The Roller Coaster of Mercy

June 21, 2017

By Carol Conway, Mercy Associate

Recently Carol Conway, a Mercy Associate, shared the following reflection at a jubilee celebration in Chicago, Illinois. A jubilee marks a sister’s anniversary within a religious congregation. We congratulate all Sisters of Mercy celebrating jubilees this year and thank them for their many years of joy and service!

People riding a roller coasterWhen I think about the experiences of our jubilarians, the image of a roller coaster comes to mind. For 25, 50, 60, 70, 75 and even 80 years, they have strapped themselves in a coaster car labeled Mercy and have experienced both the highs and lows of following the path of Jesus Christ and Catherine McAuley, founder of the Sisters of Mercy.

I can only imagine the ups and downs of those of you who entered religious life at age 18 so many years ago. Perhaps those who wanted to be nurses had to become teachers, and those who never saw themselves as leaders were put in that position as principals, hospital administrators and leaders within the congregation. Perhaps home bodies were sent to Iowa or Wisconsin, or maybe Honduras or Peru. Maybe you got on the roller coaster with another order but were called to Mercy, or maybe you started as a teacher but became superintendent of schools; maybe you began in grade schools but later worked in universities and hospitals, or maybe you started in hospitals and ended up in schools. Maybe you followed your blood sisters, or maybe they followed you because the ride looked so appealing. And maybe, after so many decades, you’re still working as a spiritual director, healthcare liaison, in leadership, as the backbone of an inner-city school, or as a champion for people who are homeless or undocumented.  

The Dip and the Highs

And how many times in those many years did the ride dip you into loneliness, doubt, exhaustion? How many times did you miss home and struggle with rules, with difficult students and patients and with the fear that you weren’t up to the challenge—especially in later days as age and physical changes robbed you of some freedom?

But those dips were always followed by the highs—by the gifts of lasting friendship both within the community and without; with laughter and joy and vacations and the knowledge that your hard work was making a difference; with students and patients finding you years later to tell you how you made their lives better; with quiet times in prayer when you absolutely knew that you were doing what God planned for you to do.

Accompanying Others on the Ride

Several of the honored jubilarians in Chicago pose for a group photo.

Several of the honored jubilarians in Chicago pose for a group photo.

So, you know, dear Jubilarians, what it is to follow Jesus, to strap yourselves onto the roller coaster and not let go no matter the ups and downs—knowing that Jesus rides with you through the downturns as well as the high points, so you can count on his loving protection and choose hope over doubt every time. Not only that, you encouraged others to get on board. You reached out your arms to keep riders from falling out, protected children and the elderly when the ride got too wild, comforted those who were afraid, cared for those who got sick and were hope for those in doubt. You were the keeper and sharer of the story to remind other riders of the highs and to hold their hands through the lows.

To paraphrase Catherine McAuley, I say to you good and faithful sisters to whom God has imparted grace: I beg God to continue to grant you all with the very best blessings and to guide you as you continue on the roller coaster of Mercy. May you have more ups than downs and continue to enjoy the ride. On behalf of every woman, man, child and institution you made better, thank you and congratulations!

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