Category Archives: Mark Piper

A Conversation with Catherine about COVID-19

April 15, 2020

By Mark Piper, Mercy Associate

A stained glass image of Catherine McAuley, whose words are used in this fictitious interview about the Coronavirus pandemic.

For Mercy sisters, associates and companions; Mercy Volunteer Corps members; students and educators; and healers and helpers across the educational, health care and social service ministries of the Sisters of Mercy, Catherine McAuley—who followed Christ through the path of Mercy—is our comforting animator. She is a guide, in all that we do: in joy or in sorrow, or in the mingling of the two.

No matter that she has been dead for 179 years. Thanks to my prayers, imagination and a little inspiration from the late Sister Maureen Scott, who once gave a talk on what a conversation between Catherine and Cardinal John Henry Newman would be like, I have likewise provided a conversation between Catherine and me in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic.

This fictitious interview has been edited for brevity and clarity. [All responses are quotes attributed to Catherine. Many of these quotes are from her writings to Mary de Sales White.]


Q:  With social distancing brought on by this pandemic, many are now working from home. As it turns out, the home has many distractions—for example, children. Beyond the stress of staying healthy and employed, we also need to instruct our children on the schooling they are missing. With no finish line to this amended reality, how are we to manage this newfound, stressful, unknown without-end?

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Una conversación con Catalina sobre COVID-19

April 15, 2020

Por Mark Piper, Asociado de la Misericordia

Una imagen de vitral de Catherine McAuley, cuyas palabras se utilizan en esta entrevista ficticia sobre la pandemia de coronavirus.

Para las hermanas, asociadas/os y compañeras de la Misericordia; miembros del Cuerpo de Voluntarios de la Misericordia; estudiantes y educadores; sanadores y ayudantes de todos los ministerios de educación, salud y servicios sociales de las Hermanas de la Misericordia, Catalina McAuley, quien siguió a Cristo por el camino de la Misericordia, es nuestra animadora consoladora. Es una guía, en todo lo que hacemos: en las alegrías o penas, o en la mezcla de las dos.

No importa que ella haya fallecido hace 179 años. Gracias a mis rezos, imaginación y algo de inspiración de la difunta Hermana Maureen Scott, quien una vez me comentó sobre cómo sería una conversación entre Catalina y el Cardinal John Henry Newman, igualmente he presentado lo que sería una conversación entre Catalina y yo en medio de la pandemia de coronavirus.

Se ha editado esta entrevista ficticia para mayor brevedad y claridad. [Todas las respuestas son citas atribuidas a Catalina. Muchas de estas citas provienen de sus escritos a Mary de Sales White].


P: A raíz del distanciamiento social causado por esta pandemia, muchas personas están ahora trabajando desde sus hogares. Pero resulta que el hogar ofrece muchas distracciones, por ejemplo, los hijos. Además del estrés de mantenernos saludables y empleados, también debemos instruir a nuestros hijos en la educación escolar que se están perdiendo. Sin llegar a una meta final de esta nueva realidad, ¿cómo podemos manejar este recién adquirido, estresante y desconocido sin fin?

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We Are All Neighbors at Thanksgiving

November 26, 2019

By Mark Piper, Mercy Associate

From the Rite of Baptism: You have asked to have your child baptized. In doing so, you are accepting the responsibility of training him/her in the practice of the faith. It will be your duty to bring him/her up to keep God’s commandments as Christ taught us, by loving God and our neighbor [emphasis my own]. Do you clearly understand what you are undertaking? Who is your neighbor?

First, brush up on the Parable of the Good Samaritan and Jesus’ explanation of who is a neighbor and what being neighborly looks like. CliffsNotes: a neighbor is any person, no matter how far removed from your “in group” they are. Being neighborly requires mercy-ing.

Second, a partial list of who your neighbors are at the Thanksgiving table: The cousin who slinks away to the basement, the relatives who speak more loudly and often than they ought, the shy guest, the drunkard, the person who wants to bait you into political screeds, and the teenager who refuses to say grace. All of your family, their friends, or significant others, whatever history or adjectives you assign to them—at this celebration, they are your neighbors, and through our baptism we have promised to love them. All of them.

Which neighbors are at your Thanksgiving table?
Which neighbors are at your Thanksgiving table?
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Todos somos prójimos el Día de Acción de Gracias

November 26, 2019

Por Mark Piper, asociado de la Misericordia

Del rito del Bautismo: Ustedes, padres, que piden el Bautismo para sus hijos, deben darse cuenta de que contraen la obligación de educarlos en la fe, para que, guardando los mandamientos divinos, amen a Dios y a su prójimo, como Cristo nos enseñó [las palabras en negrita son mías]. ¿Se dan ustedes cuenta de la obligación que contraen? ¿Quién es tu prójimo?

En primer lugar, repasa la Parábola del Buen Samaritano y la explicación de Jesús de quién es prójimo y cómo es ser prójimo. Prójimo es cualquier persona, no importa lo lejos que esté de tu «grupo». Ser un buen prójimo exige Misericordi-ar.

Segundo, una lista parcial de quiénes son tus prójimos está en la mesa del Día de Acción de Gracias: El primo que se escabulle al sótano, los parientes que hablan más fuerte y más de lo que deberían, el invitado tímido, el borracho, la persona que quiere hacerte caer en la trampa de sus discursos políticos, y el adolescente que se niega a hacer la oración de acción de gracias antes de la comida. Toda tu familia, tus amigos, o tus seres queridos, sea cual sea la historia o los adjetivos que les asignes, en esta celebración, ellos son tu prójimo, y a través de nuestro bautismo hemos prometido amarlos. Todos ellos.

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Bringing Up Baby—with Mercy: Part II

August 30, 2019

By Mark and Regina Piper, Mercy Associates

In the fall of 2017, mere weeks after our second child was born, we shared how we—two young-ish Mercy Associates—were trying to rear our children in the ways of Mercy.

Mark and Regina Piper with their children
Mark and Regina Piper with their children

We focused on the works of mercy, Gospel values, care for the Earth, and the spirit of Catherine McAuley. Now, as our children are two and five years old, we’d like to revisit these themes.

Additionally, we (Mark and Regina) have renewed our covenants as Mercy Associates in the last two years, so it’s a good time to see if we’re living them out amidst the diaper explosions, the car rides with kids belting out the ABCs on repeat, the dinners with fish that they won’t touch until we tell them it’s not really fish but chicken of the sea, and the random melt-down tantrums that recede just in time for calm cuddles and adorable, unprompted “I-love-yous” from our children.

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Criando a un bebé —con Misericordia: Parte II

August 30, 2019

Por Mark y Regina Piper, Asociados de la Misericordia

De septiembre a diciembre de 2017, apenas unas semanas después del nacimiento de nuestro segundo hijo, compartimos cómo nosotros, dos Asociados de la Misericordia jóvenes, nos esforzábamos en educar a nuestros hijos en los caminos de la Misericordia.

Mark y Regina Piper con sus niños
Mark y Regina Piper con sus niños

Nos enfocamos en las obras de misericordia, los valores del Evangelio, el cuidado de nuestra Tierra y el espíritu de Catalina McAuley. Hoy, que nuestros hijos tienen dos y cinco años de edad, nos gustaría reexaminar estos temas.

Asimismo, nosotros (Mark y Regina) hemos renovado nuestros compromisos como Asociados de la Misericordia en los últimos dos años, así que es un buen momento para recapacitar si estamos experimentándolos en medio del extraordinario aumento de pañales, los paseos en automóvil con los niños cantando a viva voz y repitiendo el abecedario, las cenas con pescado que no probarán hasta que les aseguremos que no es realmente pescado, sino pollo del mar, y las rabietas ocasionales que se aplacan justo a tiempo para un apacible acurrucar y encantadoras demonstraciones espontaneas de amor por parte de nuestros hijos.

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Starting Out Someplace New: Mercy-Themed Advice for College Students

August 22, 2018

By Mark Piper, Director of Mercy Association (West Midwest Community) and Alumnus of Saint Xavier University, the first U.S. college founded by the Sisters of Mercy

A good beginning is of great importance. – Catherine McAuley

It’s tough making predictions, especially about the future. – Yogi Berra

Mark (kneeling, front row) and Regina (standing. by sign) were active in student government in college. Photo courtesy of the Piper family.

Mark (kneeling, front row) was active in student government in college. Photo courtesy of the Piper family.

If you are a college student, especially if you’re leaving home and starting out someplace new, this Mercy-themed advice blog is for you. What is Mercy-themed advice and why should you take my advice? Glad you asked!

First, the Mercy “charism,” or essence/spiritual gift that we’re talking about here, is rooted in hospitality and service to those in need, or in the words of Catherine McAuley, founder of the Sisters of Mercy, those who are sick, poor and uneducated. Mercy in this context, or “mercy-ing” if you will, is action-oriented, rather than contemplative. So while you’re at school to learn, with Mercy you’ll also learn to do.

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Back to School with Mercy’s Critical Concerns

August 15, 2018

By Mark Piper, director of Mercy Association, West Midwest Community

A young Mark Piper with friends at school.

A young Mark Piper (left) with friends at school.

Surely you’ve noticed it as you’ve ventured into your local grocery store or big-box store over the past month. The backyard, barbeque, water sports and other summer items have been replaced with backpacks, binders, writing utensils and other back-to-school stuffs.

As parents and students focus on getting all the items purchased for classroom supplies and success, we invite you to be mindful of the five Critical Concerns of the Sisters of Mercy that represent areas in great need of our attention and service: fullness of life for women, nonviolence, anti-racism, immigration and care for Earth. I’d like to suggest ways that students can make Mercy real in their back-to-school practices through these Critical Concerns.

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This Advent, Deliver Us from Evil

December 19, 2017

By Mark Piper, Mercy Associate

Manger

“And she gave birth to her firstborn son, wrapped him in swaddling cloths and lay him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn” (Luke 2:7). Photo by Greyson Joralemon on Unsplash.

I don’t wish to be the Donny Downer on your holiday cheer, but like a caroler who is singing a bit flat or eggnog that has sat out to long, I want to remind you that it is Advent and we need to attend to something that is fundamental in this time of preparation: evil.

When you get down to it, the Works of Mercy and critical concerns of the Sisters of Mercy—the Earth, justice for immigrants, equality for women, anti-racism and nonviolence—are ways to confront, dismantle and, through Christian hope, eliminate evil.

A Child Born in a Stable, a King Blinded by Power

No matter how much we romanticize or domesticate Christ and his birth in a manger through our cute tabletop nativity scenes, remember that a very pregnant woman had to give birth amongst animals and place her child in the feeding trough of cattle because there was, supposedly, no room for her at the inn. I believe that it was evil 2,000 years ago—and evil still today—to have a child born under such circumstances, when all we need do is open our hearts and homes to those in need. There is space for others if only we took the effort to make space for others.

In just a few verses of the Gospels of Matthew or Luke, we can see the need for several of Mercy’s critical concerns: attending to the economically poor, especially women and children; supporting immigrants; and practicing nonviolence. We could also look to the Works of Mercy: sheltering the homeless and welcoming the stranger. These actions could confront the evils of closed, hardened and inhospitable hearts that breed pride, selfishness and myriad sins.

Perhaps evil is more obvious to us in King Herod, who ordered the Massacre of the Infants (Matthew 2:16-18) when the Magi didn’t return to him after paying homage to the newly born Prince of Peace. Because of Herod’s orders, an angel instructed Joseph to flee into Egypt in order to protect his family.   Read More »

Bringing Up Baby—With Mercy

October 16, 2017

By Mark Piper, Mercy Associate

George DeSales and Rachel Day

George DeSales and Rachel Day

In August, my wife Regina (a Mercy Volunteer Corps alum) and I, both Mercy Associates, welcomed our second child into this world: George DeSales Piper. George and his big sister, Rachel Day, who was born on Mercy Day in 2014, present all the normal challenges one faces when becoming a parent, but because Regina and I are Mercy Associates there is an added challenge of living up to our covenant in light of raising our children.

How is that? I’m glad you asked.

Works of Mercy

You see, engaging in the Works of Mercy (like engaging in anything pre-children) becomes a bit more taxing with children as they seem to want our time and attention—and love—incessantly (please note my dry sense of humor). I will say, as a parent I get plenty of opportunities to engage in the Spiritual and Corporal Works of Mercy—such as bearing patiently the troublesome.

Gospel Values

Though Christ said that his yolk was easy and his burden light, he did not say instilling Gospel values or upholding Mercy were not without difficulty or exhaustion—particularly as a parent. There are days I feel a lot like Jesus, like when I turn my back for a mere moment on my three-year-old and a somewhat-clean house turns into a level-three hazmat situation. All I want to do is shout, “Get behind me, Satan!” It worked on Saint Peter.   Read More »