Everyday “Yeses” Lead to Mercy
March 17, 2016
By Amanda LePoire
Despite growing up with Sisters of Mercy living on her the street, going to a Mercy high school, and attending college just minutes from Mercy administrative offices, Kelly Williams didn’t see herself becoming a Sister of Mercy. Now, as she finishes her candidacy and prepares to become a novice, she knows that Mercy is home.
“The more time I spent with the Mercys, the more I knew this is where I’m called to be,” says Kelly. She had hesitated to consider Mercy because she associated the sisters with health care, which she didn’t want as a ministry. Despite her reservations, she’s served as unit secretary at the Mercy Hospital – St. Louis (Missouri) Emergency Department since August 2014.
“It’s been an eye-opening experience,” Kelly says. She credits Sister Mary Robert Edwards, a longtime presence in the Emergency Department, with paving the way for her. In one conversation, she explained to Kelly the ins and outs of the department. Just a few months later, Sister Mary Robert died. Kelly sees that her ministry in the Emergency Department has facilitated the transition and healing of the staff, who cared deeply for Sister Mary Robert.
St. Louis has been the latest stop on Kelly’s path to Mercy. An “Army brat” born in Germany, Kelly moved with her family to Savannah, Georgia, when she was 2. She attended St. Vincent’s Academy and studied theology at Belmont Abbey College in Belmont, North Carolina—minutes from the Sisters of Mercy South Central Community’s administrative offices. After graduating, Kelly worked as an admissions counselor at Belmont Abbey College for three years. She considered getting her master’s degree, but “nothing was clicking with me.” She previously had considered religious life, but she “shut the door to it.” Despite blogging, praying and talking with her parents as she tried to figure out her next step, Kelly—someone who always planned out what she would do next—grew impatient. She talked to God as she cooked dinner one night. She stopped and pointed a spatula to the ceiling, saying, “I just need you to write it on a piece of paper.”
Not long after that, Kelly heard from a former professor. As part of a college theater class, Kelly had written a letter to herself, which the professor returned to students five years later. She forgot about the letter until the teacher dropped it off at her office on campus. In the letter’s second paragraph, Kelly asked herself, “Are you a religious sister?” “Everything came flooding back,” she says. “The grace was tangible.”
Despite realizing she had her answer, Kelly struggled with giving up the idea of having a family of her own. With 14 nieces and nephews, she had envisioned having her own children someday.
“When you say ‘yes’ to one, you have to know you’re saying ‘no’ to another,” Kelly says. Still, she knew that God was calling her to religious life and concluded that when it came to children, “I’m the coolest Aunt Kelly in the world.” Focusing 100 percent on her nieces and nephews when with them “filled that ache in my life.”
Knowing that she now had her plan, Kelly engaged in “digital discernment.” She estimates that she visited websites for 30 communities, gaining the most insight from the Frequently Asked Questions section. She connected with the Mercys, whose FAQs were “so much more real to me.”
During her discernment, all signs continued to point to Mercy. While at the hospital for her dad’s surgery, she saw a Mercy cross on the wall and met a Sister of Mercy ministering there. Back in Belmont, she attended Mass one day with the sisters. When she returned the following week, the sisters invited her to lunch and an evening prayer service.
“That night sealed it for me,” Kelly says. “Every time I’ve done anything with a different group of Mercys, I just feel so at home.”
Kelly realizes now that “My life has been a series of everyday yeses to Mercy.” Her next yes will be moving to the Institute of the Sisters of Mercy novitiate in St. Louis this summer after she completes her candidacy. As Kelly prepares to enter the next phase of her journey to Mercy, she’s “terribly excited and nervous. It’s every emotion I could possibly have.” She’s looking forward to continuing to live in St. Louis and taking the next step toward religious life.
“It was hard to move to St. Louis because I was so unfamiliar with everything. It’s been a good move for me. It put me in a different environment. I wouldn’t have grown as much as I have these two years,” she says. Some of her favorite memories of St. Louis are experiencing her first snowfall, and “church hopping” between St. Louis’ many Catholic parishes after coming from Savannah’s small Catholic community.
In addition to preparing to enter the novitiate, Kelly spends her free time crocheting; her most recent projects included a table runner for the house where she lives, afghans for the current novices, and hats and Star Wars amigurumis (crocheted toys) for her nieces and nephews. She also tap-dances and plays the flute. Kelly is active on social media, and you can follow her journey with Mercy on Twitter (@KellySpricht).
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