“I just feel I’m here to help bring people closer to God in the wider sense, and that is my work.”
Marie Evans hails from Castleblaney in Co Monaghan but has now settled, among the trees with her dog Millie, in the remote townland of Lurganboy, Co Leitrim. She was once a Mercy nun, a nurse, a midwife and is now a healer. “I’ve been doing it here now for seven years,” she tells The Irish Catholic.
She began her training as a General Nurse in the Mater Hospital, Belfast before moving on to train as a Midwife in Belfast City Hospital. “After that I was asked, because I was a Mercy sister then, to go to Kenya. I went for a year and I was there for 12.”
The Sisters of Mercy first went to Kenya in 1956. They established schools, hospitals, dispensaries and mobile clinics in many different regions of the country. Kitui, the place Marie was sent, was one of these places.
“The experience I got in Kenya was unbelievable” she says. “The people taught me so much of my own arrogance from their own simplicity and their own happiness with so little.”
Marie arrived in 1987 and worked in Our Lady of Lourdes Mutomo Hospital, which still exists today. “It was a really small hospital in the middle of nowhere with no running water and no electricity, it was just full of need. I was in my element. In that awfully simple life, there was nothing to get dramatic about because when there’s no water everything falls into perspective.”
Marie recounts being taught and studying things in Belfast she was told she would never see. “Well I saw that with the people in hospital in Kenya.”
The main illness she dealt with were malaria and then with starving children. Despite arriving after a severe famine in the mid-70s, she says there were often long periods without rain causing intermittent periods of hunger. She says HIV was also a prevalent issue: “We had just opened a TB [Tuberculosis] unit and that became a HIV clinic.”
She says it was difficult readjusting to a plentiful life in Ireland: “The harder part of the experience was actually coming back after that and seeing how much we have.”
After returning she left to go to the United States for a few years. “I was really happy to get to America because you can stand on your head there and nobody would notice. That was great after the intensity of a very small village and everybody knowing everything,” she says.
She then started to study different kinds of healing, working with an American Shaman in the US and then a Mexican medicine woman back in Ireland.
“When I was a nurse, I always felt there was so much more to treating the physical complaints that someone would be in hospital with. I even used to just sit and hold the hand of a person who was sick. I was praying really for their healing.”
Marie left the Mercy nuns, feeling she had to find her own way. “You can be taught one way of doing something but you have to follow your intuition too, this feels right to me.”
“Fear was what I had to face when I was leaving. You know when you’re part of a group for a while or for a long time, there’s a sense of belonging there. It was a huge decision to make to actually leave, that meant that I had to face being insecure and not knowing and not having.”
She was with the order for 36 years and says it gave her a lot, “The gift in that was that I was given some tools for learning how to develop my own spiritual life, which was a great gift to me.”
Now Marie’s time is still spent helping others. People come to her for healing, direction and guidance. She also runs workshops, writes and makes cards to help to reconnect people to nature. She says her nursing is still an important undertone in her work.
“I feel like nursing is of great value to me in my work here, my nursing and my time as a midwife as well.. If there’s someone who comes to me and is seriously ill, I’m going to say you need to see a doctor,” says Marie.
She feels that everyone has their own way of expressing their spirituality and she likes to help people feel connected to that in whatever way they feel is right, “It is about healing the past so that we can be fully present. That includes work on myself as well as anybody who comes to me.”
This article was written by Róise McGagh and was first published in the Irish Catholic on 6th February, 2020