Tuesday, October 3, 2023

Sister Mary Glowrey, the first medical nun on the road to canonization

The Catholic Health Association of India (Chai), the largest non-governmental healthcare network, is one of the legacies of the pioneering work of the Servant of God medical missionary Sister Mary Glowrey JMJ.

Fiona Power (Curator of the Mary Glowrey Museum in Melbourne, Australia)

Eighty years ago, Dr. Mary Glowrey, a medical missionary from Australia, established the largest non-governmental healthcare network in India. What is now called the Catholic Health Association of India (Chai) is based on more than 3,500 health and social service institutions, affiliated across the country. Thousands of sisters from different congregations, including more than 1,000 medical nuns, are the heart of the group made up of full-time volunteers and collaborate, in this vast network, with health professionals .

The first medical nun

Sister Mary of the Sacred Heart – as Mary Glowrey is known – was the first Catholic nun to practice as a doctor. She received authorization directly from Pope Benedict XV in 1920, 16 years before Canon Law allowed other religious women to do so. In her 37 years of service, Sister Mary coordinated the treatment of hundreds of thousands of patients, as well as the construction of a hospital. He began training in health and laid the foundations for a Catholic school for the study of medicine in India.

Employees, the ‘backbone’ of St Joseph Hospital, to celebrate Independence Day on August 15, 2023 (Courtesy of St Joseph General Hospital, Guntur).

Mary Glowrey was born in 1887 in a small town in the Australian state of Victoria. His grandparents were Irish immigrants. Mary lives with family in a rural community and has a loving relationship with her parents and five siblings. From an early age, Maria’s wisdom, love for the Lord, and sensitivity were evident; At the age of 13, he left his parents’ home to complete, with the help of scholarships, secondary and higher education in Melbourne, more than 300 km from home. Mary considered medicine her first vocation: she prayed a lot asking for an indication to follow the study. In 1910, at a time when many considered the medical profession unsuitable for a woman, Mary graduated in medicine and surgery. In the following decade, he became a successful doctor specializing in ophthalmology.

Inspiration from another female doctor

In October 1915, Mary read the biography of Dr. Agnes McLaren (1837-1913), a Scottish medical pioneer who converted to Catholicism. At the beginning of the 20th century, Dr. McLaren to alleviate the suffering of women in India: local customs, however, forbid them to consult male doctors, and there are very few female doctors working in the country. The doctor established a charity center in London and then a small hospital in Rawalpindi, at the same time seeking permission from the Holy See so that nuns could practice the medical profession.

dr. Mary Glowrey, Ballarat, Australia, 1918 (Courtesy of Catholic Women’s League di Victoria e Wagga Wagga Inc. All rights reserved).

The “call” of India

After reading the story of Dr. McLaren, Mary heard the call to medical missionary service in India. He spent four years discerning this vocation. Her departure was delayed since World War I, and then she needed permission to serve as a doctor and nun. During this period, in addition to her daily involvement in hospitals and the private sector, Mary worked, from 1916 to 1918, as the founding president of the Catholic Women’s Social Guild in Melbourne. In 1919 he completed his doctorate in medicine.

In January 1920, Mary moved to Guntur, India, in the region now known as Andra Pradesh, where she joined the Society of Jesus, Mary and Joseph, a congregation founded in Guntur in 1904: the nuns prayed in Lord for many years. .to send a doctor.

New beginning

Until her arrival, Mary knew little about her new country, but just a month after her arrival she wrote to the family, in Australia, to make them feel at home, saying -says “by mistake” he was not born in India. ..

Many people, the most vulnerable in the community, need medical attention. From the first year of her stay in India, Sister Mary had a vision of extensive health care and training founded on Catholic principles. Consider taking care of the body as taking care of the soul. In Guntur, Sister Mary began coordinating medical aid for anyone who asked for it, especially women and children. With his natural predisposition, he quickly learned the local language, Telegu, along with his sisters, Dutch; The fact of using traditional medicines where other medicines are not available helps to strengthen the confidence of the population.

Sister Mary Glowrey JMJ in Guntur, India, 1925 (Courtesy of the Catholic Women’s League of Victoria and Wagga Wagga Inc. All rights reserved).

like a lighthouse

Ten years after her arrival in India, the Mother Superior wrote to Mary’s parents, comparing her daughter to a lighthouse. “He always stayed behind the scenes as he continued to spread the light of his good works far and wide.” Although the sisters solicited donations in Europe and Australia, resources remained scarce. Faced with countless challenges for more than three decades, Sister Mary is fully dedicated to alleviating suffering and promoting a culture of life; Meanwhile, he tried to guide his colleagues and finally succeeded in building St. Joseph’s Hospital in Guntur with diploma courses in obstetrics, pharmacological care and nursing.

Sisters of the Society of Jesus, Mary and Joseph at St Joseph’s General Hospital, Guntur, India, in front of the outpatient clinic named after Sister Mary Glowrey (courtesy of St. Joseph’s General Hospital, Guntur).

The Association of Catholic Hospitals was born

On 29 July 1943, Sister Mary founded the Catholic Hospital Association (now Chai) at St Joseph’s Convent in Guntur, together with sisters and brothers from other congregations. Today, Chai provides health care to more than 21 million people every year, especially the most vulnerable in the community. The main role of its doctors and social workers (volunteers and paid employees) is to provide “care for all” through compassionate, sustainable and quality care.

St John’s National Academy of Health Science, Bengaluru (courtesy of digital archive of St John’s National Academy of Health Science)

His legacy continues even after his death

For decades, Sister Mary worked and prayed hard to found a Catholic medical school: six years after her death, in May 1957, St. John’s Medical College inaugurated in Bengaluru. This year, the College celebrates its 60th anniversary.

Fourth year students in anatomy laboratory, St John’s National Academy of Health Science, Bengaluru (courtesy of St John’s National Academy of Health Science Digital Archives).

Sister Mary’s cause for canonization began in 2010. Declared a Servant of God, her position is now being studied by the Dicastery for the Causes of Saints. Her work continues the work of Chai and the sisters of Jesus, Mary and Joseph in India, and her life story continues to inspire Australians and many others who visit her home in the archdiocese of Melbourne, which is almost 20 years. it became a museum.

Nation World News Desk
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