment, the urgings of the Spirit in our own times, moving us into the unknown future.