Search Results for: Community – Mid-Atlantic

Mercy and Poetry—Stop, Look in a New Way, Listen to Your Heart

April 24, 2018

By Sister Grace Leggio Agate

This is the fifth reflection in our Poetry and Mercy series as part of National Poetry Month. Read the whole series here.

Sister Grace Leggio Agate

Sister Grace Leggio Agate

As a poet I have been shaped by prayer and contemplation, nature, life circumstances; by the people who have touched my life, a sense of wonder and a sense of humor.

I believe poetry is important today because poetry is a process that causes us to think, feel,
experience and respond in a more contemplative way of being. One is not able to read poetry quickly. Engaging poetry, one is called to stop, to look in a new way and to listen to how our heart is engaged. We are in need of folks who are willing to be so engaged so we will be able to meet each as companions on our life journey.

A Poem by Sister Grace

Sister Grace shared the following poem for the blog:

Miriam of Nazareth

 I gave along ago
Becoming mother to God’s
    I am.
Joseph and I, gave assent
 and lived in the knowledge
 that we were parenting
   God’s own Son.
His birth, a mysterious miracle
 as are all births.
His accompanied
 by a stable, a star,
 shepherds, kings
 and flight.
Obeying the Law,
 we presented Him.
Two holy ones.
 who prayed and waited
Tell us they know
 He is I am.
One gives a disturbing message.
 Only now do I know the meaning.
Simeon’s words come true.
 For a sword has pierced me through
It’s pain, unbearable.
Anna’s comfort,
 I keen for now.
My son, came born
 into the ways of God;
Healing, feeding, giving drink,
 opening the meeting tent
 for those considered outside
 God’s mercy.
 His words and works
 twisted by those fearful of change;
 twisted by those in power,
 forgetting from whence their own power comes.
 hung out in glory and pain
 rejected by those who might have known better.
His closest friends
 scattered by fear.
I am here my Son,
 I know not the reason for your cross.
No more than I understood your
 coming to me.
I trusted then
 and now I witness again
 in trust this time of agony.
Behold the handmaid of the Lord.

Mercy and Poetry—Writing Gives Voice to Mercy

April 16, 2018

By Sister Megan Brown

This is the fourth reflection in our Poetry and Mercy series as part of National Poetry Month. Read the whole series here.

In the beginning was the
WORD and the WORD was
with God and the WORD was
God (John 1:1).

Sister Megan Brown

I am in love with words, all kinds of words, especially the words of Gerard Manley Hopkins, Jessica Powers, Emily Dickinson, William Butler Yeats and Mary Oliver. John Donne has a place and Shakespeare, of course, as well as Thomas Merton, George Herbert and John O’Donohue. Rilke and Tennyson dwell in this space, as well as the lyricism of the Song of Songs, Rumi, Hafiz, Annie Dillard and Diane Ackerman. Of course Saints Therese and Teresa and Francis and Clare accompany me. It is however, the poetry of the Celts that lives deep within me.

For as long as I can remember I have been fascinated by the beauty of words. My parents read to us each night—fairytales and history and poetry. As a child in elementary school, I delighted in poetry study. As an elementary school teacher, short-lived as that career was, I loved to coax words from my students. When I taught persons incarcerated in one of the Philadelphia city prisons, I published poems written by the men in my creative writing class.

My Love of Words

Words tumble into my mind, sing in my heart and scatter across the computer screen. I am forever indebted to “delete” and “backspace” and all the other miracles performed by computers each day, because sometimes words escape and take on a life of their own. At times, words need to be corralled and lovingly herded into place.

Words are clever. They are slippery. They rise and fall, haunt and elude. Words are patient. They come only at the right time in the right place. They cannot, will not, dare not be coerced. Words will not sacrifice freedom.

As for me, I must write. I must have a pencil in hand. Pens are too hard to erase. I must have well-worn notebooks empty and waiting for the precise word to birth on their pages.

Writing Gives Voice to Prayer and Mercy

“I must have a pencil in hand,” says Sister Meg Brown. “Pens are too hard to erase.” Photo by Angelina Litvin on Unsplash.

For me, writing gives voice to prayer and most especially, writing gives voice to mercy. Hopkins says it so well in his magnificent poem, “The Wreck of the Deutschland”: “We are wound with mercy round and round as with air.” Merton echoes Hopkins: “Mercy within mercy within mercy.” Mercy is a poem.

Gustave Flaubert observes that “there is not a particle of life which does not bear poetry within it.” I have often wondered how his observation applied to Auschwitz; Birkenau; North Korea; Guantanamo Bay; Iran; Iraq; Charlottesville, Virginia; and areas devastated by natural disasters. Where is the poetry in these “particle [s] of life?”

Perhaps the poetry is in the question; perhaps the poetry is in the lives of Etty Hillesum and Edith Stein. Perhaps the poetry is in the lives of practitioners of Islam, Judaism and Christianity. Perhaps poetry exists whenever one of us dares to hope against impossible odds; whenever one of us joins with other “uses” and says, “No more to hate and violence and revenge.” Perhaps poetry plunges into flood waters to rescue elderly persons in a nursing home. Perhaps poetry resides in the small everyday kindnesses we extend to each other. For we who are Mercy, I believe poetry looks very much like Jesus of Nazareth, whom Jorgè Pagola calls the “poet of God’s compassion.”

Poetry abides in the depths of the human heart. Its expression is in the elegance of mathematics and music and art. Poetry is at the heart of God envisioned through a woman named Catherine McAuley, founder of the Sisters of Mercy, and enfleshed in each of us. I cannot not be enamored by words (double negative intended). They dance off the page for me and run into sunsets into those thin spaces and thin times where I must patiently wait to receive them.

Mercy and Poetry—Poetry is Lifeline

April 4, 2018

This is the first reflection in our Poetry and Mercy series as part of National Poetry Month. Read the whole series here.

One of the ways I cultivate, integrate and deepen love and mercy is through poetry.

I have delighted in listening to poetry for as long as I can remember. A very significant person in my life, my great-aunt Peg (whom we called “Auntie”), recited poems from memory. She was an Auntie Mame-type: always fun, deeply affirming and extremely engaging. She spontaneously broke into verse. She entranced me with words and images that created a magical world where life was precise, beautiful (even when hard) and really real.

Sister Danielle Gagnon

As Essential as Air to Breathe
When I was in junior high I began writing poems. I learned during those adolescent years that by putting pen to paper I could share what otherwise would remain unexpressed. Since then, poetry has become a lifeline for me. I am often inspired to develop lines I’ve written in my journal into poetry. When I am struggling to understand something that is happening or what I am feeling, crafting poetry helps me to name it and pursue its deeper meaning. Poetry as expression of what is in my heart is vital and has led me to discover so much about the presence of God, the spiritual life (especially my own spirituality) and myself. It has become nearly as essential as air to breathe. As poet and political activist Muriel Rukeyser said, “The sources of poetry are in the spirit seeking completeness.” I have learned that there are things that will be revealed to me only through the power of poetry.

Two Poems by Sister Danielle
In this spirit, I share a poem I wrote for Auntie. I have introduced you to a very special person, and I hope that she inspires you.

Her voice was draped in Erwin Pearl
And wrapped around the words
Of any poem or song she unfurled
With zealous abandon.
The things she'd say
That no one else
Could or would dare
Only drew me in closer
To Shalimar-soaked air
Where the earth was wet with life
She wrung from the day.
Auntie taught me how to pray.
Not with words,
She did little in a usual way,
But by how well she loved me
And a snifter of brandy.
Her whole heart hung on the edge
Of the pool – in summer sun
Long days browning,
Counting laps or seconds
I could hold a handstand.

She was all there;
Her whole self the prayer.

The second poem is one I wrote as I was struggling with shedding some of the ways I used to name myself and measure my success. It’s about the process of coming to know myself in Mercy and as poet.

I used to have a name or two
That suit-ed me just fine.
Basic black, classic style…
Lovely, really, and sophisticated.
Dress them up or down,
Day to night, no matter the occasion
They were perfect and they were mine.
An easy answer to any question asked.
A ready response to the demands of the day.

One day I woke to find they no longer fit.
I’d have cried if I thought it permanent.
Out grown or grown out, I was unsure.
I looked them up and down, turned
Them inside out. To the eye, they
Looked the same. Once on, they
Felt different…or, did I?
I’d begun to feel constrained
By the old, familiar names.

They live, now, in the dark of my closet;
Hanging memories of well-dressed days
When a name meant something more.
Sometimes I look on them with longing;
Feel the fine fabric, the smart stitch.
Wondering if I could wear them again…
If I tried, would they fit?

I smile and close the closet door.
I haven’t need for names anymore.

Addressing the Damage Caused by Human Abuse of God’s Creation

October 3, 2017

By Sister Suzanne Gallagher

Sister Suzanne is a member of the Global Catholic Climate Movement’s Laudato Si’ animators program, which trains interested Catholics to engage parishes, schools, communities of women religious and other groups to live out Pope Francis’ call to care for our Common Home.

Sisters of Mercy standing around a giant globe following Sister Suzanne’s Season of Creation presentation.

Sisters gather for a photo following Sister Suzanne’s Season of Creation presentation. From left: Sisters Joan Scary, Sue Gallagher, Kathleen Ann McKee, Patricia Leipold, Alice Mary Meehan, Miriam Theresa Lavelle and Bonita Smith.

My interest in becoming a Laudato Si’ Animator seemed to be part of a natural movement from working on issues to protect our Earth, which is a Critical Concern of the Sisters of Mercy, to contemplating the expression of Pope Francis’ urgency to “care for our common home” as he urged in his encyclical, Laudato Si’, published in 2015. Encouragement to truly “care” for Earth came directly from witnessing what so many people are doing, putting their spirit, voice and body on the line to make a difference in sustaining all life and supporting movements and advocacy efforts. It reminds me of one of my favorite Laudato Si’ quotes: “Everyone’s talents and involvement are needed to address the damage caused by human abuse of God’s creation” (#14).

Laudato Si’ Animators Program

In the second iteration of the animators program in which I participated, 364 people registered to participate. Catholics from Kenya, Philippines, Australia, United Kingdom, United States and other countries have participated in the program, which is offered in three additional languages, with more programs to be offered in the future.

The program was comprised of several components including: three webinars containing presentations from international experts, online discussion sessions, regional calls and planning a final project. All these components were available online. I appreciated the opportunity to reflect on the material from these webinars because while portions of the lessons were a refresher, much was new and held a deeper learning.

Engaging Others to Respond

In response to Pope Francis’ call to care for our Common Home, the Season of Creation is celebrated by people of faith beginning on September 1, World Day of Prayer for the Care of Creation, to October 4, Feast of St. Francis. For the final project, I assisted in planning Season of Creation presentations in five retirement locations across the Mid-Atlantic Community of the Sisters of Mercy. These sessions included prayer, video, reflection and dialogue among participants along with a call to action to sign the Laudato Si’ pledge. Signers pledge to: 1) pray for and with creation, 2) live more simply, and 3) advocate to protect our common home.

In expanding my own knowledge through this program, I have in turn shared these helpful resources with others. One resource that I found very valuable is entitled How to Talk to a Climate Skeptic: Responses to the most common skeptical arguments on global warming. This series of articles, among others, boosted my courage to engage others who might have different ideas on this topic.

Being a participant in the Animators Program has been both a call and a challenge and has assisted me in developing a “new consciousness” in working “zealously toward the sustainability of all life” (Chapter 2017 Recommitment). I encourage others to participate!

If you are interested in becoming a Laudato Si’ animator, please contact Marianne Comfort of the Institute Justice team at

#MakeMercyReal to Families in Need

September 22, 2017

By Debbi Della Porta

Three generations of the Pridgen family attended preschool and or summer camp at Mercy Neighborhood Ministries in Philadelphia.

Three generations of the Pridgen family attended preschool and or summer camp at Mercy Neighborhood Ministries in Philadelphia.

“You are never alone. You are somebody. Jesus is always with you!”

Those are the words that Sister Ann Provost, the director of Mercy Neighborhood Ministries in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, told 30-year-old Teyanna Pridgen when she was living in a homeless shelter with her two children.

“My children never felt like they lived in a shelter,” said Teyanna. “My children had a second home at Mercy Neighborhood Ministries where they attended preschool. They never showed any signs of living in a shelter or being hungry because Mercy provides hot breakfast and lunch for children, too!”

She added, “And the sisters and staff at Mercy Neighborhood Ministries helped me, too. I always knew the sisters were praying for my family and me. They helped me feel better about myself and taught me to embrace change. They also offered parenting advice and guidance.” Read More »

Summertime and the Living is Not So Easy

September 8, 2017

By Sister Diane Guerin

A group of Catholics, including several Sisters of Mercy and Mercy staff, march at the Ministers March for Justice on August 28.

As summer unofficially ends, I reflect on end-of-summer day 54 years ago when thousands of people gathered at the foot of the reflecting pool in Washington, D.C. to hear Martin Luther King, Jr., John Lewis and other leaders of the Civil Rights Movement challenge us as a people to eradicate racism and injustice from our society. I remember standing there in the crowd being filled with hope and thinking that yes, together we can make this a reality. On that day I believed that we would see an end to racism in my lifetime.

Four years ago attending the 50th Anniversary of the March on Washington, with President Barack Obama leading our nation, my hope was again rekindled that racism could be defeated. So many of those gathered expressed a commitment and passion to work together for a more just and equitable world for all people.

Much has happened since both of these events. We have experienced the hatred and violence of Charlottesville, Virginia; voting rights legislation has been overturned in many places; the Klan, white supremacy groups and Nazi organizations are marching. Yet, amid all these things people of faith and goodwill gathered a few weeks ago in Washington to participate in the Ministers’ March for Justice. Walking from the Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial to the Justice Department, those present bore witness that the United States of America that we desire is one of equity and inclusion for all people, not just some people. Read More »

Back-to-School Tips from a Sister of Mercy

August 31, 2017

By Sister Katie Mindling

Besides having time for vacation and/or travel, most high school students have been very busy over the summer with projects and programs, activities and apprenticeships, as well as sleeping late and enjoying a break from school bells and classes. There are some in sports camps and training programs; others have jobs that range from lifeguarding to lawn care; still others are giving hours of volunteer service, including short-term activities and service trips in different states and countries.

With classes resuming, students and teachers are headed back to the familiar settings where there will be unique opportunities to engage with one another in learning new and exciting materials. Let’s keep these tips in mind as we return.

Use technology wisely.

In this 21st century when so much knowledge comes through technology and can be discovered by tapping our fingertips, students are called to integrate their learning and be actively involved in discovering ways to incorporate their knowledge to grow into strong, value-centered individuals. So, let’s make the commitment to use technology wisely and never let it take the place of having valuable time with each other.

Listen to the Holy Spirit—and to the experts.

Students today need to develop skills on how to filter out from a sea of knowledge those facts that are true and noble. So, let’s listen to the Holy Spirit as well as to the experts who guide us to the best sources and who want us to bring out of each learning adventure ideas that will help foster our growth and help us find ways to be leaders in our society.

Be prepared.

Shopping for school is very different in this day of iPads and other electronic devices—and much kinder to the Earth. So, let’s be sure we know how to take and backup our electronic notes, ensure that we submit our assignments on the new learning management systems (LMS), like Canvas and ANGEL, now the standard for so many schools, and download the texts and apps that will be the basis for integrated learning.

Make mercy real.

Let’s approach teaching and learning with some of the attitudes so very present in the lives of the Sisters of Mercy: joy in our ever-more-common intercultural realities; dedication to deepening our relationships with God and with others; willingness to care for creation; capacity to speak and act with integrity, especially on behalf of those who are oppressed; and commitment to strong attitudes of nonviolence and anti-racism. Come to think of it, this is good advice for everyone, whether in the classroom, the workplace, among our families and friends, in our communities, in our world.

The Solar Eclipse: Delving into our Shadows

August 28, 2017

By Sister Agnes Brennan

The eclipse approaching totality. Credit: Bonnie Brockmeyer, Mercy Investment Services.

Last Monday thousands upon thousands of people were focused on the solar eclipse as it tracked a path across the United States. Across the country people were buying the correct glasses and positioning themselves in order to see as much of the eclipse as possible. Some commentators called this cosmic event a moment of unity. Some remarked about nature’s ability to reorient us, to view ourselves from a grander perspective and to bring us into a deeper awareness of our interconnectedness. Spiritual writers spoke about the moment as an invitation to delve into our own shadows—those scary places within us that we have repressed because we are unable to name and bring them into the light of consciousness.

As I viewed images of the eclipse, two lines from Scripture came to my mind: “the light shines in the darkness and the darkness did not overcome it” (John 1:5) and “even the darkness will not be dark to God; the night will shine like the day, for darkness is as light to God” (Psalm 139:12).

When I reflected on my own “shadow” in connection to what the solar eclipse portrayed I came to a deep understanding of how my darkness is held in God’s light, which is pure, unconditional love. Even at the totality phase of the eclipse, the light encircled the dark. It seemed as if the darkness was being held in a womb of light. How precious we are. How deeply and completely we in our totality, our darkness and our light, are embraced by Love. Read More »

A New Way of Seeing

August 30, 2016

By Sister Anna Marie Saltzman, director of campus ministry at Merion Mercy Academy

Sister Anna Marie is the director of campus ministry at Merion Mercy Academy. She is pictured here, fourth from the left in the back row, with several of her students.

Sister Anna Marie is the director of campus ministry at Merion Mercy Academy. She is pictured here, fourth from the left in the back row, with several of her students.

Have you ever had an incident that transformed your way of seeing? By the grace of our Merciful God, I have. It occurred at the end of my first full day of retreat. After the evening meal, I decided to take a walk along a trail in the nearby state park. Prior to leaving the retreat house, I sprayed myself with insect repellant to ward off pests and headed outdoors.

I was conscious of my desires to be open to God in whatever way God wanted to communicate. I was also conscious of how “busy” I had been prior to the retreat; the pace and numerous activities that had kept me from processing events and relationships in my life. My mind was on overdrive, and the walk would help me get out of my head.   Read More »

Teaching Advice from Catherine McAuley

August 2, 2016

By Sister Katie Mindling

Catherine holds #MakeMercyReal wristbands at Trocaire College. Photo by Pam Jablonicky.

Catherine holds #MakeMercyReal wristbands at Trocaire College. Photo by Pam Jablonicky.

Some would think that teachers have the “summer off,” yet those who know better are aware that they are gleaning the best from their experiences, keeping up with educational trends and insights from professional publications and circles, and designing ever-new ways of orchestrating opportunities for learning for the students scheduled to begin a new academic year with them.  For those dedicated to teaching, year-round preparation is paramount and discovering ever new ways to facilitate learning and growth in the students is ongoing.

As a teacher of high school students, these weeks find me reviewing the best of last year’s lessons and designing new approaches to integrate technology for the coming year.  Among the many summer teaching-related activities that fill my days, I am writing letters of recommendation for numerous rising seniors; monitoring make-up assignments for a student who had the challenge of having osteo-sarcoma; visiting the classroom of a graduate who is now a teacher at a summer Catholic experience in a local parish; offering guidance to a sophomore who is finishing up course requirements because of having had to take a medical leave from school last year; following the adventures of four students who are doing international service projects for Amigos de las Américas in Latin America; and mentoring teachers who will be new next year and are doing their preparations now.   Read More »