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?

Sister Linda Bechen (left), Marian Standeven (center) and Sister Victoria Battell (right)
Sister Linda Bechen (left), Marian Standeven (center) and Sister Victoria Battell (right)

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.

Sister Patti Bacca (left) with Sister Victoria Battell (right)
Sister Patti Baca (left) with Sister Victoria Battell (right)

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.

Sister Kelly Williams (left) with Sister Victoria Battell (right)

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

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  1. Fran Demarco

    Victoria, Mercy is enfleshed in you and your passionate words. Thank you for the renewed hope we give to one another.

  2. Jackie Moreau

    In Our Own Words – the book about religious life written by younger sisters from many communities, one of them speaks of walking in a fog, finding our way, making a new path.

    Catherine didn’t focus on the few either.
    We are called to trust the Spirit at work NOW creating in a new way.
    Your experience witnesses to it.

    Thanks for sharing.

    Jackie in maine

  3. Patricia Cook

    Thanks for your glowing Mercy words, dear Victoria!

    Shine on!

  4. Jean Roche

    Thank you Victoria, for expressing what often was thought but seldom so well expressed! ❤️

  5. Lori Pinkerton, WMW Saff and Mercy ate

    Hi Victoria,
    Thank you for sharing your inspiring story and I look forward to connecting with you one day in Mercy!

  6. Ruth Brannigan

    It is heartening seeing such youthful older sisters and joyful younger sisters. I also hope that Mercy continues on. It is a real support to the world.

  7. Angela Reed

    Such a wonderful reflection. Thank you Victoria

  8. Regina Ward, RSM

    Thanks, Victoria! You have followed the Spirit who has taken you a long way! Thanks for the words that make your life, our life, authentic! We are so blessed!


  9. Ann McGovern, RSM

    Blessed are we to have you! I enjoyed your thought-provoking blog. We are indeed blessed to witness the commitment to continuing Catherine’s legacy by our Sisters, Associates, Companions and co-ministers throughout the Circle of Mercy.

  10. Cecilia Baranowski

    Thank you, Victoria. You are inspiring.

  11. Victoria Battell

    Thank you to all of you who took the time to comment on, or read, my blog. I have journeyed with many of you and I appreciate you so very much.

  12. Sr. Kelly Williams, RSM

    What a gift to share this life in Mercy with you!

  13. Elizabeth

    Wonderful to hear you speak this past Wednesday at Bayview. It was a blessing and I’m amazed at all you do!

  14. Sr. Louise Foisy, rsm

    Just read your blog contribution and earlier saw your video. I was deeply touched by your sharing. I look forward to connecting with you in person. Louise in NH.

  15. Sheila Harrington, RSM

    Thank you for your reflection. It certainly gives hope!

  16. Sister Beverly Palumbo, RSM

    So happy and grateful to be with you in Mercy. Wonderful sharing. God bless.

  17. Joyce J. Nixon

    Victoria, In New Orleans, LA we only have eight Sisters of Mercy, but the spirit of Catherine and of the Sisters of Mercy remains with us. This spirit taught us from grade school onward to reach out to the less fortunate and to respect all of God’s people. Thank you and all the Sisters of Mercy for the education you gave us and most of us carry it forward.

  18. Ann

    Hi Victoria
    It is Ann from Mercy in Middletown, CT. As you can see I am a little behind in reading the blogs. You look wonderful and you are surely spreading MERCY all around you. I hope that some day you get to come back to Mercy and visit us and have a “comfortable cup of tea”. Keep up the great mission that you are involved in and those girls will truly see a Woman of Mercy! Ann