Being Black, Catholic and a Sister of Mercy

October 31, 2019

During the month of November, the Catholic Church celebrates Black Catholic History Month. Read reflections from Sisters of Mercy, Mercy Associates, and others in the Mercy family about Black Catholic experience and history.

By Sister Terry Kimingiri

Having been born and raised in Kenya, I never thought too much of what it meant to be a black woman, as we would identify ourselves mostly by ethical or tribal backgrounds. Six years ago, when I moved to Guyana, I realized, Guyanese citizens defined themselves by race. Two years ago, when I moved to the United States, it dawned on me what exactly it means to be black.

Identity is articulated based on the color of an individual’s skin. Sisters and peers would touch my hair, ask me questions like: “How long do you take to braid it? What kind of food do you eat in Africa? You speak such good English, where did you learn your English?” The stories I had heard or read about being black in other parts of the world started making sense.

Being a black woman means everything to me. It’s who I am. It’s the way that I walk through life. It’s the way I can still live in hope, which alone can give meaning to history and transform it. Living an authentic spiritual life requires work and paying attention. As Pope Francis has written, “It means joining in the constant flow of life without succumbing to the paralyzing defeatism that views past time as better. It is an urgency to think in new ways, offer new suggestions and create new things, kneading life with the new leaven of ‘sincerity and truth.’”

It’s listening with the ears of my heart—that is, for feelings and emotions within and without me. It guides how I discern my ministries and navigate my relationships. It connects to my interests in knowledge, adventures, mentorship and health. It’s intentional.

As Sister Mary Reynolds has expressed, “Our world is one of shifting values, of chaos and confusion, of upheaval and rapid change. Mercy values do not change in their essence; but their expression, through action contexts, will change, and must change.” Being a Sister of Mercy is to know with certainty that God asks me “to do justice, to love kindness and to walk humbly” with her.

Mercy calls me to embrace diversity, learning every day that Mercy must be expressed in new ways in relation to actual situations in our own society and in the global society. I’m surrounded by those who still crave “the kind word, the gentle look, the patient hearing of sorrows.” It’s a call to serve.

I know that by the color of my skin, I have no white privilege, no unearned benefits. I must work very hard in life to gain almost anything, including a sense of belonging.

Faith is a gift, rooted in my African heritage, in how I perceive and value reality, in my style of expression and my mode of prayer and contemplating the divine. I do experience God as a Mystery. I am always being invited to plug into the mind of Christ, which welcomes paradox and knows its true identity in God.

As a Catholic, I strive to live with increased freedom and authenticity through this deep awareness of myself and God’s self.

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  1. Mary Anne Poeschl,RSM

    Thanks for sharing your journey. It is sad that each person cannot exist every day with their identity being respected each day. It is a blessing to have met you on retreat. You are a wonderful Sister of Mercy.

  2. Sheila Harrington, RSM

    Thank you, Sister. Beautiful expressions which I will reflect on in my own prayer life.

  3. D.Gilmore

    Thank you for this reflection-God’s love is abundant! May we walk and live alive in mercy and goodness!

  4. Mary Daly

    Thank you, Terry, for your wise reflection. It opens windows for reflection.

  5. Katie Mindling

    Your beautiful reflection touches my heart where our best oneness happens. Thank you for joining your “yes” to this great community where I join mine and journeying togher with openness and excitement for what lies ahead.

  6. Sr Jackie Moreau

    A beautiful reflection. Hope our paths cross someday.

  7. Diane Clyne

    Terry, Thanks so much for your sharing and for your commitment in Mercy. Your energy, hope and trust in the God of Mercy bring more life to all. Peace.

  8. Sr. Claudette Schiratti, RSM

    Thank you, Terri, for your important reflection.

  9. Jane Bower

    Thank you, Terry, for sharing your experience as a black woman, and raising our awareness. Sometimes we know not that we know not.

  10. Sharon Schmitz

    Such a beautiful and thoughtful reflection, Terri. Much food for reflection. Thanks very much. Sharon

  11. Deborah Watson

    A powerful reflection. Thank you, Terry.

  12. Claudia Ward, RSM

    Beautiful reflection. Thanks Terry! May God continue to bless you abundantly … and animate us all “to do (and be) justice, to love kindness and to walk humbly” with one another!

  13. Sue LaVoie, Companion in Mercy

    Terry, your reflection is so rich. Today I want to carry around in my heart your sentence about “joining the constant flow of life without succumbing to the paralyzing defeatism that views past time as better.”
    What you wrote is filled with hope and promise. Thank you.

  14. marilyn lacey

    Well-spoken. Well-lived! Thank you for your exquisite honesty and the gift you are to all of us together in Mercy.

  15. Kay Schwenzer RSM

    Thank you so much, Terry, for this beautiful reflection. May my eyes and heart be opened.

  16. Jane Francisco

    Beautiful sharing Sister.Thank you.

  17. Louise Foisy, RSM

    Your sharing stirred so much within me. I am very grateful for your Mercy depth and giftedness.

  18. Elizabeth Krogman

    Such an authentic expression of identity is an inspiration to all of us. Your life certainly reflects Micah so very well. Thank you for sharing, Sister Terry.

  19. Patricia Pora, RSM

    Thank you for sharing a part of your story. You make us all the richer for it.

  20. Regina Ward

    I am so happy to call you my sister. Thank you for this heartfelt reflection!

  21. Michelle Gorman, RSM

    Thank you, Sister Terry. Thank you for your witness as a Sister of Mercy.

  22. Maria Cristina Piccottini

    Thanks dear sister for sharing your reflections.

  23. Jackline Chemekuro RSM

    Wow ! Glory to God this far He has been with glad to read about your sharing,am proud of you my Sr and friend.Thank you for your sharing,it’s inspiring.Hongera

  24. Ann McGovern

    Thank you, Terry! Such a thought provoking reflection. I always smile when others name God with feminine pronouns. How I wish this could become more our norm! In our journey of oneness may our sisterhood continue to embrace our uniqueness and beauty and desire to serve Her.

  25. John B Singh

    Very beautiful reflection! Being black, white or brown is for biological reasons. Faith matters and to love one another is the commandment.

  26. Letty de los Santos, rsm

    Thank you Terry for sharing your life and your journey. Your sincerity and humility touched me so much. You are what you are and you are God’s beautiful gìtft to us and to the world. May God bless you.

  27. Marilyn Gottemoeller,RSM

    Terri, I am so glad I had a few opportunities (but not enough) to get to know you while you were here in St. L for your canonical year. You are a gifted women and I am sure you will continue to use all your gifts, even as you recognize and work to dismantle white supremacy in merciful ways. I send love and prayers!

  28. Sister Donald Mary Lynch, RSM

    God bless you, Terry, for sharing so honestly. May you continue to live with integrity. What a privilege I have had to get to know you! God bless you always!

  29. MT

    Well said, Terry. We, humans, relate and put importance in what we see or perceive with our senses. The call and challenge is to see beyond mere color like Catherine.
    I have no shame, neither apologies for being black.?? Only when I fail to see, God’s likeness in any human being regardless of their color.

  30. Larretta Rivera-Williams

    Hello Terry,
    I am only now (Feb. 2020) reading this. Thank you! It will be a graced day when we meet.
    Yours in Mercy,