Author Topic: Sister Mary Hayden  (Read 1171 times)

Offline thaiga

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Sister Mary Hayden
« on: April 28, 2017, 12:13:58 AM »
I came across this story and thought it was worth a read of a sincere person who has cared all her life for others and i hope she is still caring now in Nongkhai. Sister Mary Hayden, i bet she has a tale or two to tell. At 94 years of age Sr Mary celebrated her diamond jubilee on 31 May 2013. She is now peacefully awaiting her next missioning which she says will be to meet her Good Shepherd. Bless you my dear.

Sister Mary Hayden - 70 years of service in Good Shepherd

Sr Mary Hayden was born in Kilkenny, Ireland on the 19-9-1919.  She grew up in a loving family with her two sisters.  However, early in life, Mary knew sorrow.  One of her sisters died at the age of eight and her mother died when Mary was very young.

In Good Shepherd

Mary joined Good Shepherd Sisters and started her novitiate in the Mother House at Angers in 1938.  This meant she was in France during the war years where she suffered the hunger and the deprivation of war as well as losing some of her novice companions who died from tuberculosis.  She made her final vows in 1944. These years of war experience were in some ways a preparation for war experiences later on in life.

In 1944 Sr Mary went back to Ireland for a short period before going to her first foreign mission in Sri Lanka. She spent 13 years there and was very happy working in the orphanage in Nayakanda. According to Mary, she was part-time driver and usually had the oldest car that the hired drivers did not want. Sometimes this machine would do strange things like blowing the horn all the way to the hospital with pregnant mothers in the middle of the night.  Mary loved Sri Lanka and its people, especially those entrusted to her care.

In 1956 Bishop Ngo-Dinh-Thuc at the request of his brother Ngo-Dinh-Diem who was the president of South Vietnam, forwarded an appeal to his friend the bishop of Angers requesting the Sisters of the Good Shepherd to work for the rehabilitation of women working in prostitution in South Vietnam. This was a serious problem resulting from the war that had gone on for many years in Vietnam until the country was divided into North and South in 1954.  The Bishop of Angers presented this request to our Superior General, Mother Ursula Jung and preparations were made for the new mission.  Sr Mary was one of the founding members of this mission, which began in February 1958 and became part of our Singapore Province.

The mission was under the direction of the social welfare department of Saigon.  Sr Mary took a very active part in the beginning of the mission.  She learned the language, got to know many people in the town of Vinhlong who helped with advice and volunteered time.  Girls who came to our center in Vinhlong had usually spent some months in remand homes in Saigon.  All had been in prostitution for many years.  Sr Mary coordinated with the social welfare department and after a short time the girls sent to us were first-time offenders.

Life settled down to a rhythm in the Center with classes, occupational therapy and preparation for girls to seek other employment outside or return to their homes. However, life outside the center brought many rumors of war in the remote areas.  There was communist infiltration especially in village areas.  As years went on this came closer and closer to the towns and cities until in 1975 the communists took over all South Vietnam and reunified the country.

The Challenges

During all this time Sr Mary was a staunch Good Shepherd.  Due to the war, children started to come in from remote villages where it was not safe for them to go to school.  Schools were set up for them.  Many sad stories of the outside world came to our door for help.  In the Tet Offensive of 1968, all the sisters, staff and girls were evacuated to an American air base nearby as the town and the whole area was under siege.  All survived. Young Vietnamese girls who wanted to join Good Shepherd were sent to Singapore for their Novitiate training.

Sr Mary became Provincial Leader in 1973.  The war was at its height by then.  When there was a communist takeover in April 1975 foreigners were advised not to stay in the country.  However, as people usually hope against hope that things will improve, Sr Mary and two of our sisters were still in Saigon when the communists took over.  Sr Fidelma accompanied a group of refugees who were leaving the country.  There was a rush on the American Embassy with Vietnamese people trying to escape.  Sr Mary and Sr Mercy had to be lifted over the American Embassy Walls by the soldiers on guard.  They went by boat as refugees to Guam and then to the United States. This was a sorrowful time in Sr Mary’s life, she was uprooted and there were many painful memories to cope with. Nevertheless, Sr Mary had the courage to search for the most appropriate place for the community from Vietnam who were also uprooted.  The Sisters opened a new Mission in Macau. 

After a year of renewal, Sr Mary came to Thailand.  Following three years in Bangkok, in 1991 she was again one of the founders of the Good Shepherd Mission in Nongkhai in the North East of Thailand near the border with Laos. In 1981 Nongkhai had more refugees in camps than in the city. There were refugees from Laos, resulting from the Communist takeover in that country. There was an immense poverty in the affected villages along the Mekong River which separates Laos and Thailand.  Gradually the Sisters found their way to enter these villages and be accepted by the people who did not know nuns at all.

The women could weave, the children were malnourished, the men could work the land in the rainy season and in the dry season this was impossible.  Children were helped when the sisters opened day-care centers; men were helped with digging wells and water-canals.  However S. Mary’s greatest contribution to the women was in the line of weaving.  After many trials and errors, disappointments and successes, the Good Shepherd Family in Nongkhai now have a well known trademark called “Isan Weaving” noted for its high quality workmanship.

The Inspiration

Today many old friends come to visit Sr Mary in Nongkhai remembering her great sense of humour, her deep faith and her confidence in God.  At 94 years of age Sr Mary celebrated her diamond jubilee on 31 May 2013.  She is now peacefully awaiting her next missioning which she says will be to meet her Good Shepherd.
Anyone who goes to a psychiatrist should have his head examined.

Offline thaiga

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Re: Sister Mary Hayden
« Reply #1 on: April 28, 2017, 06:36:04 PM »
Bit more i found on Sister Mary Hayden I wonder if she is still alive as in the above post she was 94 in 2013 that would make her 98 this year. Have a look at the bullet holes around the convent entrance in the pic, during the vietcong conflict. The post below is from the

Sister Mary stands in front of the bullet-riddled entrance to the convent and school she oversees near the U.S. air base at Vinh Long]

Irish Nuns Rescued from Vietcong

A US Army captain and three men with a helicopter launched a rescue mission that ended only when 8 nuns and nearly 200 Vietnamese girls were safe at the Vinh Long airstrip. As the helicopter left with the last load, Vietcong guerillas were swarming through the playground of the Centre of Professional Guidance for Girls, a school conducted by Sisters of the Good Shepherd Order, 60 miles south-west of Saigon.

“The helicopter boys should each be given a halo and a pair of wings,” said Sr Mary Hayden, the school Director, from New Ross, County Wexford. The Mother Superior and three other sisters at the school are also from Ireland. A reporter who interviewed Sr Mary said that the rescue followed a night of terror for the sisters and pupils, when the Viet Cong smashed into Vinh Long.
Anyone who goes to a psychiatrist should have his head examined.

Offline nan

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Re: Sister Mary Hayden
« Reply #2 on: April 29, 2017, 01:46:53 PM »
a dedicated lady with a labor of love

Isan Weaving
ignorance does not help your post one bit but it probably says an awful lot about you.

Offline thaiga

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Re: Sister Mary Hayden - it all began with a simple idea
« Reply #3 on: April 29, 2017, 04:32:19 PM »
HandCrafting Justice  in Nongkhai ia a project of the Sisters of the Good Shepherd.

Nongkhai HandCrafting Justice

The Sisters working with the Isan people

In 1981 the Good Shepherd Sisters came to Nongkhai.  Working at first in the border camps, they had a good understanding of the local people.  Also, having worked in Bangkok since 1965 with the women who had migrated to the city from the rural areas, they understood the pressures on rural families in trying to satisfy their most basic needs.

It was clear to the Sisters that these people, disadvantaged in so many ways, had no choices available to them.  Lacking an education or training of any sort, employment opportunities were limited.   So the Sisters, working with the Isan people, implemented development projects which have to this day, been a source of empowerment, improving the quality of life for all involved.

To enable young girls and women to remain with their families and in their village communities, rather than moving to the cities in search of work, the sisters began a handicraft making centre in Nongkhai.

Later, a second centre was established in the village of Huai Sai ( 45 kms away )and a third more recently in the village of Don Wai ( 20 kms away ), where other aspects of production are carried out. Regina 80 women , Huai Sai 62  women , Don Wai  30 women Weavers in the Village receive training and employment at the three centres.

The centres offer opportunities for those employed to provide for their families and to further their own education.  Approximately 205 other women, who are caring for young children at home, are offered work to do in their own home.

Women are taught to embroider, smock and use sewing machines to produce a vast range of saleable items…clothing, bags, accessories, household items.

Producers depend on sales for the crafts to promote the welfare of their families.

The women involved in the project are trained to take responsibility for management in all areas related to craft production, decision – making, accountancy , invoicing, quality control, packing, salaries and supervision.  This teaches them to start a small business on their own when an opportunity occurs.

Regina Centre, Nongkhai

The Regina Centre includes the Isan Weaving and Isan Pottery projects as well as projects that support the indigenous Hmong population in the area.

thanks to
Anyone who goes to a psychiatrist should have his head examined.