December 2011/January 2012
How will the 2011 Institute Chapter Declaration impact Mercy life? Sisters and associates brought their thoughts to Consultation Network meetings this fall. All had unique perspectives shaped by their experience of ministry and community which were reflective of this moment in their own lives.
Chapter Declaration Comes Alive
Sister Bernie Hart, a teacher and former vocation minister, saw the influence of working in two languages as powerful. “During all of this discussion, we had simultaneous translations in large group , Impelled, using headphones, and in small groups with a translator. This enabled all to know Mourn Scandalized, what was being said by all and afforded opportunities for explanation of words and their effect on the various cultures. It was helpful when we were down to the process of putting our hopes and goals into words.”
Omaha sisters and associates deliberate on the implications of the Chapter Declaration.
The strong words chosen in that process sparked comment from a number of people.
“As I was reflecting on the Chapter Declaration Statement,” said Associate Cherie Thibodeaux, “I was struck by the strength, power and boldness of the words used in this document. I realize that some of these words such as ‘passionate’ and ‘impelled’ are in the direction statement, but I felt I was seeing them in new ways. Other words such as ‘scandalized,’ ‘pervasive,’ Inside: ‘denial,’ and ‘mourn’ are other strong descriptive words that Letter from Sister Judith p.3 evoked feelings in me that I could readily identify with. I know Letter from Kim Kinsel p. 4 there are more concrete ways I can respond to the critical Human Trafficking part 2 p. 5 concerns especially in the area of social justice. As I continue What I'm Reading p. 8 to pray and reflect over these documents, I know more will be Trish Trout on Associates p. 9 revealed.” MBB in Haiti p. 10 Moment in History p. 11 Faces of Mercy p. 12
Sister Susan O’Connor, former president of the Cedar Rapids Regional Community and now vice president of mission integration at Mercy Medical Center, also felt the words to be Sister Susan O'Connor jarring. “The obvious conclusion I came to was that the words from Cedar Rapids were definitely doing what they were supposed to—they were calling me out of my complacency with myself as well as challenging how I was living this life of Mercy.” Susan reflected on the changes in the sense of ministry which she sees in the Mercy Community. “The type of service we provide has probably changed over the years as we moved from ministry to ministry, or as we moved from ministry to full or partial retirement. I believe that what we do is not as important as the fact that we commit ourselves to do something.” She turned to the phrase “vibrant community life,” questioning how that is to be achieved today. “Community life is the touchstone for our passion for service. Perhaps it is a vibrant community life that will turn the scandal we feel into something ready for action. It is really up to each one of us. continued next page 1 Mercy Connection • December 2011/January 2012
Declaration, cont. Former president of the Burlingame Regional Community and hospital administrator Sister Phyllis Hughes looked at the Chapter process. She saw a balance between specific and general as key. Prescribing the exact number of Houses of Mercy to be formed as was done at a previous Chapter was, she thought, too specific. But too general an action can be simply “mimicking the Direction Statement. “ I think that this Chapter outcome tends a little to the general side,” she said, “but it can lead to very positive communal action if leadership takes it up and provides further process and direction to move it in more concrete ways.”
At the Consultation Network meeting, Sister Rita Waters talked about the Declaration's direction to unmask our Critical Concerns, peeling off layers until "we get down to the real deal, the underlying causes." She explains how to do this and why there is a trick and a treat in the process. Click here to see her presentation: http://www.screencast. com/t/r6sNLrMPr
Long time teacher and grief counselor Sister Toni Lynn Gallagher missed being present at Chapter and felt that no computer message or relayed information would quite be enough. Even so, she was deeply affected. “The Chapter Declaration did not change my life, but it did re-ground my life," she said. I recognize that the active, ‘energizer bunny' days of my life are over, " but I can still find ways to address, redistribute and contribute to those around me, perhaps less corporately, but with more compassion and presence than used to be possible in my time frame.” For Sister Patsy Harney the question of this Chapter was, “How are we going to pass the torch? After Chapter, my mind changed. I stopped worrying. There are fewer younger members, but we have done a good job of passing on the legacy of Catherine to these members, who were very much a part of the Chapter. So our task now is leave the Institute, especially the ministries, in a way so that works of mercy can continue. Hard decisions remain, especially around finances. Mercy must have a sleek, elegant nimbleness for the future. The sisters, associates and companions must have the tools they need to carry on the Work of Mercy.” A spiritual director and retreat leader, Sister Lorita Moffatt looked at the possibilities of deepening and widening Mercy furthered by the Declaration. She saw the daily prayer and discernment at Chapter as powerfully influencing the discussion and deliberation. After deeply listening to the Spirit and to each other, Lorita asked, "How does the Mercy Community deepen, unmask, address, liberate, and contribute to a sustainable future?" Perhaps, she said, the answer is in a renewed widening of Mercy. “There has always been a broader who: co-workers, colleagues, etc.,” she said, “but might this 'going wider' suggest a whole new embodiment of Mercy beyond sisters, associates, companions, and Mercy Corps members?" she asked. “Do we Sisters of Mercy as we now know ourselves need to die for a new expression of Mercy life to emerge?”
"This Chapter Declaration is now speaking to me— prompting a new way of seeing." --Sister Mary Catherine Daly speaking in Chicago.
Sister Mary Catherine Daly, a retired teacher, formation direction and a member of a leadership team, shared Lorita’s vision. “This Chapter Declaration is now speaking to me—prompting a new way of seeing…a new way of partnering (with God, one another, and multiple others). Specifically, these shared insights have led me toward seeing myself/ourselves in terms of world partnership and world citizenship, expanding our understanding of and participation in such issues as peace, ecumenism and justice.” Sister Susan’s response summed up much of the reaction: “Being scandalized for action is where I want all of us to be. Perhaps that is what will make the Chapter Declaration more alive and dynamic, rather than a nice piece of paper that we stick in our prayer books or frame for our prayer tables.”
2 Mercy Connection • December 2011/January 2012
The West Midwest Community Leadership Team joined other Mercy leadership teams for an Institute Leadership Conference meeting in St. Louis, Oct. 24-29, 2011, its first meeting since the Institute Chapter and the election of the new ILT in June. From the day we received the agenda for the meeting, I sensed that our meeting was to have a distinct approach. Each agenda item indicated the outcome and process to be used and then asked how the topic related to the Institute Chapter Declaration. We were looking through a new lens. Each morning began with prayer in the faith-sharing format that we had come to know and appreciate at the Chapter and in other settings since then. The reading for the day was read and re-read three times. We then reflected in silence before going to our anchor groups, a stable group of three ILC members with whom we shared our reflections daily. Faith-sharing continued to bear fruit among us, providing the spirit for the rest of our day. Those of you who were present at the Chapter or have attended a fall Consultation Network meeting will understand what this means.
We wait with expectant hope for the transformation to be wrought in us.
At the ILC we took significant time to work on how we would live into the spirit of the Chapter and be moved to the action to which it calls us. We focused on how we can provide Shared Leadership among the Communities and within the Institute as a whole. Read the ILC Statement of Shared Leadership here: ILC Commitment. Now it is up to us to live it daily. It will take time for all of us in the Communities to reflect on and discuss the Chapter Declaration, its meaning for us and how we will put it into practice. Our action on these words will reflect our diversity across the Institute and within our Communities. During these days, the ILC made a commitment to how we will act. The Nov.10 Mercy Now http://www.sistersofmercy.org/images/stories/ MemberPubsResources/mercy_now/2011/mercynow111011en.pdf reports on our meeting and links to the ILC statement of commitment to the Chapter Declaration. Click here http://sistersofmercy.org/images/stories/MembersNews/chapter2011/ chapterdeclaration6-30-11en.pdf And we asked: What is the commitment to which the members will be called? You have a role in answering that question through prayer and dialogue for yourselves and for each Community. As the week moved on, we spent a day with the Institute Anti-Racism Transformation Team. Even though it has been behind the scenes, they have been working diligently to understand and prepare for the engagement of the Communities on this topic. Their hearts have been touched by the process in which they have been involved. I hope that we will welcome their invitation to involve ourselves, to have our hearts touched and to be open to the transformation that the Institute needs to address. We are invited to dismantle the misuse of power that underlies racism and to create a new vision and hope. We have entered into the season of Advent, which recalls Maryâ€™s period of waiting for the birth of her son, Jesus, and our own waiting for the coming of Christ into our lives. We also wait with expectant hope for the transformation to be wrought in us as we live and make tangible the Chapter Declaration through the continued action of the Spirit among us.
Sister Judith Frikker for the WMW Community Leadership Team 3 Mercy Connection â€˘ December 2011/January 2012
Holiday greetings to all of you this Advent Season. I have always declared Thanksgiving as my favorite holiday, but the Advent season is a close second these days. My appreciation and experience of this time has grown during my time with the Sisters of Mercy, yet another example of the many blessings I find in my work. Another blessing I always enjoy is my conversations with sisters. Recently, I have talked to sisters about their experience of the new West Midwest Community. A common theme is confusion around staff positions and who to go to for what issue. It became clear to me how important it is to know the staff members who support all of the WMW Community. A sense of loss of relationship to staff members is one of the challenges of our geography. So, I decided to use my articles once in a while to introduce you to the WMW Directors who work in the central office.
Introducing Steve Knight
First: Steve Knight, controller of assets and property. Steve, the most tenured of the management staff, previously worked with the Omaha office and recently celebrated 25 years with Mercy. He has been married to wife Joni for 28 years, and they have three children: Casey, 25, who will be teaching sixth grade at Ralston Elementary beginning in January; Kim, 22, a recent graduate of Nebraska Wesleyan University, who is pursuing graduate studies as a physician assistant; and Matt, 17, who is still at home with Mom and Dad and is very interested in pursuing engineering after high school. Steve, generous and giving in all parts of his life, is often the “go to” person for questions and projects. Everyone knows how valuable his experience is and that he can be trusted to be thorough and detailed in everything he does. Carol Kelley and I both count on him to surface all possible barriers related to a project and to prepare us for the inevitable questions. A great example of a team player, he always involves all stakeholders, both internal and external, when he is working on a project. No one ever has to wonder if Steve has shared updates on his projects. He keeps everyone involved throughout. Steve’s primary responsibilities are: 1) capital planning and expenditures; 2) property planning and utilization; 3) design and construction projects; 4) risk management which includes insurance, taxes and reporting; 5) National Religious Retirement Office grants; and 6) miscellaneous projects. He works closely with other managers throughout WMW on capital planning and budgeting for preventive maintenance, upgrades, and replacement needs. He also is the primary manager of all construction and renovation projects regardless of location, which requires him to work closely with many throughout the WMW Community. For example, he is currently working with Sister Susan McCarthy and Mercy Housing on the placement of low income housing on the Auburn campus, and he worked recently with Jean Hastie on the Marian Oaks project on the Burlingame campus. Steve is truly a gift to the WMW Community and was a treasure to discover when I walked through the doors that first day in Omaha. I can’t imagine what work would be like without his support and expertise. I hope you have enjoyed meeting him as well. Merry Christmas!
Kim Kinsel, WMW Community Operating Officer 4 Mercy Connection • December 2011/January 2012
Fighting Human Trafficking: A Perspective from Illinois By Liz Dossa
This article on efforts to combat human trafficking in Illinois is the second of three. Mercy ministries in Kansas City will follow in the next issue of Mercy Connection. "In our understanding of human trafficking, we are today about where we were with the problem of domestic violence about 40 years ago — low levels of awareness, low levels of law enforcement response, almost no services for victims.” Rob McKenna, Washington state attorney general Rosie Garcia knew one day two years ago that the next morning she would be deported from the Chicago jail back to Mexico. “I had signed the papers for leaving,” she said. “If you don’t sign, they said, you will never see your baby again.” Rosie was one of the immigrant detainees Sisters JoAnn Persch and Pat Murphy visited in jail weekly, bringing each woman a few dollars to add extra food to their meager diet and buying incidentals such as shampoo. These welcome funds came from a Mercy Action Grant. JoAnn, Pat and other women religious drew out the women’s stories. “When the sisters came to the jail, they asked too many questions,” said Rosie. “Where were you born? Who was your father? How did you get across the border?” Answering their questions reminded Rosie of the horror of El Paso, and she cried constantly. The questions forced Rosie to remember how her mother had paid $1,000 to “Lena” to smuggle Rosie from Mexico to El Paso. “Lena” brought her to a hotel where Rosie was a prisoner, forced to have sex with, as Rosie said, “not just one man, but lots of men. They beat me, kicked me. It was dirty and terrible. If I didn’t, they said they would kill my mother.” She was 13 years old. Human trafficking is currently receiving a swell of attention on billboards, in school classrooms, in parishes, even in stores such as the Body Shop. Behind this current visibility are years of effort by non-profit organizations and women religious. A number of organizations such as the Polaris Project and Not for Sale are working to bring the problem to public attention and to train volunteers. The Sisters of Mercy locally, nationally and internationally have contributed their share to its effective visibility. U.S. legislation has been in effect for 11 years. The Trafficking Victims Protection Act first passed in 2000, established funding and protection for victims of both sex and labor trafficking. The act needs reauthorization and has not been passed as of this writing. [See page 7 for action information] The Sisters of Mercy have long felt the urgent need for action against trafficking. Sister Dale Jarvis (Northeast Community) was focal point person on the Mercy International Justice Committee from 2004—06. “We got together because Mercys globally were looking at trafficking,” said Dale. “We thought we would have some influence with Bishop Gerald Barnes, head of the USCCB Committee on Migration and Refugee Services.” Their hope lay in Irish Sister of Mercy Susan DeGuide, who happened to be working in the office of San Bernardino Bishop Barnes. She proved to be an able spokesperson for the cause. “It was the relationship that made it happen!” says Kathy Kelleher, who was at that time on the Institute Justice Team. The U.S. bishops wrote a strong statement against trafficking which is posted on their website. They declare, “We urge Catholics to work together to identify survivors of human trafficking and to help rescue them from their bondage.” LCWR Region 8 influenced the Illinois bishops to make their own statement on trafficking, which they did Jan. 3, 2010. Working on the issue, says LCWR Region 8 President Sister Patricia Crowley, O.S.B., has been a struggle. “There is a small group of continued next page 5 Mercy Connection • December 2011/January 2012
Fighting Human Trafficking, cont. religious women in Illinois working on trafficking." That group includes the Mercys in Chicago. Sisters JoAnn Persch and Pat Murphy lead a local justice committee whose members are Sisters Evangeline McSloy, Mary Catherine McDonagh, Marcian Deisenroth, and Associates Julie Devane, Mary Fishman, Patty Fishman, Helen Goy, and Paul May. They have worked to spread the bishop's statement to parishes. The Mercy committee has found that the key to effective action is to work with established agencies, such as Illinois Rescue and Restore, a coalition between the Illinois Department of Human Services and the federal government.
National Human Trafficking Awareness Day-January 11
“In working with Rescue and Restore,” says Paul May, “our team went out with posters in many languages with the National Human Trafficking Resource Center 24-Hour Hotline: 1-888-3737-888. It’s an awareness thing, to make people know that trafficking does exist.” The group has also gone to local hospital emergency rooms to talk to personnel about recognizing the signs of trafficking in patients. They have visited the local shelter for trafficking victims which has been established by the Salvation Army with federal funding. Last June, when Sisters JoAnn and Pat were about to receive an award from the National Immigration Justice Center (NIJC) at their Midwest Light of Human Rights luncheon, they were delighted to see Rosie coming toward them with a broad smile. Miraculously, the day before Rosie’s deportation date her name had disappeared from the list. Because she had the courage to tell her story in spite of tears, JoAnn and Pat had found her a lawyer through the NIJC, one of the few organizations which goes into detention centers to give immigrants legal help. The lawyer succeeded in removing her name and ultimately getting Rosie a T visa which allowed her to return to her husband, her baby and family. She is able to work legally as a housekeeper in a Chicago hotel. But the severe trauma of her life in the El Paso hotel haunts her. She had escaped from her guard by climbing out a small bathroom window and eventually making her way to Chicago. She is terrified that she will see “Lena” again. She makes clear that she is working “in the public spaces” of the hotel now, never again imprisoned in a room. “She had so much courage,” said JoAnn. But there are thousands more trafficking victims in the U.S. every year who have not succeeded in breaking away from their imprisonment, psychological or physical. According to the Rescue and Restore website, “After drug dealing, human trafficking is tied with the illegal arms industry as the second largest criminal industry in the world today, and it is the fastest growing.” Resources:
National Trafficking Hotline for assistance to victims (24 hours) 888-3737-888 Stop Trafficking newsletter; http://www.stopenslavement.org/ The Sisters of Mercy International Justice Committe contributed to the founding of this monthly newsletter. Sister Jean Schaefer, SDS, is the editor. Not For Sale Campaign --http://www.notforsalecampaign.org Polaris Project--http://www.polarisproject.org 6 Mercy Connection • December 2011/January 2012
What Can We Do About Human Trafficking Become aware
A Prayer Service will be prepared by the Sisters of the Holy Cross Justice Office for Wednesday, Jan. 11 (Trafficking Awareness Day) and a prayer card will be distributed by the WMW Justice Team for use between Jan. 11 and Feb. 5, the date for the 2012 Super Bowl. Big gatherings such as political conferences and sports events--the Super Bowl, the World Cup--are prime opportunities for the traffickers and their victims. Hotels are key players in the defense against this abuse of women and children, both immigrants and domestic victims. Last year, Sister Emily Devine made phone calls to motels and hotels near the Super Bowl site in Arlington, Texas. She asked if employees were trained and if they were working with police, child welfare agencies, anti-trafficking organization and the National Human Trafficking Resources Center. This year the site is Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis, Indiana. The Michigan-Indiana Corporate Responsibility Coalition (CCRIM), which coincides with LCWR Region VII, is engaged in a project to contact all the hotels (over 200) in the Indianapolis area prior to the Super Bowl to find out if they have endorsed the ECPAT [Ending Prostitution Pornography and Trafficking for Children] Code and to encourage them to do so if they have not. Several of our sisters are part of the group that will be making the calls in January. Ann Oestrich, IHM, who is the justice coordinator for the Holy Cross Sisters in South Bend, and Carrie Nantais, a laywoman who used to be the justice coordinator for the Detroit Jesuits, are coordinating this effort.
Use your computer to persuade others
Ask our legislators to support the Trafficking Victims Protection Reauthorization Act (TVPA) http://www.capwiz.com/sistersofmercy/issues/alert/?alertid=53487271&type=CO
Pressure your hotel to condemn sexual exploitation of children
After years of work by Mercyâ€™s shareholder staff and members of the Interfaith Center of Corporate Responsibility, Wyndham Hotels, with its 7,000 hotels, has signed the ECPAT (Ending Prostitution Pornography and Trafficking for Children) code. Wyndham joins Delta Airlines, Carlson (Radisson, Country Inns and Suites), Millennium Hotel St. Louis and Hilton Hotels (Hilton, Doubletree, Embassy Suites, Hampton Inn, Homewood Suites) who have previously signed the Code. When you travel, pressure your hotel. For an easy way to write your letter, go to the website of Mercy Investment Services: (http://www.mercyinvestmentservices.org/component/content/article/476 ) to fill in information on your hotel and then print a letter that you can give to the hotel management when you check in.
7 Mercy Connection â€˘ December 2011/January 2012
WMW Access Do you know where the WMW prayer list is? Are you looking for a list of jubilarians? A vacation home reservation? Or a WMW newsletter? All are available on the WMW intranet: http://inside.westmidwest. org Do you know where to find Institute 2011 Chapter information? www.sistersofmercy.org/ members Latest Institute news? www.sistersofmercy.org/ members What is the WMW saying to the public? www.mercywestmidwest.org Have you seen the Justice news and alerts? www.mercywestmidwest.org Do you have news to share? wmwcommunications @mercywmw.org
What I'm reading! Falling Upward: A Spirituality for the Two Halves of Life by Richard Rohr Reviewed by Sister Camille Kelley Rohr’s subtitle provides an outline for the focus of this latest of his works in which he describes in two stages an individual’s journey and growth to human happiness, to maturity. The first stage of human development takes place in the first half of life. The task of this phase is to create a proper container for one’s life. During this phase, we build our self-concept, security, relationships and our place in the community. Some of us live our entire life in this first stage where one’s role, career, title, and personal image may very well create a false self and leave us with a deep emptiness. Rules and structures are very important in this phase of growth. Rohr argues that the spiritual life is something more, something deeper, something that God has designed as being the fulfillment of the deepest human desires. The second stage of growth, which should occur in the second half of life, focuses on discovering our true self, our roots of self. In this stage, we learn patience, forgiveness, and compassion. We learn to recognize that the socalled rules have exceptions, that Nature is much more disorder than order. These exceptions keep us humble and searching. while sensitive to those humans who are on the edge of what we have defined as normal, proper or good and often have the most to teach us. Rohr reminds us that Jesus had no trouble with the exceptions. He ate regularly with the “outsiders” to the chagrin of Church leaders, who valued order over any compassion toward the exceptions. Jesus did not seem to teach that one size fits all. Rohr asserts that every time God forgives us, God is saying that God’s own rules do not matter as much as the relationship that God wants to create with us. He summarizes much of the book in a few thoughts. First, we are created with a drive that sends us looking for God. Second, that journey is not a straight line. Third, the “God size hole” has been intentionally created so that only grace and divine love can satisfy it. Fourth, God is found in the depths, and the superficial is where sin and addiction trap us. Rohr’s style is somewhat vague and esoteric, but the section on “Discharging Your Loyal Soldier” (pp. 43-51) and Chapter 7 on “Home and Homesickness” were most helpful to me.
8 Mercy Connection • December 2011/January 2012
The Phenomenon of Associates By Associate Co-Director Trish Trout
Trish (L) confers with Sister Terese Gahan
The first Mercy Associate covenant in the U.S. took place in 1972. During the past 40 years, we have grown to almost 3,200 associates throughout the Institute of the Sisters of Mercy of the Americas with vowed members numbering 3,650. If we consider the development of association in the West Midwest Community, we’re not far behind the Institute. According to our research, the first associate covenant occurred in 1975 in Detroit. Associates in West Midwest now number almost 550 and vowed members almost 750, giving WMW sisters a bit wider lead compared to the ratio within the Institute.
For 25-30 years, from Vatican II into the nineties, the number of associates increased in the U.S. at a slow rate as the new movement picked up steam. Between the years 2000-2010, as the trend toward association grew, the growth curve rose sharply for associates while the number of vowed members continued to decline. A recent article on Sept. 27, 2011, in the National Catholic Reporter estimates that associates of all religious orders in the U.S. now number more than 50,000. That’s a leap up from 24,500 lay associates in North America reported in a survey conducted in 2000 by Georgetown University’s Center for Applied Research in the Apostolate (CARA). “Lay association is truly a phenomenon,” says Joseph Connell, director of Holy Cross Associates and board member of the North American Conference of Associates and Religious (NACAR).
It’s clear that both sisters and associates are living in a new reality with new challenges. We have much in common: we are both committed to living out the charism of Catherine McAuley and the Gospel, we share long-term personal relationships with each other, and we share in prayer, ministry and fellowship. Yet as associates face the new reality, we are refining our own distinct identity. As stated in the Institute Associate Identity Statement affirmed by the Mercy Associate Leadership Network (MALN) in 2010, associates are women and men who hear and respond to a call from God to share in the mission of Mercy in the world. We are clearly in relationship, but we are not the same. Recently, I participated in a workshop called “Associates of Religious Institutes – Seeking a Way Forward” with Sister Amy Hereford, CSJ, an attorney canonist with extensive experience in guiding religious communities. Some of the questions she posed were: --How do we deal with this new reality as sisters and associates? --Where do we go as we breach the change in numbers from dominant sisters to dominant associates? --How do we set appropriate boundaries between our two groups? --How do we define associate rights and obligations? --How do we build a sustainable model for the future of sisters and associates? I wish I could say that our brief workshop answered all these questions and more. What we know for certain is that we are in a process that is strongly linked together – sisters and associates. Amy likened this process to a dance, a metaphor that resonates with the Mercy tradition. As partners in the dance, at times one will lead, then the other. We will find our rhythm and move to the inner music of the Spirit in our hearts and souls. And the circle of the dance, as the circle of Mercy, will be widened as we bring important questions to the larger body of sisters and associates. Together we will create our future because together we are Mercy.
9 Mercy Connection • December 2011/January 2012
Mercy Beyond Borders Expands to Haiti By Sister Marilyn Lacey I like to think of MERCY (the verb!) as “entering into the chaos of another with compassion and practical action.” Great need, therefore, is always a catalyst for our charism. It recently prompted Mercy Beyond Borders to expand beyond South Sudan and enter into the post-quake turmoil of Haiti’s impoverished people. Following a brief site visit Sister Phyllis Hughes and I made to Haiti in 2011, Mercy Beyond Borders initiated secondary school scholarships for girls from 16 primary schools and began offering financial support for the only all-girls primary school in the town of GrosMorne, an area about five hours north of Port-au-Prince by car. GrosMorne was not severely damaged by the quake, but it has been heavily impacted by an influx of families displaced by the quake. Many have moved in with relatives who can barely afford to host them and who certainly cannot afford to pay the school fees of the children. (Ninety percent of the schools in Haiti are Students at St. Gabriel's all girls school private, charging fees. Because of this, many children—especially in GrosMorne girls—cannot stay in school.) We have now hired a Haitian sister to coordinate our scholarship program, and expect soon to receive stories and photos that we can post on the Mercy Beyond Borders website. While we were in GrosMorne, we also visited Alma Mater Hospital, a 60-bed rural, primary care hospital owned by Caritas (Diocese of Gonaives, Haiti) and serving a population of approximately 140,000, almost all of whom are economically poor. The hospital’s staff and doctors do a very good job of caring for patients despite a serious lack of equipment, supplies and facilities. Since the 2010 quake, they have had to cope with displaced persons moving into surrounding villages and with a sobering upsurge in cholera patients. Isolating the cholera patients is not possible within the hospital’s common wards, so the staff have rigged up a cholera ward outdoors in canvas tents. In GrosMorne, Phyllis and I met Sister Jacqueline Picard, RJM, and Sister Patricia Dillon, RJM, American religious who have been long-time residents of GrosMorne. Jackie serves on the board of Alma Mater Hospital. In recent months, the hospital has been participating in a project sponsored by the Catholic Health Association, Catholic Relief Services and multiple health systems in the U.S. to rebuild and/or strengthen Haiti’s damaged and under-resourced Catholic hospitals.
Shown at right: Cholera ward at Alma Mater Hospital, Haiti.
Catholic Health Initiatives (CHI), a large health system based in Denver and in relationship with the Sisters of Mercy West Midwest Community, is one of the systems participating in this project. In addition, at the request of Phyllis, who is the board chair of CHI, they have opened dialog between CHI’s Colorado affiliate, Centura Health, and Alma Mater Hospital about the feasibility of a “twinning relationship” between Alma Mater and one of Centura’s 14 Colorado hospitals. Representatives from both Centura and CHI have graciously agreed to pursue this initiative to see where it might lead. A site visit and a response to specific Haitian requests for assistance could occur early in 2012. These examples of compassionate practical action demonstrate our Mercy charism addressing the chaotic, current needs in our world.
10 Mercy Connection • December 2011/January 2012
From our archives: education in Iowa From 1869 until 1970, the Sisters of Mercy staffed Iowa schools in Davenport, DeWitt, Burlington, West Burlington, Independence, Keokuk, and Mt. Pleasant. In 1901, Burlington, Iowa’s St. Patrick Parish School was transferred to the Sisters of Mercy. Here the sisters purchased a mansion and began St. Cecilia Academy, a boarding and day school for girls, along with the parish school. Fifteen years later, the Mercys took over St. Mary’s in West Burlington. In 1970, the sisters withdrew from the Academy and elementary schools in Burlington and West Burlington. Meanwhile, the Diocese of Davenport opened Notre Dame High School as a diocesan venture. A few Mercys joined the intercommunity faculty which was supported by several religious orders. Today, Burlington Notre Dame High School serves grades 7–12.
Last call! After completing a highly successful nationwide tour, the final stop for the Women & Spirit: Catholic Sisters in America exhibit is The California Museum in Sacramento, Calif. The exhibit will be open to the public from Jan. 24 - June 3, 2012. The expansive exhibit premiered in Spring 2009 at the Cincinnati Museum Center, followed by stops at The Women’s Museum in Dallas, The S. Dillon Ripley Gallery at the Smithsonian, Ellis Island, and numerous other venues. In each of its venues, the exhibit has provided an opportunity for the addition of items with a regional impact. For the Sacramento display, the Women & Spirit committee has invited any congregation whose members served in California to submit items. “California is always on the cutting edge,” said Sister Michaela O’Connor, a Sister of the Holy Family, who is part of the committee handling the Sacramento exhibition, “and the work of Catholic sisters in our state is no exception. Sisters were shaped by what they experienced here, and in turn, helped to shape the lives of those with whom they came in contact.
11 Mercy Connection • December 2011/January 2012
Sister Charmaine Jayawardene Sister Charmaine Jayawardene professed her final vows as a Sister of Mercy in Auburn, Calif., on June 4, 2011. Her profession is the realization of her deepest desire, and she is still in awe of being the recipient of God’s wondrous gift of a religious vocation. Charmaine had been in the corporate world for 20 years and decided to join a contemplative order (The Carmelites). However, after some years as a cloistered nun she realized that her place was among God’s poor. This brought her to the Sisters of Mercy. She loves to work with the poor, the sick and the marginalized. She is the face of Mercy working with the sick at CHW’s Mercy San Juan Hospital in Carmichael, Calif.
Associate Cindy Burger Associate Cindy Burger is comfortable relying on God. Not the idea of God, but God as an active force in her life and ministry. She runs, organizes, and prays over Gracein-Action, a service she founded 11 years ago to serve homeless people in Davis, Calif. At Grace House, a small building in the Presbyterian Church parking lot, she and other ministers of hospitality offer not just food, but spiritual companionship, as well as links to services. She has felt led by God at every step. After she was trained as a spiritual director at Mercy Center in Burlingame, she noticed that the homeless people who gathered outside the church where she worked were drawn to talk to her. She sensed a deep hunger for spiritual companioning in those on society's edge. This was her calling, but there were risks, going without a steady income or health insurance. One morning when she was at the end of her personal funds, she tapped her watch and said, “God, if you want me to do this, I need rent.” A bequest of $10,000 from a woman who was guided by prayer to gift her inheritance arrived in time to pay that rent. Cindy first served her homeless guests out of the trunk of her car. Now Grace House offers a place for respite, warmth and gathering, as it will on Christmas Day for those who have no welcoming circle of family or friends. Her own circle has widened. “We have about 10 church partners we are working with. We consult to help congregation members learn how to use their spiritual gifts with homeless people to help them take steps toward wholeness and healing.” And, she says with the hint of a smile, “The Methodists now work with the Baptists, something that was unlikely 10 years ago.”
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Sister Lois Graver
Sister Lois Graver recently joined the board of Mercy Volunteer Corps, but she is not new to board responsibilities or to leadership. She began with a scientific emphasis and then a technological focus. A Chicago native, she has degrees in mathematics and physics from Saint Xavier and University of Michigan, respectively. Beginning her ministry as a high school teacher, she then taught math and physics for 10 years at Saint Xavier. Later in search of “real world experience,” she became a computer programmer for Continental Bank. She was elected treasurer for the Chicago Community in 1976, a position she held for 30 years, although the bank had hoped she would return to her programmer job. She oversaw investment and property management while also serving on corporate boards within the Community and with other organizations. Lois has served as board member at Mercy Hospital in Chicago, Mercy Hospital in Aurora, IL, Saint Scholastica Academy in Chicago, Saint Xavier University, Chicago (she is currently a life trustee) and Provena Health in Mokena, IL.
Note: Faces of Mercy from Cedar Rapids, Detroit and Omaha will be featured in the next Mercy Connection
December 2011/ January 2012 Sisters of Mercy West Midwest Community
Mercy Connection is published by the Sisters of Mercy West Midwest Community Communications Office, 7262 Mercy Road • Omaha, NE 68124 • (402) 393-8225 • www.mercywestmidwest.org Director of Communications Sandy Goetzinger-Comer Editor Elizabeth Dossa Contributing Writers: Sister Joelle Cunnane Patti Kantor, Sister Camille Kelley, Trish Trout Graphic Design Elizabeth Dossa
Pat Osborne Photography Sandy Goetzinger, Patti Kantor, Sister Marilyn Lacey
Copyright 2011 Sisters of Mercy West Midwest Community • Mercy Connection articles may be reproduced with written permission from the Sisters of Mercy West Midwest Communications Office. Direct reprint requests to: firstname.lastname@example.org
13 Mercy Connection • December 2011/January 2012