Connect With Mercy

Read about how sisters, associates, companions, volunteers, social justice advocates, staff and friends of Mercy live and experience the spirit of responding to the needs of those who are poor, sick and uneducated.

December 19, 2014

By Sister Margretta, therapist and volunteer at the Peace House

“I never wanted to be homeless,” Katherine writes. Photo by Volkan Olmez, unsplash.com

“I never wanted to be homeless,” Katherine writes. Photo by Volkan Olmez, unsplash.com

I am a volunteer at Peace House Community, a day shelter in Minneapolis, Minnesota, for those who are without a home as well as the economically poor. Last month I shared two stories from women who wanted to share what it’s like to be a woman living on the streets. I took their words and wrote them up to share. A third woman, Katherine (name has been changed), approached me as well. This is her story, in her own words.

Katherine’s Story

I chose Katherine (not my real name) for my identification for this story. It is my grandma’s name.

I lived for a while on the reservation as a kid. My mother was killed by a drunk driver. My dad was alcoholic. He died sober. I miss my daddy so much. He was everything to me; he passed two years ago.

As a child, I was moved around to different places to live. I was even sent to group homes. I was troubled and was sent to seven different places/schools. I was bullied a lot at school and ran away from my placements. My first experience in a prisonlike setting occurred when I was 16 years of age.

Now I sleep in places where at night I tie my shoes together and put them under my head to sleep on so no one can steal my shoes. I have been on the streets for 20 years. I am now 39 years old. I am kicked out of places because I drink and get very drunk. I went to Kateri house [a safe house for American Indian woman recovering from addictions] and tried again to be sober. I met my husband there and we both started drinking…[got] kicked out….[it was my] first time [being] homeless. I was 19. I got into crazy predicaments by drinking.

Right now, I have not drunk for four years, but every day I think about it. In the past, I never wanted to be homeless. Now I try hard to be sober.

The Minneapolis skyline cc license (BY NC SA 2.0) image shared by Paul Weimer

The Minneapolis skyline cc license (BY NC SA 2.0) image shared by Paul Weimer

I frequently spend my days in the library or wander the street. I wish my mind were not always on the street and what might happen. I want peace of mind. I do nothing worthwhile with my time. I get depressed and want to drink, but I know I cannot. Twice I have been taken to a hospital, and they saved my life. I was bleeding internally from alcohol use. They said if it happened again they would not be able to save me. I still have a husband. He is in federal prison.

I remain depressed and scared. In general I feel I cannot trust doctors. I have some money to pay privately. Once I was given 80 Percocet by a medical person. Before I even got to the place I was supposed to be, people were waiting at the door to buy them at $10 apiece. I did not sell them. Something is suspicious.

There is one doctor who hires me to show him where the homeless campsites are, so he can attend to them medically. He is a good doctor and I trust him. He tries to get me to take medicine for my depression. As of yet, I do not take it.

I would like to reconnect with my daughter, who is 16. I am not sure how.

Right now, money is an issue. Some kids are doing signing on the streets. They take our corners. I sometimes collect $100 a day; sometimes only $30, not enough to pay for my night on the couch. I took some $900 I had and spent it on other homeless people at a hotel, so I am broke today. I wanted to help other homeless people.

Presently I am staying on a couch in a man’s house and pay him $33 a night. It is colder in the house than on the street. Sometimes he wants sex. I tell him “no” and I can be mean.

I still want to get into Kateri house, if they will have me back.

This is my life.

December 18, 2014

By Megan K., student, Georgian Court University, Lakewood, New Jersey

Participants in the oral history project at Georgian Court University.

Participants in the oral history project at Georgian Court University.

Last spring, I was approached by Kerrin M., another student at Georgian Court University, who asked whether or not I would be interested in participating in an oral history project involving the Sisters of Mercy. The project, an initiative funded by the Conrad Hilton Foundation, pairs more than 100 college women across the nation with Catholic sisters to conduct in-depth one-on-one interviews to capture their vocation stories via videos, photographs and blog posts (like this!).

At the time I was intrigued, although I’ll admit I was also unsure. As time went on, Kerrin (who was helping to direct this project alongside Sister Mary-Paula C., a Sister of Mercy and a theology professor at Georgian Court) would continue to inform me of details as they were planned.
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December 18, 2014

By Karel B. Lucander

Sister Betsy Linehan, associate professor of philosophy at Saint Joseph’s University, pauses for a quick photo on her way to the “Dimensions of Freedom” class she co-teaches at the Philadelphia Prison System.

Sister Betsy Linehan, associate professor of philosophy at Saint Joseph’s University, pauses for a quick photo on her way to the “Dimensions of Freedom” class she co-teaches at the Philadelphia Prison System.

“‘I don’t want to gain immortality through my work. I want to gain immortality by not dying.’ This wish — expressed by Woody Allen — will not be granted. Everyone dies. One of the great tasks of human existence is to come to terms with the inevitability of death. Only human beings have to do this, since, as Pascal said, only human beings know that they will die.”

So begins the course description for Sister Betsy Linehan’s “Philosophy of Death,” where she encourages new sparks to ignite for her bright students at Saint Joseph’s University in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.
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December 17, 2014

By Sister Cynthia

Women on Lifetime's "The Sisterhood"

Women on Lifetime’s “The Sisterhood”

Those of us who have persevered through to the last episode of “The Sisterhood” on Lifetime now know what happened at the end of the six weeks of “discernment” for the young women on the show. Yet this morning, as I recounted what happened to another sister, I realized how little we actually know about how things will turn out in one or two years. That’s the thing about discernment. It keeps going. In fact, our whole life, particularly the spiritual side of us, is continually discerning. That doesn’t mean we can’t make a life decision. People do every day. But a discerning life means regularly touching in with our heart, and that means faithful contact with our good God, who works in that mysterious place in us that we call heart. That regular contact insures that when a decision is called for, we are ready.
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December 17, 2014

By Jean Stokan, Institute Justice Team

A rally was held in Washington, DC on December 13 to express outrage over recent racial injustices.

A rally was held in Washington, DC on December 13 to express outrage over recent racial injustices.

Eric Garner’s last words, “I can’t breathe,” echoes, pierces and unmasks. The grand jury decisions not to indict white police officers in the killing of unarmed African-American men—Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri, and Eric Garner in Staten Island, New York—coupled with the Justice Department’s statement that the killing of a 12-year-old boy in Cleveland, Ohio, reveals a police force “engaged in a pattern and practice of using excessive force.” All have laid bare the deep wounds of racism in our country. Whether or not the individual officers would have been found guilty in the first two cases, the role of the grand juries served to preempt public judicial processes and expose the lack of accountability in the killings.

A national outcry has been provoked with protests from coast to coast, as these cases are but the tip of an iceberg of way too many precious lives lost. They cry out for deep examination and dismantling of the entrenched structures of racism built into societal institutions that serve as a death sentence, albeit sometimes slow, for anyone simply born with dark skin.
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December 17, 2014

Por Jean Stokan, Equipo de Justicia del Instituto

El 13 de diciembre se realizó una manifestación en Washington, DC para expresar enojo por las recientes injusticias raciales.

El 13 de diciembre se realizó una manifestación en Washington, DC para expresar enojo por las recientes injusticias raciales.

Las últimas palabras de Eric Garner, «No puedo respirar», resuenan, penetran y desenmascaran. La decisión de los jurados de no inculpar a los policías blancos en los asesinatos de hombres afroamericanos desarmados –Michael Brown en Ferguson, Missouri, y Eric Garner en Staten Island, Nueva York—junto con la declaración del Departamento de Justicia del asesinato de un niño de 12 años en Cleveland, Ohio, revela una fuerza policial «que participa en un patrón y una práctica de emplear fuerza excesiva». Todo esto ha dejado al descubierto las profundas heridas del racismo en nuestro país. Sea o no sea que los oficiales hubieran sido encontrados culpables en los primeros dos casos, la labor del gran jurado sirvió para predecir los procesos judiciales públicos y exponer la falta de rendición de cuentas por los homicidios.

Un clamor nacional ha provocado protestas de costa a costa, ya que estos casos son sólo la punta del iceberg de demasiadas vidas preciosas perdidas. Ellos claman por una investigación profunda y un desmantelamiento de las estructuras radicadas en el racismo que forman parte de las instituciones sociales que sirven como sentencia de muerte, aunque lenta, para la persona que simplemente nace con piel oscura.
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December 16, 2014

By Mercy Associate Catherine R.

Like many ministries and institutions sponsored by the Sisters of Mercy, the staff on the Mercy campus in Burlingame, California, have felt the urgency of addressing climate change and its consequences.

Sister Barbara shows off results of gardening in raised beds at Marian Convent in Burlingame.

Sister Barbara shows off results of gardening in raised beds at Marian Convent in Burlingame.

One question especially presses upon us:

What does it take for us to embrace and implement changes to lower our carbon footprint?

Step 1: What’s the best way to bring the groups together?

Our search for answers began by bringing together a “green team” of representatives from all the entities on campus: Mercy Center, Mercy High School, the motherhouse, the sisters’ retirement community and administration.  But we learned that this approach had two shortcomings:  First, it conveyed the message that a special group (or “someone else”) was taking care of the challenge, and, second, it became difficult for members to attend “one more meeting” in their busy schedules.

Instead, we decided to make environmental concerns part of the regular agenda for the existing Campus Operations Team, which already brings together players from across the campus on a monthly basis.

Step 2: What call to action must be answered?
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December 16, 2014

By Sister Megan B.

cc license (BY 2.0) image shared by flickr user MattysFlicks

cc license (BY 2.0) image shared by flickr user MattysFlicks

The phrase “storm of anxiety” was used by one of the young women to describe how she is feeling at this point in the show. I think it is an apt description of the chaos that seems to have erupted: Eseni’s decision about Darnel, Francesca’s meltdown, Stacey’s doubts, Christie’s possible decision, and Claire’s ongoing difficulty in refraining from judging the others.

I was touched by the young women’s ministry experiences with people on the street, serving dinner to people who are homeless, begging in the market, and being with people with disabilities. The women seemed genuinely engaged despite some initial reluctance.

I loved the good-bye of the dancing Carmelites! I would have liked to have heard more from some of the other Daughters of Providence so that we could have a fuller sense of their charism and daily life.

The show continues to feel artificial and contrived. In the midst of it stands Sister Beth Ann, the hard-working, good-hearted, no-nonsense vocation director who I think dearly loves her community and wants what is best for the young women.

Where is this all leading? Will the “storm of anxiety” continue? What I do know is that discernment is a process that can take years. It is a deepening of one’s relationship with God. It is a mutual process between the woman and the religious community. It cannot happen in six weeks.

For more, read our previous blogs by Sisters on “The Sisterhood” . Or Learn more about becoming a Sister of Mercy.

December 15, 2014

By Patti Kantor, communications, West Midwest Community 

This is the fourth blog in our 2014 Advent blog series.

“He was not the light, but came to testify to the light.” —John 1:8

Sister Lucina is remembered for her comforting presence to all in need.

Sister Lucina is remembered for her comforting presence to all in need.

Sunday’s Gospel reading for the third week of Advent talks about John the Baptist. “He was not the light, but came to testify to the light” (John 1:8). I think we all know people in our lives like John, who are living proof of God’s love for us.

My twin sister, Peggy, and I were born at St. Catherine’s Hospital in Omaha, Nebraska. We each weighed three pounds. Our mother always told us that we lived because of the prayers of a Sister of Mercy.

She explained that when we were born, she and my father did not have health insurance. The doctor told them that we could stay in the nursery, since we were too fragile to take home, but we had to be in the far corner. He said if we were meant to survive, so be it. My mom called this corner of the nursery “the prayer section” where a Sister of Mercy prayed over us every night.

So, ever since I can remember, whenever I’d meet a Sister of Mercy, I’d ask her, “Were you in the nursery at St. Catherine’s in 1957?” I met many sisters, especially when I worked at Bergan Mercy Hospital in the late 1990s and early 2000s, but their answer was always an apologetic no. I gave up asking.

In 2004, I began working as a communicator for the Sisters of Mercy’s regional community in Omaha, which is now a part of the West Midwest Community. In the community newsletter, we had a monthly feature called “Mystery Sister,” when we’d publish an old photo of a sister and invite everyone to guess who it might be. As the editor of the newsletter, I’d interview the sister and we’d reveal her identity in the following month’s newsletter.

It was in this way I met Sister Lucina, who had come to Mercy Villa after working for many years in Mexico. In a quiet, gentle way, she started off our interview by saying, “I was newly professed in 1957 and my first ministry was working in the nursery at St. Catherine’s. I was so scared. I worked the night shift and the nurses would leave me saying, ‘Good luck!’”   Read More »

December 15, 2014

Por Patti Kantor, comunicadoras, Comunidad Oeste Medio Oeste 

«No era él la luz, pero venía como testigo de la luz». –Juan 1,8

La Hermana Lucina es recordada por su presencia reconfortante para todos los necesitados.

La Hermana Lucina es recordada por su presencia reconfortante para todos los necesitados.

La lectura del Evangelio del domingo para la tercera semana de Adviento habla acerca de Juan el Bautista. «No era él la luz, pero venía como testigo de la luz» (Juan 1,8).Creo que todas conocemos personas en nuestros entornos como Juan, que es una prueba evidente del amor de Dios por nosotras.

Mi hermana melliza, Peggy y yo nacimos en el Hospital St. Catherine en Omaha, Nebraska. Cada una pesaba tres libras. Nuestra madre siempre nos dijo que nosotras estamos vivas debido a las oraciones de una Hermana de la Misericordia.

Nos explicó que cuando nosotras nacimos, ella y mi padre no tenían seguro médico. El doctor les dijo que nosotras podíamos permanecer en la guardería, ya que estábamos muy frágiles para llevarnos a casa, pero debíamos estar en el rincón más distante. El doctor dijo que si íbamos a sobrevivir, así sería. Mi mamá llamó a este rincón de la guardería «la sección de la oración» donde una Hermana de la Misericordia rezaba por nosotras todas las noches.

Desde que tengo uso de razón, siempre que encontraba a una Hermana de la Misericordia, le preguntaba, «¿Estuvo en la guardería del Hospital St. Catherine en 1957?» Conocí a muchas hermanas, especialmente cuando trabajé en el Hospital Bergan Mercy al final de la década de 1990 y principios de la del 2000, pero sus respuestas fueron siempre un apologético no. Hasta que me cansé de preguntar.

En el 2004, empecé a trabajar como comunicadora para la comunidad regional de las Hermanas de la Misericordia en Omaha, que ahora es parte de la Comunidad Oeste Medio Oeste. En el boletín de la comunidad, teníamos un segmento mensual llamado «Hermana Misterio», donde publicábamos una foto antigua de una hermana e invitábamos a las personas que adivinaran quien podría ser. Como editora del boletín, entrevistaría a la hermana y revelaríamos su identidad en el boletín del siguiente mes.

Fue de esta manera que conocí a la Hermana Lucina, que había llegado a Villa de la Misericordia después de trabajar por muchos años en México. De una manera tranquila y gentil, inició nuestra entrevista diciendo, «era una nueva hermana profesa en 1957 y mi primer ministerio fue trabajar en la guardería en St. Catherine. Estaba muy asustada. Trabajaba el turno de noche y las enfermeras me dejaban diciendo ‘¡Buena suerte!’»
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