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October/November 2011

Mercy Day Across the West Midwest

Above: Sister Mary Edwin Byrne and Marian Oaks Director Christine Yedica enjoyed the celebration in Burlingame.

Principal SisterAnne Marie Miller and her fifth grade students at St. Joseph School, Auburn, CA., hold up their Mercy Day candy bars.

Sisters Alice Maiers and Bernice Kurt enjoy a treat after a special Mercy Day liturgy at Sacred Heart Convent with students and faculty at Mount Mercy University.

At left: Seniors at Mercy High Omaha wore habit skirts sewn by Sister Carolyn Coffey for the annual Mercy Day play.

Right: Colorado-area sisters clockwise: Sharon Ekler, Del Rey Ekler, Peg Maloney, Cyrilla Wolfe, Regis Leahy, Sharon Ford, Margaret Quinn, and Mary Sean Crimmons in Frederick, CO.

At left (L-R): Sister Generose Kubesh, Sister Maureen Mulcrone, Mercy Volunteer Molly Dougherty, Sister Margaret Platte, Sister Hilda Sucher, and Sister Helen Ruhl at Mercy Day potluck in Farmington Hills.

Chicago staff and baby Matthew celebrate at lunch. 1 Mercy Connection • October/November 2011

Fighting Human Trafficking: A Perspective from California By Liz Dossa

This article on efforts to combat human trafficking in California is the first of three. Mercy ministries in Chicago and Kansas City will follow in the next issues of Mercy Connection. “You are a useless house girl.” The sentence rang in Sarah’s ears. Her employer, a Kenyan woman, had brought Sarah (not her real name) from Nairobi to care for her toddler and her house. At first, the idea seemed to be a good one. Sarah, in her 20s, believed life would be better in the U.S. There was no food in her village. People were desperate. She worked cleaning houses to support her small daughter and her parents. When her employer in Nairobi asked her to come to the United States., Sarah felt a leap of hope. She would be able to send money back to her family. The employer even offered to send her to college. “I was convinced life would be good. When we landed at the airport, everything looked so good and beautiful,” she told an audience of Mercy sisters in Burlingame in 2005. Sarah saw quickly that she had been trapped. Her employer’s manner changed abruptly, from her kindly attitude back in Kenya to a rigid, demanding stance. She took Sarah’s passport and demanded that she work long hours, cleaning the house, cooking and caring for the little boy. Her pay was to be $50 a month and would accumulate toward paying her ticket home. Even worse, she was not to talk to anyone. “Everyone is from the FBI,” the woman said. Sarah's family at home would suffer if she didn't cooperate.

Sarah was terrified, as her employer intended.

Sarah was terrified, as the employer had intended. She became so depressed that she couldn’t look in the mirror. "I saw myself as a useless person," she said. Poverty at home was easier to bear than the emotional beating that her employer delivered daily. Sarah was so despondent that she thought about suicide.

Statistics Hard to Determine

An undetermined number of Sarahs are trafficked to the U.S. in a pattern that many believe is the largest international criminal operation behind drugs. Statistics of sex and labor trafficking are difficult to verify because these trafficked victims are hidden behind barriers of fear and intimidation. Vulnerable women and children are brought across borders for the sex industry from Asia, Eastern Europe and Latin America. Workers like Sarah willing to work in households, in agriculture and in restaurants can be kept as virtual slaves, imprisoned in the work place and paid far below minimum wage. The U.S. State Department estimates that 600,000 - 800,000 men, women and children are trafficked across international borders each year and approximately 14,500 – 17,500 of them are trafficked into the U.S. The problem rages internationally, but the U.S. made a major step to combat it with the passage of the Trafficking Victims Protection Act of 2000 that is up for reauthorization this fall. The act established funding for Rescue and Restore campaigns, local coalitions which bring police, the courts and human services together to identify and support victims. Fighting well-organized, and potentially violent crime networks must be done collaboratively. The key is finding the appropriate niche for giving help. In California, sisters from many religious communities have made efforts to help trafficking victims, but finding the hidden Sarahs and deciding how best to serve them has proven difficult. Members of Leadership Conference of Women Religious Region 14 (covering California, Nevada, Utah, Guam and Hawaii) came together several years ago in San Francisco and, after much discussion, decided not to fund a safe house. The sisters felt it was too difficult to identify victims to justify the expense, and too few would be served. continued next page

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Fighting Human Trafficking, cont. Individual Sisters of Mercy have worked quietly to fight trafficking in California. At least two sisters have housed trafficking victims in the past several years. One sister who housed a woman for nine months found it a challenging, rewarding and educational experience. She learned that the location of the house and any identification of it could be dangerous for the victim and the community. Sheltering the victim must be as secret as the original trafficking, so she asked that even the region not be named. “But providing a roof was not nearly enough,” the Mercy Sister said. The woman needed help with study of basic skills needed for a program in which she was enrolled, but she had had little education in her own country. The program required tools she could not master in the time she was given. The government support was scanty, and the sister and her friends often supplied basic clothing. “One thing I realized in a new way was that when you uncover one face of the poor, you peel away layers of need, like an onion,” she said. “Her needs were not only educational, but social, psychological and spiritual.” Other sisters in California are attending training to enable them to recognize victims and to spread awareness of trafficking, often hidden in plain sight. Lenore Greene, a social worker with the Santa Clara County Department of Social Services, has taken training by a local expert, San Jose police lieutenant John Vanek. Sister Maureen Hally and Sister Therese Randolph have attended Vanek’s trainings. Religious communities have Therese is now the Mercy representative on the tremendous potential power Northern Coalition of Catholic Sisters.

in fighting trafficking.

Religious communities have tremendous potential power in fighting trafficking with compassionate awareness, according to Sister Kathleen Bryant, RSCJ (Society of the Sacred Heart), a member of the RSCJ international trafficking team. The effects of speaking, writing and teaching about the issue can be enormous. Influenced by Judy Cannato’s Fields of Compassion, Kathleen said, “One conversation or one action for advocacy or one class you teach builds that field. One act of kindness strengthens the field of compassion and awareness.” Kathleen talks about the issue wherever she goes—visiting a nursing home, a hair salon, or the doctor's office. Sarah’s case contained a surprising twist. She begged her employer to allow her go to church where she pleaded with a priest for help. He called on Sister Marilyn Lacey, then Catholic Charities Director of Immigration and Refugee Services in San Jose. With their encouragement, Sarah ran away from her employer. Marilyn found a shelter for her and connected Sarah with social services and legal counsel. She then referred her case to the justice department for an application for a T1 Visa which would give her protected status and support as a trafficking victim. With the generous support of a wonderful local volunteer who paid for her professional training, Sarah eventually became a medical technician, and her daughter is now with her and doing well in school. The note of irony is that Marilyn discovered that Sarah’s abusive employer was on a fellowship at a local university —in the field of human rights.

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The Challenge: Recognizing Human Trafficking by Sister Therese Randolph When I was recently asked to serve on a local task force of women religious in the San Francisco Bay area on trafficking, I knew I needed to do some homework. A recent training program offered by the San Jose Coalition Against Human Trafficking provided a wealth of information. Below are excerpts from that material.

Can I Recognize Human Trafficking?

Maybe, if you are aware of the signs and take time to explore the clues. Human trafficking, or slavery as it is often referred to, has three basic elements Process: recruiting , harboring, moving, obtaining, or maintaining a person; Means: by force, fraud, or coercion; End: for involuntary servitude, debt bondage, slavery, or sex trade. How might I recognize victims of human trafficking? Possible indicators: — Heavy security--used to keep people in or out of offices, factories, shops, hotels or motels; —Working conditions--Do workers have freedom of movement? Do they live and work in the same place? Do they owe a debt to their employers? Do employers have conrol over the worker's immigration documents? —Appearance or mannerisms of the workers--Are there signs of trauma fatigue, injuries or other evidence of poor care? Are individuals withdrawn, afraid to talk, or are their communications censored? While none of these are proof of human trafficking, they are flashing lights that raise awareness. Engaging in conversation, asking questions, and staying alert may uncover a situation that calls for action. If you suspect a situation is one of trafficking, get help. There may be danger to the person and to you, if the situation is not handled well. Consult with social agencies, health care providers, or local law enforcement for assistance. Once our eyes are open to this reality, the need and the resources to help both come to light! Call the National Human Trafficking Resource Center, a service of the Polaris Project. 1-888-3737-888 (Note: The number is intentionally printed this way to make it easy to remember —To report a tip —To connect with anti-trafficking services in your area —To request training and technical assistance, general information or specific anti-trafficking resources. — The Polaris Project website contains a wealth of resources, including a calendar of events, training opportunities and information. An excellent booklet is “The Crime of Human Trafficking: A Law Enforcement Guide to Identification and Investigation.” It is available without cost from the International Association of Chiefs of Police, 515 North Washington St. Alexandria, VA 22314-2357.

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The wonderful variety of Mercy Day celebrations that took place across the West Midwest this past month indicates that the Mercy charism is alive and well in our Community. These celebrations bring to mind the numerous Mercy Day celebrations over so many years. It was on Sept. 24,1827, that Catherine McAuley opened the House of Mercy on Baggott Street. And, on Sept. 8, 1830, Catherine McAuley, Anna Maria Doyle and Elizabeth Harley entered the Presentation Convent in Dublin. On December 12, 1831, they were professed as the first Sisters of Mercy. Catherine, 53 years of age at the time, became the founder of the Sisters of Mercy Community that, today, spans the past 180 years. So many Mercy Day celebrations by so many, in so many different ways!

Why is it that we, as humans, have such a difficult time with the concept of change?

Fall has come, and with it, so many changes. Colors are bursting forth from the lush green of summer. Nature is putting on a show, shedding leaves and blowing cool air from the north to the hot plains of the Midwest. Slow, cool breezes hint at the arctic wind or the ocean breezes that will bring this fall season to its fullness and lead us into the changes of winter. But, it is the character of the climate that defines the seasons in the vast geography of the West Midwest Community. The character of winter in Michigan, Illinois, and Iowa will stand in contrast to the winter in Arizona, the Southwest, and Southern California. Northern California will try to strike a balance between the snow-covered mountains and the warmth of the Southwest. The Northern Pacific states will be victims of the jet streams that bring rain, sleet, or snow. We hold, at one time within our Community, multiple expressions of the seasons—always changing—always transforming into a new seasons. Why is it that we, as humans, have such a difficult time with the concept of change, when we are surrounded by it, live among it, and experience it daily? We are delighted with the numerous changing Mercy Day celebrations. And, we are awed and inspired by the beauty of the changing seasons. Is it because we stand aside and do not try to control these changes? Perhaps it is the changes—the transformation—that we must actively bring about that cause anxiety and effort—the change in ourselves; the changes in ministries; the changes in our Community. Just as we experience a variety of Mercy Day celebrations and hold within us multiple expressions of the seasons, so we, as a Community, are always changing—always transforming into a new season of religious life. We live the life of Mercy with roots that extend back 180 years. These roots are the mooring for our growth, for our transformation into a new season of Mercy. How blessed we are to be a part of this emerging season. In Mercy,

Sister Sheila Megley for the WMW Community Leadership Team

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Fall is my favorite season. It is a season of brilliant colors, sparkling skies and cool mornings. In my family, it is also a season of birthdays. I think of it as a joyful celebration before the cold comes. And I have learned that living in Nebraska does indeed bring very cold winters. There is nothing like a beautiful fall day to lift my spirits. My husband’s grandfather, Hugh Kinsel, wrote a poem titled, “Will There Be an October in Heaven?” in October 1958, and it is one of my favorite poems about autumn. Here are his first and last stanzas: Will there be an October in Heaven With the trees dressed in every hue Wearing their bright colored formals From scarlet and gold to blue?... And the last – God has placed a heaven on earth If we open our heart and seek The miracles, pleasures, and beauty And separate them from the bleak. His poem sums up how I feel about fall! Fall can be seen as a time of slowing down, part of nature’s cycle of ending in order to begin again. For me, this year is about beginnings.

New faces and new perspectives enliven us all.

I have filled the key positions of retirement and development directors. Jean Sassatelli and Sister Marie Angele are valuable additions to the West Midwest team and are doing inspired work with great energy. Their excitement, fresh perspective, and willingness to face the unknown remind me and others of the blessing and reward of the work we do. New faces and perspectives enliven us all, and I am grateful for their presence and commitment to their work. The last year has brought many challenges and difficult losses. We have all made our way through communal, organizational and personal challenges, but time does have a way of marching us forward. In the height of my own grief, a friend suggested I read Margaret Wheatley’s book, Perseverance. I read it quickly when it first came out last year, but it was good to pick it up again recently. One of my favorite chapters is in Part 1:"Dwelling in Uncertainty." In it, she refers to the “strange puzzling paradoxes that always characterize a time of upheaval.” But she continues that uncertainty can also bring “the potential for new beginnings born from the loss of treasured pasts.” Some would argue, and I would be among them, that upheaval (change) is always among us. At times, upheaval is positive, and at others, more difficult. This great paradox allows us to appreciate the wonders of life, the beauty of the world, and the time and treasure we each have to offer. Beauty and new beginnings are what I’m grateful for this particular fall. I hope your particular fall is a beautiful one as well.

Kim Kinsel, WMW Community Operating Officer 6 Mercy Connection • October/November 2011

Sisters return Philippine artifact to Philippine Consul General The Sisters of Mercy West Midwest Community this month returned an artifact from the Philippine-American War to the Philippines. Two bells mounted on a wooden block with handles mysteriously had made their way to the archives in Omaha. On Oct. 8, West Midwest President Sister Judith Frikker presented Philippine Consul General of Chicago, Leo M. Herrera-Lim, with the artifact that was discovered during a review of the Sisters of Mercy archives. The ceremony took place at the Sisters of Mercy West Midwest Community office in Omaha. Accompanying the Consul General was his spouse, Fidelis. L-R: Sister Kathy Thornton, Sister Judith Frikker, Monte Kniffen, Consul General Leo Herrera-Lim, Fidelis HerreraLim, Sister Sheila Megley

Mercy Senior Archivist Monte Kniffen found the bells while cataloguing items in the archives this July. “We are not sure how the item came to Sisters of Mercy,” he said. “It was sent to Omaha from a convent in Red Bluff, Calif. We have not been able to determine how it initially arrived there.” The inscription on the bells reads: “Taken from the Church of Meycauayan, Luzson Island, P.I. after bombardment by Utah Battery March 29, 1899 by P.O. Thomas, Co. A. Battalion of Engineers.” The Philippine War of Independence or the Philippine Insurrection from 1899 to 1902 was a struggle for sovereignty that the Philippines had anticipated after the Spanish American War. Instead the U.S. and Filipino forces battled each other. About 200,000 Filipinos died during the war. Monte was aware that the Philippine government was interested in bringing home artifacts taken during the war. He emailed Consul General Herrera-Lim and got a quick response. "We tried to hide our exuberance," Herrera-Lim joked to the sisters during the presentation. The ceremony was a step toward healing a painful time in the history of the U.S. and the Philippines. “I am very much humbled to receive on behalf of a grateful nation, the bells of Meycauayan Church at the month that we are celebrating Philippine-American History Month,” said Herrera-Lim. “We have the opportunity to reflect on the unfortunate episode in our history and renew the ties that binds our peoples. I thank the Sisters of Mercy for being God’s instruments of peace and healing.” “We are pleased to return this treasure to the Philippine government,” said Sister Judith. “Our hearts are heavy knowing the loss that this piece represents, and we pray for an end to all war. We appreciate the visit by Consul General Herrera-Lim to retrieve these bells. On behalf of the Sisters of Mercy, I extend our Mercy hospitality to Mr. and Mrs. Herrera-Lim and pray for God’s blessing on them and their country.” The Consul General said he would give the artifact to the National Museum of the Philippines in Manila. Researchers there will try to track down more information about where the bells came from and where they went. He promised to share what he had learned and tomake replicas of the bells for his office and for the Sisters of Mercy.

7 Mercy Connection • October/November 2011

Mercy Day Transformation By Sister Diane Clyne Ten Mercy women gathered in Moss Beach, Calif., from Sept. 21-25 to experience one sampling of a Transforming Mercy/Mercy Transforming retreat. We came away awed by what transpired, by the beauty that surrounded us, and we were grateful for the opportunity to do some in-depth sharing across the West Midwest. From the first gathering Wednesday evening to the final evaluation before Sunday noon, we prayed, sang, created art, walked in splendid coastal beauty and reflected together on our Mercy life. As each woman spoke, as we read from Catherine McAuley or Brian Swimme, and as we struggled to integrate how to live more deeply from the Critical Concerns, we inspired and encouraged one another. We decided on a rather simple rhythm: introduction to prayer at 10 in the morning and supper at six in the evening, followed by a sharing of the fruit of our prayer from the day. We were from the former Chicago, Detroit, Omaha, and Burlingame regions, but we laughed at how much we hold in common. There was a candor and trust in the sharing from the start, and we agreed by the end: it has been a long while since we celebrated Mercy Day like this! We savored much intentional conversation on transformation. We recalled words from Catherine that root us. We had many free hours each day for nourishing contemplation, and we prepared ritual that truly held meaning for us and was clearly a high point in the days together. Justice themes, the chance to be with one another, and the quiet and the beauty in nature drew us together. We read to one another from Journey of the Universe (Swimme and Tucker), World on the Edge (Lester Brown), Divine Milieu (Teilhard de Chardin) as well as from Catherine’s Retreat Instructions. We gained new insight from hearing one another’s response. Having prayed individually with the Chapter Declaration, we proclaimed it together as part of our final ritual and felt connected in a new way with the whole West Midwest. By the end of our time, we strived to make practical the inspirations and reflections we had shared. We decided: “My job now is to plant seeds in regard to the critical concerns.” “I am seeing more integration—how one critical concern affects another.” “Earth spirituality: waves, ocean, me—all is One.” “Let’s find where we need to be so people have water.” “We need to shift the power differential.”

L-R Back: Sisters Donna Deedler, Carolyn Snegoski, Rita Specht, Bernadette Hart, Dolores Nice. Middle (on couch): Charlotte Young, Diane Rondeau. Front: Katherine Hill, Diane Clyne, Together we look forward to our 2012 Gathering in Kathleen Erickson

Detroit and the chance to deepen even more in our response to our Chapter Declaration.

8 Mercy Connection • October/November 2011

What I'm reading! The Quest for the Living God by Elizabeth Johnson, CSJ Reviewed By Sister Gilmary Bauer

Note: Sister Elizabeth Johnson’s Quest has sparked considerable controversy, beginning with the U.S. Bishops’ committee on doctrine. Sister Gilmary does not deal with that discussion but with the substance of the book. To refresh the various positions on the book, the following articles may be helpful: "Since the middle of the twentieth century,” writes Elizabeth Johnson in The Quest for the Living God, “there has been a renaissance of new insights into God in the Christian tradition. On different continents, under pressure from historical events and social conditions, people of faith have glimpsed the living God in fresh ways … It is not that a wholly different God is discovered from the One believed in by previous generations. Christian faith does not believe in a novel God but, finding itself in strange situations, seeks the active presence of the divine Spirit precisely there. Aspects long forgotten are brought into new relationships with current events, with the result that the depths of divine compassion are appreciated in ways not previously imagined.” Johnson’s book is an invitation to reflect not just on her precise and robust articulation of what has happened in those years, but to bear witness to what has happened to us, to concern ourselves with the mystery, complexity and the gift of faith, from the perspective of the deepest questions of our personal experience and the profound questions of our communal practice. She doesn’t fear, but rather encourages these often only dimly answered questions, proceeding from the venerable understanding that faith seeks understanding, and cherishing what one Christian ethicist has named “an apt and human puzzlement.” She asserts the conviction that our lives, grounded in our experience of salvation, must approach the world encouraging what some would see as prodigal conversation and connectedness with those who do not God's will surpasses the search usually participate. As she does in her earlier works, she reminds us that to honor for personal wholeness. a vocation to prophecy is to acknowledge that God’s will surpasses the search for personal wholeness, however spiritual; and that friendship with God means being friendly with those who have been friends with God before: usually persons forced to subsist at the margins – women, children, and all of Flannery O’Connor’s “extra people in the world”! She calls for an exploration of the Living God of Love – the Trinity – voicing the mystery anew in a contemporary idiom, and challenges us to “master” their language, understood with its three-fold grammars, tones, and inflections. As I reflected on her book, I was reminded of our recent Institute Chapter where we committed ourselves with a new sense of urgency to act in ways which contribute to a sustainable future for the world, our Institute, the Church and Earth. Anchored in and accompanied by Jesus, a God of Crucified Compassion who is an expression of total understanding, of total solidarity of our suffering humanity, we yearn for an integrity of word and deed, in order to help bring that humanity into God whom Johnson calls “Gracious Mystery, Ever Greater, Ever Nearer.” 9 Mercy Connection • October/November 2011

What I've Watched 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? members Latest Institute news? members What is the WMW saying to the public? Have you seen the Justice news and alerts? Do you have news to share?

Of Gods And Men

(French with English subtitles)

Reviewed by Sister Linda Werthman

Of Gods and Men is based on the life and death of seven Cistercian monks in Our Lady of Atlas monastery in Algeria. Their everyday rhythm of prayer, communal living and service is carried out in the midst of mutually affectionate relationships with the Algerian people, all of whom are Moslem, in a small rural village, Tibhirine. The monks were not the only women and men religious killed over a two-year period (1994-1996) at the end of the Algerian war. Yet the individual and communal stories of the monks, as told in the movie, has touched something --longing, ideals, questions-- in persons of diverse callings both in France and in the United States. Over the course of two hours, one watches how the living of the daily, faithful, and on the surface unremarkable activities of prayer, community life and service have built a firm, interwoven foundation which is tested when the monks are faced with personal and communal discernment. The portrayal of the uniqueness and diversity among the monks is both very human and realistic. As followers of the way, truth and life as embodied in Jesus, these men, while not desiring or choosing death, “do yearn for integrity of word and deed” and do choose a direction that leaves them open to the violent actions of others. At the Cannes festival in 2010, the film won the Grand Prix award, the festival’s second highest honor. While you may not be able to see this 2010 movie at your local theater, it is now available on DVD and well worth the cost. How does the story of these Cistercian monks deepen our relationships—with one another and with those with whom we journey? Perhaps viewing the DVD Of Gods and Men could contribute to your Transforming Mercy/Mercy Transforming journey. This question reflects one of the integrating questions for spiritual enrichment in the TMMT process: How does this conversation or event deepen our relationships—with one another and with those with whom we journey? A contextual resource: Veilleux, Armand. The Witness of the Tibhirine Martyrs. Spiritus: A Journal of Christian Spirituality - Volume 1, Number 2, Fall 2001, pp. 205-216


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Giving Voice to Hope By Sister Renée Kettering

The vision of the first Giving Voice gathering in 1997 was to develop an inter-congregational forum for members of women’s religious communities under the age of 50. The idea was that these younger women could give voice to their dreams for the future of religious life without being overwhelmed by the majority of members who were above this age. The prevailing vision insisted that while such gatherings were momentarily exclusive to a single age group, the ultimate outcome would be the development and strengthening of “voice” and sisterhood across congregational boundaries that would infuse life into each respective congregation. Originally envisioned by Sisters Judy Eby, RSM; Jan Hayes RSM, Kristin Matthes, SNDdeN; and Toni Temporiti, CPPS, the Giving Voice newsletter was first published in 1999. The newsletter has evolved over time L-R: Sisters Renée, Sarah Heger, CSJ, Julie Christensen, CSJ, and with new editors, writers, continued gatherings, and a Leslie Keener, CDP. website at --Sr. Judy Eby

More than 50 women’s religious congregations from across the United States came together July 21-24, 2011, for the Sixth Giving Voice National Gathering at Loyola University in Chicago, IL. The conference, entitled “Engage the Emergence,” sought to explore the questions: • What signs of the new emerging do you see? • In what ways are you already living into the new? Sisters of Mercy present were: Sisters Nancy Donovan, Ruth Hennessy, Kathleen Kearney (Mid-Atlantic Novice), Sharon Kerrigan, Sally Lodge, Cathy Manderfield (Temp Professed), Patricia Murphy, Mary Oladimeji, Beth Scanlon, Mary Ann Scofield, Kathy Thill, and Jennifer Wilson (Temp Professed). Also present were Nordia Brusola (Candidate), Mandy Carrier (Candidate), Jennifer Barrow (Pre-candidate)

The gathering was primarily created to provide an opportunity for younger women religious to share their hopes and dream the future of religious life. Sisters from all generations, however, were invited to participate in this conversation, the first gathering to be inter-generational. The youngest sister in attendance was 25 and the oldest was 88. Communitas was one of several themes explored during the conference. It was described as the energy present at the founding of each of our Communities that launched a dream into reality. In A Presence that Disturbs, author Tony Gittins states, “Communitas is marked by zeal and energy, enthusiasm and collaboration. It actually generates a great deal of energy, because communitas is rooted in hope, united around a common vision, maintained by trust and inspired by great generosity.” We, the Sisters of Mercy, may visualize this energy in Catherine’s dream for the House of Mercy. The participants were invited to question: how are we being called to reignite the energy of communitas that existed at our founding that has burst forth at significant times in our communal history? Sister Sandra Schneiders, IHM, a guest speaker for the weekend and a long-time supporter of Giving Voice, spoke on the current realities affecting women religious. “We are in a kairos moment that, if we seize it," said Schneiders, “could really galvanize into a whole new era of American Religious Life.” After reflecting upon the current realities and signs of new emergence, we were invited to share our thoughts and experiences with small groups. My group consisted of a sister from each decade, from 20s to 80s. Many of the experiences of sisters in proximity to my own age were quite similar to my own experiences, despite differing communities. Sisters in the second half of life contributed their own wisdom and experience as we pondered what God is doing in this new time. For me, the conference provided an opportunity to wrestle with the challenging questions affecting religious life in the 21st century. It also was an opportunity to connect with my peers and friends across many different Communities. Being with others who are passionate about religious life energizes me and fills me with hope for the future. 11 Mercy Connection • October/November 2011

Sisters of Mercy at St. Joseph Mercy Hospital in 1917

The influenza epidemic of 1918

A swift and deadly strain of influenza swept the world in 1918, killing an estimated 50 million people. Many of those stricken died within hours of their first symptoms. World War I was in its fourth year and U.S. soldiers were among the 25 percent of Americans afflicted. September 24, 1918, started as a normal day for the Sisters of Mercy at St. Joseph Mercy Hospital in Ann Arbor, Mich. That all changed at 11 a.m. when administrator Sister Ursula Dunn received a telegram stating that the United States government was commandeering the hospital to care for soldiers suffering from the flu. By 9 p.m., 283 soldiers – many critically ill – had been moved into the 110bed hospital, with beds lining the corridors. Needing even more room, the government appropriated the fraternity house next door for additional bed space. The Sisters of Mercy served as Red Cross nurses in order to stay on at the hospital. They included Sister Mary Ligouri Dodds who had come from Dubuque, Iowa, to study pharmacy at the University of Michigan and was living with the sisters at St. Joe’s. In the fall of 1918, she stayed on at the hospital to care for flu victims instead of returning to college. When she herself became ill, she made light of it. Her case was considered mild until pneumonia developed and death soon followed. She was 28. The day of her burial was the only time the sisters were allowed to leave the hospital while the government was in control. A nurse in 1918 wears the mask used After the war ended and the epidemic wound down, the hospital was by much of the population during the returned to the sisters. epidemic. (Photo courtesy of the National Archive.) St. Joseph Mercy - Ann Arbor is celebrating its 100th anniversary in 2011.

To see a video celebrating its first Century of Caring, visit

12 Mercy Connection • October/November 2011

WMW Tech Tips By the WMW Tech Team Latest Technology Gadgets Are the new tablets the way to go? Whether it is an iPad, iPad 2, Samsung Galaxy, Blackberry Playbook or any of the other new tablets being released to the public, it is always best to actually test one out first; hold it in your hands while you are trying to press the on-screen keys; how does the weight of it feel? Do the letters match the keys you are pressing? Do you need to be within range of a wireless network for it to function? Does it require a data plan from a local cellular service? How much is that going to cost? Are you able to print from it to your home printer? What happens if you drop it? Are you able to use it to replace your desktop/laptop computer? Staying Safe Online Get a free email account and use that for all your online activity unrelated to Community business or connections. Select a username that is nothing like anything you’ve had before. There are many free email providers, such as Yahoo and Gmail. Don’t give out information simply because it is requested. Countless web sites ask you to give them your full name, date of birth, address, phone number, email address, etc., when you might just want to search their catalogs or read messages on a discussion forum. Give as little information as possible, and if they insist on information that doesn’t seem justified, leave to go elsewhere. Some people give false information at such sites, especially if they don’t plan to return in the future. Be especially cautious of “profiles” and “directory listings” for instant messaging programs or web sites. Block or ignore unwanted users. Whether you are in a chat room or using Instant Messaging, you should always check out what options/preferences are available to you and take advantage of the “Block all users except those on my buddy list” or adding unwanted usernames to an Ignore list in chat. If anyone bothers you and won’t go away, put them on block or ignore! Most email programs will also let you block messages from specific senders. Never give your password to anyone. Your Internet Service Provider will never, ever ask you for your password while you are online or via email. In fact, they shouldn’t ever contact you to ask you for your password, period. They can get it from their own records, if they really need it for any reason. There’s no legitimate reason for anyone to ever contact you to ask for your password. Don’t provide your credit card number or other identifying information to any person or company with whom you are not personally familiar or that doesn’t have an extremely good, widespread reputation. Finally, Facebook is NOT going to start charging members for its use; Cell Phone Numbers are NOT going to be published publicly; there was NOT a service dog for the blind that led 900 people out of the World Trade Center on 9/11; and little Timmy is NOT collecting a million emails before he dies. If you are unsure of an email’s subject or materials, check it out BEFORE forwarding it to everyone you know. Go to or http://www. or to find out whether the email is True or FALSE!

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Sister Linda Bechen Sister Linda Bechen is a pastoral associate at St. Jude’s Catholic Church in Cedar Rapids, Iowa. As a pastoral associate, Linda is a resource for parish members assisting with liturgies, funeral planning, visiting the sick and homebound, coordinating RCIA (Rite of Christian Initiation for Adults), and facilitating adult education. As a member of the St. Jude’s community, Linda will also help the parish to celebrate its 50th anniversary beginning in October.  “The needs of the people of God are varied and every day is different," she said. "What is critical in parish ministry today is the constant and consistent response which speaks of mercy and compassion to whomever comes into our doors. I marvel at the faces of God that I meet each day.”   St. Jude’s is the seventh Eastern Iowa parish to be blessed with Linda’s gifts.  Prior to her ministry at St. Jude’s, she served at St. Patrick’s Church in Cedar Rapids; St. Catherine, St. Donatus and St. Joseph parishes in Bellevue; St. Patrick Parish in Fairfax and Holy Trinity Church in Walford.  In addition to her parish work, Linda also ministered as a teacher, vocation minister for the Mercy New Membership Team and as a farm organizer for Iowa Citizens for Community Improvement in Des Moines.

Associate Cheryl Claeys Associate Cheryl Claeys met the Sisters of Mercy at her parish in Benton Harbor, MI, over 27 years ago. Sister Therese Blaquiere was in the choir with Cheryl at St. John’s Parish and Sister Rita Valade played the guitar. Cheryl’s work with the parish youth ministry led her to then Sister Faith Mauro, Kalamazoo diocesan youth minister. Faith told Cheryl about a new associate group forming, and through Sister Rachelle Harper, Cheryl made her commitment. “The women are kindred spirits,” she said. Since then, Cheryl has spearheaded projects such as helping prepare materials at the Readiness Center in Benton Harbor and spending time with retired sisters at McAuley Center making Christmas cookies and writing Christmas cards. Retiring last spring from her job as radiation therapist, Cheryl will spend winter with her parents in Florida, leaving her snow blower behind. She’s prayerfully considering her next step. “I’ve been asking the Lord what kinds of doors he wants to open, where he wants me to spend some of my senior years,” she said from her summer trailer near Lake Michigan. “I can’t imagine what my life would have been like if I hadn’t been asked to be part of Mercy. They are my family. You go to gatherings and retreats, and you feel ready to hit the world again! ”

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Sister Carolyn Coffey

Sister Carolyn Coffey sewed new skirts for the girls to wear in Mercy High's (Omaha) play. With Sister Carolyn are: (L to R) Catherine Glenn (played Sr. Veronica McDarby), Monica Keenan (played Frances Warde), Anne Griffith (played Catherine McAuley).

Sister Carolyn Coffey found the thread of an interest in home economics class in Omaha’s Mercy High that has carried her through her years of teaching, school administration and ministry in housing. She learned to sew more than just potholders, making some of her own clothes. Carolyn entered the Sisters of Mercy in Omaha, and then taught in elementary schools in Omaha, California (Grass Valley), Iowa, Idaho, and Missouri. After a sabbatical in 1988, she began Mercy Housing Omaha, which she says started in a box on her dining room table. Over  14 years, she hired staff and oversaw the development of the organization as it became Mercy Housing Midwest.  When she left in 2002, Mercy Housing Midwest had 792 units of housing in the region. Now in addition to a ministry of prayer, she keeps her machine needles busy with  her R.S.M. Ministry (Rent a Seamstress Ministry). “I have shortened slacks, skirts, pajama bottoms/sleeve tops, and blouses.  I also made 40 cocktail napkins for one of the sisters to give as a present. ” Her recent project with Sister Jeanne O’Rourke was to replace the 1960s habits which were worn by girls at Mercy High for the Mercy Day play. She took black skirts to her sewing class and learned how to sew the elastic to form the waistband (an alteration from the authentic pleats!). The girls wore the skirts with a black top.  “So learning new things is exciting,” she said. “When I sew an item I know that there is not another one just like the one I worked on.” 

Note: Faces of Mercy from Auburn, Burlingame and Chicago will be featured in the next Mercy Connection

Mercy Connection

October/November 2011 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 • Director of Communications Sandy Goetzinger-Comer Editor Elizabeth Dossa Contributing Writers Sister Gilmary Bauer, Sister Diane Clyne, Sister Judy Eby, Patti Kantor, Mary MacDonald, Melissa Pence, Sister Linda Werthman

Graphic Design Elizabeth Dossa Pat Osborne Photography Liz Dossa, Sandy Goetzinger, Sister Anne Marilyn Tyler

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:

15 Mercy Connection • October/November 2011

October-November 2011  

Mercy Connection

October-November 2011  

Mercy Connection