Gogan, Christina (Sr Mary de Lourdes) (1908–2000), Medical Missionary of Mary, was born 21 December 1908, second among eight children of John Gogan, licensed vintner and general merchant, Dunshaughlin, Co. Meath, and Bridget Gogan (née Caul). After local primary school she was educated at Mercy Convent, Arklow, and she then trained as a nurse in Mater Misericordiae Hospital, Dublin, receiving RGN in 1932. Till 1936 she was a staff nurse in Pembroke Nursing Home, Dublin, after which she was engaged in private nursing till 1940, when she entered the Medical Missionaries of Mary. She made religious profession on 8 September 1942 and joined the staff of Our Lady of Lourdes Hospital, Drogheda, where she did part 1 midwifery in 1944.
In Nigeria in 1940 Mgr Thomas McGettrick and the ministry of health there were trying to establish a leprosy service in Ogoja diocese, where the disease was endemic. However, the outbreak of the second world war prevented progress for some years. Dr Joseph Barnes, leprologist, had been invited to survey the whole diocese (an area of approximately 14,000 sq. km) and to establish a suitable system of treatment. As the population is composed of multiple small tribes, he proposed adopting a system of small segregation villages with a central hospital for those needing hospitalisation. Mother Mary Martin (qv), foundress and superior general of the Medical Missionaries of Mary, had promised to help with this medical service but it was not till 1945 that such help could be provided. However, on 5 April 1945 three Medical Missionaries of Mary, Sr Mary de Lourdes Gogan, Sr M. Aloysius Connolly, and Sr M. Philomena Doyle, arrived in Ogoja. Sr M. de Lourdes was to have responsibility for the administration of treatment, which at that time was chaulmoogra oil injection which blotted out the white patches in the skin but did not defeat the disease. Her first few days were devoted to teaching basic nursing skills to a few young boys who understood English and were to be her staff. The other two sisters were to look after the practical matters of daily life and give supportive help. By the end of the year a routine service had been established at Ogoja and in the local district. The next step was to open a similar service at Abakaliki, 72 miles (116 km) west of Ogoja, and another unit 40 miles (64 km) east of Ogoja at Obudu, near the Cameroun mountains. Sr M. de Lourdes and Sr M. Brigid Kavanagh, who had just arrived, were assigned to Abakaliki.
It was a case of beginning all over again with new people, Igbo language, a different routine of markets and farming. As in Ogoja her most valuable support came from the missionary priests who introduced the sisters to the people. The leprosy settlement was four miles from Abakaliki township, and the only means of transport was by bicycle. However, the leprosy service flourished. Dr Denis Freeman of Dublin was the first resident doctor there. About 1950, DDS tablets, which effectively cured most cases of leprosy, became the normal treatment.
From 1946 onwards other medical services were being set up at various parts of the diocese, so after her first home leave in Ireland she was appointed sister in charge at Ogoja, and regional superior for the communities at Obudu and at a general and maternity hospital at Afikpo. This was the pattern of her life till 1969, when she was no longer physically fit for missionary work. In the intervening years she had contributed to the establishment of general and maternity hospitals at Obudu, Ikom, Nkalagu and nDubia. Though she was due home leave about the time of the outbreak of the Nigerian civil war (6 July 1967), she remained with the sisters and the people till the battle front had passed over all of Ogoja diocese and services were being restored.
When a film of the medical work of the Medical Missionaries of Mary in Nigeria was being made in 1947, she was pictured dressing the foot of a leprosy patient. A person who watched this film with her commented: ‘I wouldn't do that for a million.’ Her quick reply was ‘Neither would I.’ All her missionary work was for God's honour and glory, and that made hard things easy.
On returning to Ireland in June 1969, true to her nature of always wanting to lend a hand, she held further posts of practical service which included five years as superior at Airmount Maternity Hospital, Waterford. After six years in the loving care of the Medical Missionaries of Mary in Arus Mhuire Nursing Home, Drogheda, she passed gently to her eternal reward on 8 May 2000.