A Time to Be Born … and a Time to End
By Kitty Madden
Accompaniment or “walking with” has been integral to our work in Nicaragua at the Casa Materna Mary Ann Jackman (MAJ). Since welcoming our first mothers in October 1991, we have been blessed to serve more than 17,750 mothers, facilitating their access to medical and emotional care during their high-risk pregnancies. The Loretto Community, together with hundreds of others, lovingly has walked with us in solidarity while providing both spiritual and material support.
This past year as the Community passed through the painful closing of centers in St. Louis, El Paso and Denver, we at the Casa Materna MAJ were walking a parallel path. In June 2017, we were informed by the Nicaraguan Ministry of Health that we would “no longer be allowed to receive pregnant mothers. All women from rural communities will be sent to government-sponsored Casas.” Though hard to hear, the news was not totally unexpected. Three years earlier the mayor of our city of Matagalpa had decided that he wanted his own municipal Casa Materna. This meant access to funds coming from the World Bank and others, together with prestige and patronage to be remembered at election time.
Initially both Casas received women simultaneously. However, increasingly, more mothers were directed to the newer municipal Casa to justify its international funding. In addition, First Lady and Vice President Rosario Murillo viewed the country’s Casa Maternas (now 177 of them) as a “great gift” being given to women by herself and the regime in power, a gift she frequently mentioned in her daily radio broadcasts to the Nicaraguan people.
Like the Loretto Community, we at the Casa debated various scenarios. Were we called to attend only mothers with higher risks in their pregnancies? Was our mission now shifting more toward our vital work of follow-up of our mothers and the prevention of future high-risk pregnancies? Or, was our work in fact coming to an end with our basic mission having been fulfilled? If so, was there another work to which we were being called?
Our decision to end the work of the Casa was precipitated when Swiss donors who were sponsoring a major outreach program to adolescents decided that their grant to us would end in 2017 rather than in June 2019. In sharing the news of our mision cumplida, we opted to take the high road and focus on the ways in which our pioneer work had extended to 177-plus Casas throughout the country while our life-giving legacy continues in the lives of the 17,500-plus mothers served. For more details, see the final issue of our newsletter: FCM Winter Solstice Newsletter 2017.
Yet, just as with the closing of the Loretto Centers, our ending of the Casa’s work has brought a profound sense of grief for mothers and staff that extends into the present. We count on your prayers for the Casa staff still in search of new employment.