Sr Mary in Mukuru

Sr Mary in Mukuru

Extract about Sr Mary from Tim Pat Coogan: Wherever the Green is Worn



The Fathers were also inclined to question the concentration on street

children, both by GOAL and a notable Irish nun, Sister Mary Killeen of the

Irish Sisters of Mercy. Again they appeared to feel that the street children

problem fell into the 'that's Africa' category.


Goal Street Children Project


The GOAL venture was in the hands of Maggie, a young Irishwoman who

was setting up a drop-in centre for the children. GOAL had taken over an old

house and a gang of workers were renovating this when I visited; Maggie was

contending with the usual sexual innuendo and ostentatious lounging of

loutish building workers anywhere, compounded by the fact that she was not

a very robust white woman in a black situation.


The idea was to provide

hostel-type accommodation for both boys and girls. The AIDS pandemic

means that street children are an ever-growing problem throughout Africa, as

in the Third World generally. The homeless children sleep rough, join gangs,

are pressed into prostitution or paedophile rings, and become prey to drugs,

violence and sexually transmitted diseases of all sorts. As most of the kids,

according to Maggie, are 'as high as kites', by the end of the day - on anything

from alcohol or glue to hard drugs - road fatalities are also common in

Nairobi's chaotic traffic.


Maggie eventually succeeded, with the aid of donors,

in creating her haven. The children now receive meals, some basic education,

psychiatric counselling and, above all, security.



“Mother Theresa, move over:” About Sr Mary Killeen

'Mother Theresa, move over', is how I have heard Sister Mary Killeen

described. She showed me how she operates in one of Nairobi's mini Sowetos

where sewage ran on the paths between the teeming shacks, and the

unemployment and general deprivation was such that I doubt it would have

been safe for me to venture into the area, even in daytime, without the

protection of her presence.


At one end of the cabin-type facility built by

GOAL, which constitutes her centre, AIDS victims are beginning to take up

more and more space. At the other end are the street children.



Sister Mary told me that as the AIDS epidemic spreads, a belief has taken

hold that it is safer to have sex with the young, because they will not yet have

been exposed to the diseases. Thus boys and girls are preyed upon by all levels

of society, including both police and priests (although let it be said that

amongst the former Sister Mary has found some of her best helpers). When I

met her, Sister Mary was trying to get the Church authorities to take up

complaints she had made against specific Catholic priests, but the hierarchy

was displaying the all too familiar pass-the-parcel policy of the Church

towards paedophilia. The Cardinal, an elderly African, had said he was too

old to deal with such a complex issue and was leaving it for his successor. The

Order, to which some of the men involved belonged, was also opposing Sister

Mary's efforts, and, as I learnt at first hand, so were some members of her own

congregation. Nevertheless, Sister Mary was prosecuting her enquiries

undaunted either by criticism or worse possibilities.



I met her leading two light-skinned children by the hand. Neither was more

than a year or two old and both had badly deformed feet. Sister Mary was

bringing them to a wealthy American woman - who customarily took over

not a suite, but the entire floor of the hotel she stayed in - in the hope that she

could persuade the millionairess to pay for an operation to straighten their

limbs. Their injuries had been caused by what was either intimidation or a

murder attempt on their mother. Her bed was set on fire by a gang as she slept.

The arsonists are alleged to have been attempting to dissuade her from giving

evidence against a paedophile, who had fathered the children on her while she

was under age. The man is a Catholic priest.



Wherever Green Is Worn: The Story of the Irish Diaspora

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