Why Are We Called? To Make Mercy Real
March 13, 2019
By Sister Victoria Battell
How, you might ask, did a woman from Sunderland, in the northeast of England, end up doing mission work at Maria College in Albany, New York?
I believe I was called originally for a different reason from why I’m still in the Sisters of Mercy. I was first drawn to the life of the sisters, the rhythm of prayer and community that I encountered when I entered, in 2005, at home in the U.K. As part of my formation, I was asked to go to Laredo, Texas where the Institute novitiate was located at that time.
I had just made first vows and spent a few months with the community there, living and praying. That was my real initiation into the life of the Sisters of Mercy of the Americas, and it was their expression of religious life and the chance to see their lives from the inside that drew me to them.
But as I came to know more about their—our—history, the story of Catherine and the depth of Mercy spirituality, I began to stay more for what we are collectively about, globally as well as locally. What particularly drew me was Mercy’s countercultural stance on women and social justice that I really began to connect with. And so I stayed for a different reason than the reason I came.
The spirituality of Mercy that I’ve come to know is very much one of solidarity. We don’t see ourselves as top down; we are not helping from a place of privilege, but we are in tune with our own needs and desires and weaknesses, and therefore we reach out to the unmet need in another because we hope for the same in return. That’s what I really love about the spirituality of Mercy that I see in so many of our Sisters. They definitely don’t see themselves as “over” others but rather “with.” I believe that’s the appeal for people who encounter our Sisters.
My overall hope is that Mercy will continue. I know that it will because Mercy is the enduring quality of God, and so whether there are thousands of Sisters or only a few, Mercy will continue in some form of consecrated life. But what’s really exciting is the different forms that Mercy is taking and the people who partner with us—our associates, the people who work with our ministries, the people we minister to. We’re becoming more at one with other people who get that “Mercy spark” and who want to take that into the world. So even if our Sisters become fewer, that’s not necessarily a bad thing or something to lose hope about.
What gives us hope is that we will be in partnership and at one with others who share our spirituality and our values. And so a time might come when we see diminishment, but that’s not the whole story. We’re seeing tremendous growth and that new life pulls us into a new consciousness. That’s really exciting!
Mercy is made real through these encounters, because we can have “mission” in a mission statement about our values, but real Mercy—compassion, openness, and justice—has always been an incarnational spirituality; it’s always taken on flesh in us and in the people that we meet.
So to me, Mercy is made real in the encounter that I have with students, with staff, with my team, with other Sisters in the area that support the ministry that we do. It’s seeing the difference that education can make in the lives of those students we reach. Because Maria College gives people a step up, to better themselves and their community. That really was at the heart of what Catherine McAuley did. We do that now at Maria College.
We make Mercy real.
To learn more about Becoming A Sister, check out http://www.becomeasister.org