Reflections of hope amid the COVID-19 pandemic

May 5, 2020

By Karel Lucander

Sister Judy Mouch, RSM, is Mercy liaison to the College of Health Professions at the University of Detroit Mercy in Detroit, Michigan.

For nearly 30 years, Sister Judy Mouch has studied the 1918 Spanish flu with University of Detroit Mercy nursing students. And since 2011, she’s examined the movie Contagion with them, tracing the effects of SARS. But those historic viral references didn’t really resonate until the COVID-19 pandemic hit.

Fast-forward to the past two months in Detroit, Michigan: home to Sister Judy, now a retired associate professor of nursing at the University of Detroit Mercy. Detroit has been one of the country’s metro areas hardest hit by COVID-19, and Detroit Mercy nursing students, faculty and alumni have seen its ravaging effects first-hand.

Her video illustrates that mercy knows no bounds

As COVID-19 began infiltrating her city, Sister Judy, who joined the Sisters of Mercy in 1965, was preparing a brief “Reflections of Mercy” video for the University to share. Because of the timing, she couldn’t help but tie it in with what was happening throughout the world—and in her own backyard. The result, “Willingness to Love One Another,” pays homage to the courageous healthcare professionals who came before, comforting the afflicted, no matter the century, continent or disease.

Billy Myers, a Jesuit volunteer in the University Ministry Office, helped Sister Judy record and synthesize her reflections. In the video, she reads her words while instrumentals of “The Circle of Mercy” play in the background. Her definition of mercy, “the willingness to enter the chaos of another’s life,” is from Jesuit Professor James Keenan’s book, The Works of Mercy. And Sister Judy included a vintage photo depicting sisters on the front lines at Townsend Hospital during the Asiatic cholera pandemic of 1832, in Dublin, Ireland.

Nurses need to be near their patients

Sister Judy, who serves as Mercy liaison to the College of Health Professions and maintains an office on campus, says COVID-19 underscores the essential importance of healthcare professionals. “Nursing is needed now more than ever, especially in the area of public and community health,” she says. “There’s a lot of technology that can be used today but that isn’t where nursing started or where it needs to be; nurses need to be right next to their patients.”

Sister Judy sits with Mary Serowoky, FNP, a colleague in the McAuley School of Nursing at the University of Detroit Mercy. They are beside the new statue of Catherine McAuley in the garden behind the Mercy International Centre in Dublin, Ireland (2019). Last summer, they were among 14 Detroit Mercy nursing students, alumni and faculty who visited Ireland and sites that inspired Catherine to found the Sisters of Mercy in 1831. A return trip with Detroit Mercy, planned for June 2020, was canceled because of COVID-19.
Sister Judy sits with Mary Serowoky, FNP, a colleague in the McAuley School of Nursing at the University of Detroit Mercy. They are beside the new statue of Catherine McAuley in the garden behind the Mercy International Centre in Dublin, Ireland (2019). Last summer, they were among 14 Detroit Mercy nursing students, alumni and faculty who visited Ireland and sites that inspired Catherine to found the Sisters of Mercy in 1831. A return trip with Detroit Mercy, planned for June 2020, was canceled because of COVID-19.

Sister Judy hears from her colleagues in the trenches that students are afraid and finding the pace very stressful. They don’t always have enough personal protective equipment (PPE), and new graduates are in the thick of things. She’s heard some of their sentiments, which include, “This is what I got into nursing for. You’ve got to go where the need is.” As Sister Judy adds, “They have such a spirit of enthusiasm and generosity.”

Joining forces to fight this pandemic

How has the COVID-19 pandemic affected students’ decisions to pursue nursing? “I think for some students, this is going to be a real spark of motivation to do something with their lives,” Sister Judy says. “For those already in the nursing field, I haven’t heard of anybody trying to get out. We’ll find out when we get our new batch of students. Inquiries about nursing programs appear to be down.”

Sister Judy has a few faculty friends who have contracted COVID-19 and knows of several students who have been diagnosed with it. And although, as she says, it is “freaking scary,” some positive synergies are fighting this invisible enemy. “People have joined forces and learned to work with each other, forming a lot of new friendships,” she says.

And as Sister Judy’s reflections remind us, anyone can make a difference by practicing mercy and compassion.

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  1. Fran Repka

    Thanks for your compassion for nurses and their untiring efforts and care for others. Good article and video of Mercy. Stay healthy yourself.


  2. Ellen Buchignani

    Judy, what a wonderful tribute to you, a true daughter of Catherine. She always went where there was a need regardless of the danger. Your students have had a great mentor in you. Thank you for your service in the field of health care.


  3. Ellen Fink, RSM

    Thank you Judy, a very informative article. Stay safe and hope to see you soon.


  4. Carole Temming

    Beautiful article and the need for mercy in health care especially in nursing. Thanks for all
    you do ministering to nursing students in the spirit of compassion.


  5. Doris Gottemoeller

    So beautiful! Thanks for your shining example, Judy.


  6. Maria Klosowski

    Judy, your message is timely and demonstrates the goodness of service. Thank you.


  7. Linda Werthman

    Your name is Mercy and you are in deed personifying it. Well done!


  8. Sr Jackie Moreau

    Wonderful to connect our charism and history with the NOW and show dedicated and caring nurses serving in this pandemic. Thanks Judy


  9. Elizabeth Mary Burns

    Thank you, Judy! You are an inspiration as you live the spirit of Mercy with your students, staff and graduates. I hope to see your video soon.


  10. Janet Rozzano

    A very moving and inspiring video and article, Judy. Thanks for your work on the video and in nursing education.


  11. Diane Marie O'Donnell

    I also would like to thank the numerous social workers and clinicians who are out in the field working directing with the homeless amidst some very difficult conditions. In Fresno, I work with Outreach workers, clinicians, and some very dedicated staff who go out daily at great risk to their own health to provide services, shelter, food, clothing, and to instill hope Social Workers are often underpaid and underappreciated in the medical arena. We are the frontline advocates, policymakers, and first line responders when dealing with crisis situations. We work with the elderly, poor, disenfranchised, the mentally ill and the chemically dependent, and act as a voice for them. We deal with the needs of the communities when the hospitals can’t. So perhaps we can choose to honor these frontline workers as well. Less we forget, it is the social worker who is the arm of the medical system. We often serve marginalized populations that the hospitals won’t, because insurance is the main priority, and too often in hospitals they view people as numbers, rather than as people, and productivity is the master of service delivery.


  12. Marilyn Lacey, RSM

    Proud of being your Sister, Judy! Thanks for your life of mercying, and your lifetime of teaching/inspiring the generations coming up into the healthcare field.


  13. Rachelle Harper

    Judy, your words and the video shots are just inspirational and very moving! You exemplify all this….. Thank you!


  14. Jeanne Christensen

    Beautiful! Thank you.


  15. Cecile Sakaley, RSM

    Judy, thank you for your very touching article and especially the video. Great job!


  16. Sr. Peggy Verstege

    Thank you for your reflection, Judy. You are gift on Mercy.
    Blesssings.
    Peggy


  17. Sr. Ann Gorman

    Judy, as the kids would say, “Just plain AWESOME, Sister, all round!”


  18. Suzanne Stalm

    Congratulations, Judy. This was an inspiring tribute to the legacy of the Sisters of Mercy and a reflection of Catherine’s Mission in today’s Covid 19 world.


  19. Diana Newton, RSM

    Thanks you for bringing the Circle of Mercy to life. Beautifully done. You inspire those who have the call of Nursing to live their vocation.


  20. Rita Valade RSM

    So grateful for your commitment to UDMercy…and to us!


  21. Jacquie Dewar

    Beautiful reflection, Judy. Thanks so much for such a thoughtful and timely gift.


  22. Mary Conway

    Thank you Judy for sharing this story of Mercy. It continues to show that the spirit of Mercy is timeless! Mary Conway Mercy Associate


  23. Mary Ellen Howard, RSM

    Beautiful, Judy. I hope this video gets broad exposure–a brief history of Mercy and healing. Thank you for your many contributions to both, including this lovely reflection.


  24. Claudia Ward, RSM

    Judy, beautiful reflection – video!!! Thanks for the formative experiences you’ve offered to/for our current and future nurses … those who continue to respond to the Healing Ministry of Jesus! God bless them! Glad you were able to get to Ireland – Baggot Street and I hope Charleville!


  25. Sister Mary Aloyse Gerhardstein

    Dear Judy,

    Thank you for the inspirational video. I really
    enjoyed the very old pictures of early nursing.
    God bless you and your nursing students.

    Sister Mary Aloyse Gerhardstein.


  26. Marilyn Sunderman

    Judy, Thanks so very much for your inspiring article and informative video. Thanks, too, for all your years of dedication to the nursing profession! You are a shining light of Mercy! Blessings!


  27. Marilyn Sunderman

    Judy, Thanks so very much for your inspirational article and informative video. Most of all, thank you for all your years of dedication to the nursing profession. You are a shining light of Mercy!


  28. Mary Stanton

    What an inspiring article and affirmation of Mercy energy and training to provide compassionate healthcare through the ages. Thank you for your words, images and music ~ very timely and well done, Judy.


  29. Dorothy Kline R.S.M.

    Judy, thanks for your excellent article and video,both filled me with MERCY Easter JOY.


  30. Mary Pendergast, RSM

    Thank you, Judy! Very beautiful reflection.