Profile - Marilyn McDonough - Maryknoll Lay Missioners
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Marilyn McDonough


Country: Tanzania

City/Town/Rural Area: Musoma

Year Joined: 2018

Ministries: St. Justin Centre for Children with Disabilities, Immaculate Heart Sisters of Africa

Ministry Area: Healthcare and Health Promotion

People Served: 75 children with disabilities at St. Justin Centre and outreach to other families in surrounding city and villages. 168 Immaculate Heart Sister of Africa,.

Goals of Ministries:

Assist with physiotherapy, outreach and health education to improve the lives and well-being of children with disabilities and improve the health and well-being of the sisters serving many different ministries.

Social, Political, Economic Context:

In Tanzania, there are few resources to help children with disabilities. In times past, disabled children were often hidden away from the public eye. Nowadays, people are beginning to see the importance of educating those children.

Tanzanians rely on ugali (a maize porridge) as the staple food in their diet. They generally eat only small amounts of protein, fruits, and vegetables. The wellness program focuses on consuming a better diet and the importance of exercise.

There are few libraries in Tanzania. Establishing a library will encourage the sisters to continue to improve their education.

Current Ministry:

St. Justin’s School is a residential care facility for children with disabilities. There are 75 children at the school including 53 deaf children, 22 children with physical disabilities, and 20 children with intellectual disabilities (the numbers don’t add up because some of the children fit into more than one category). Some of the areas that I am involved in include health education for the staff and children, physiotherapy services, creating health records for the students, positive discipline, and simple counseling. St. Justin’s also has an outreach program. We go to the villages and identify children who need services and help parents with small children do physiotherapy in the home.

My second ministry involves my work with the Immaculate Heart Sisters of Africa. I work with individual sisters to develop wellness plans as they request and provide classes on nutrition, exercise, and disease prevention. In addition, the sisters were given hundreds of donated books, so we are in the process of establishing a library. 

Personal Data:

My husband, Kevin, and I met when we served as Peace Corps Volunteers in West Africa 46 years ago. We married in 1976 and raised four sons. We now have seven grandchildren. Almost two years ago, Kevin retired from his long business career and  I retired from my nursing position. We considered how we should spend our free time.  We wanted to do some kind of volunteer work that would utilized our skills. We re-applied to the Peace Corps, but one Sunday morning I was reading the Maryknoll magazine and again saw the ad for lay missioners. I was not sure that they would take an older couple.

At our in-person interview in Ossining, New York, we were both impressed by the warm reception we received from the staff, the Maryknoll Sisters and the Society. We knew right away that this was part of God’s plan. We have been blessed beyond measure.  Hopefully, we can be a positive influence on those we meet in Tanzania.