“Faces of Mission” is a bi-weekly blog series produced by the United States Catholic Mission Association highlighting our membership and all their work in and for mission. This week we feature Maureen Daniels, a parish nurse who felt a strong calling to mission work. As La Salette Associates, Maureen and her husband Al established a parish nurse training program in Madagascar.
A Lay Nurse Called to Mission
Maureen Daniels is a parish nurse living in the suburbs of St. Louis, Missouri. She is also a dedicated La Salette Lay Associate. Maureen helped establish a parish nurse training program in Madagascar and she remains committed to sharing the love of God with others through continued mission work.
Inspired by La Salette Missionaries
For many years, the Missionaries of Our Lady of La Salette had served as pastors at Immaculate Conception, Maureen’s home parish in Maplewood, MO, where Missionaries of La Salette live and are in formation. Maureen and her husband Al became well acquainted with many of these La Salette Missionaries over the years. They heard many stories from missionaries home on leave from Madagascar and “were really inspired by them.” Maureen remembers how, years ago, at a Mass to bless and re-commission La Salettes returning to Madagascar, she thought about someday going to the missions herself.
Answering the Call to Mission
Years later, at the request of the La Salette Missionaries, Maureen and her husband agreed to host a young woman from Madagascar for six months who was coming to the United States to study and learn English. During that period, Maureen learned a lot about life in Madagascar and the needs of the people there.
The experience with this young woman resonated with Maureen’s background. As a parish nurse, she is trained to look at the needs of people and to minister to those needs. “I just felt a calling,” Maureen remembers, “which I told my husband about, to go to Madagascar to see if we could start a parish nurse program.” She wanted to discern whether starting such a program would be beneficial to the people.
Not having a background in mission work, Maureen asked the La Salette Missionaries for guidance. At the time, a La Salette Bishop, Donald Pelletier, was home on sabbatical and he told Maureen and her husband to come to Madagascar and see what they could do.
So in 2004, Maureen and Al Daniels travelled to Madagascar for the first time. The experience was positive, and they began to prepare for a more thorough mission endeavor. In 2007, they went back and Maureen taught the first class of nurses there. Since that beginning, Maureen and Al have been to Madagascar five more times, staying a month each time, working with the La Salette Missionaries there, and building up the parish nurse training program. “We love the people,” Maureen says of her work. “It’s been just amazing.” “It’s been really a tremendous life changing experience for us.”
Helping Nurses to Help the People
One of the things Maureen cherishes is hearing how the nurses who were trained are helping the people of Madagascar. For her, the work is about “succeeding in helping these nurses to work in their parishes or in their churches to share the love of Christ [and] meeting their physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual needs.” It is fulfilling, Maureen says, to hear stories about how a parish nurse helped a whole family find hope again after a mother’s suicide attempt and brought healing, or about how the people have told the nurses that they are grateful for their presence and the help they are providing.
Believing there “is still the need to be there for each other, to show the love of God in very concrete ways,” Maureen plans to continue her efforts in Madagascar, helping the nurses and the people through the parish nurse training program. Currently, she is working to find a nurse in Madagascar who can be the trainer for other parish nurses. She also is focused on making sure the parish nurses continue to receive the support, input, and encouragement they need by helping to provide networking and sharing opportunities for them.
When asked about continuing to work in mission, Maureen responds, “We know, as one of our La Salette priests said to us many years ago, you’re in it for the long haul.”