Search Results for: Community – West Midwest

The Undeniable Power of Music

January 24, 2018

By Sister Mary Jo Baldus

Sister Mary Jo Baldus with her harp.

Sister Mary Jo and her harp.

I am a registered music therapist and provide music therapy services for many organizations in the greater Winona, Minnesota, area. I play guitar or harp and go out in the community, using many percussion instruments, voices and movement to encourage people of all ages to engage and participate in the musical experience.

After ministering as a music educator and a director of music and liturgy in Iowa, Montana and Wisconsin, I realized the undeniable power of music. This drew me to music therapy, because I realized that music does not only bring people together, but also it has the potential of healing and putting people back together in many ways. One powerful use of music therapy is with Winona Area Hospice where I work with patients and their families.

My ministry as a music therapist provides me a front row seat for reaching out in compassion, care and mercy for those most vulnerable in the Winona community. Not a day goes by that I am not overwhelmed with opportunities for kindness, patience and understanding as I work with those in need of some joy in living.

It is my pleasure, my privilege and my saving grace to be called to this Mercy ministry of music therapy. Oh, yes, and it is a very joyful way to minister! I am one lucky Sister of Mercy!

Sister Mary Jo plays the harp while her niece accompanies her on violin.

Sister Mary Jo plays the harp while her niece accompanies her on violin.

Of Calls and Compassion

January 3, 2018

By Sister Joy Clough

Todd called today—so eager to be of assistance. He was calling from the Fulfillment Department. (Of course, I’d love to be fulfilled.) It was about the medical alert system I’d ordered. What medical alert system did I order?

Veronica also called—referred to me, she said, by one of my lenders who sensed that I’d want to consolidate my debts. Hmm, I wondered, should I be contacting the Sisters of Mercy finance office? I asked Veronica, but she talked on without stopping.

The collection agency calling on behalf of the IRS wasn’t at all like Veronica. They sounded pretty serious and pretty mean. They told me the FBI was on my case. Scary. But I decided to risk arrest. (Okay, I’d heard the newscast warnings about this scam.)   Read More »

This Advent, Deliver Us from Evil

December 19, 2017

By Mark Piper, Mercy Associate


“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 »

Our Daily Bread

November 27, 2017

By Trish Trout, Mercy Associate

Freshly baked bread

Photo by Kate Remmer on Unsplash

My parish in Portland, Oregon, has a tradition of giving fresh-baked loaves of bread to all who attend Thanksgiving Mass. We’re meant to extend the blessings of Thanksgiving by sharing them with our families and friends. Last year, because of travel and work, my family celebrated Thanksgiving on the Tuesday before the holiday. I had no turkey to attend to, no salads to make. On the spur of the moment, I asked for the leftover bread and heard myself say I would distribute it in our homeless community.

I’ve lived most of my life in Portland in the same neighborhood. One block from my house is a 100-year old public park where generations of my family have played, walked, skated and gone sledding. I walk through it almost every day.

During the past few years, this park has become home to people who have nowhere else to go. The city allows them to camp or car-camp in one section of the park. This area is my destination. I set out, about to learn my first lessons from my neighbors, the homeless.

When I approach the park, I see three people sheltering under the large roofed entry. In a downpour, I pick up my heavy basket of donated bread and start for their shelter. I see that a woman is half-lying, half-sitting propped against the building’s large door. She’s covered with blankets, a quilt and a waterproof ground cloth. It’s dry here.

I ask her if she would like some bread. “Sure,” the woman and two men reply. I pull back the towel covering the loaves of bread and hand each of them a loaf. One man opens his bag and inhales. “It was baked this morning,” I say. He murmurs, “Oohh,” and pulls some out.   Read More »

Who Is At Risk of Becoming a Human Trafficking Victim?

November 20, 2017

By Sister Jeanne Christensen

In 2014, I wrote about how I first became aware of the horror of human trafficking while working with a not-for-profit women’s group in Kansas City, Missouri. The director of the group had been a victim of domestic human trafficking, and many of the women we served were victims as well. Listening to their experiences moved me to devote my ministry to helping victims, advocating on their behalf and educating the public about this atrocity.

Changing Stereotypes

"We Are Not for Sale"

“We Are Not for Sale”—art by Sister Mary Daly

In the intervening years, much has changed. The stereotype of a human trafficking victim is changing—victims are not prostituted women only. They are younger and may be your neighbor’s child, your coworker’s grandchild or your child’s friend.

In response, I have spoken to hundreds of high school and university students explaining to them what human trafficking is, how they and their friends are at risk and what they can do to avoid being targeted, lured or chosen as a victim. While speaking to one university class, I explained how they might be approached while hanging out with friends at the mall, who might be targeted in their group and how best to respond.

Very quietly, a young woman raised her hand and said, “That happened to me.” When I asked how she responded, she grinned and said, “Sister, I won’t tell you what I said to him!” Her classmates laughed, but she drove my point home, loudly and clearly.

Younger Victims Targeted

The really sad thing is that many who are exploited are much younger than college-aged. In the vicious human trafficking world, especially in commercial sex trafficking, the younger the victim, the more they earn for their trafficker.   Read More »

Turning Plain Stuff into Gold

November 14, 2017

By Sister Anne Sekul

Sister Anne writes an icon of Mary and Jesus in her studio.

Iconography is an ancient art that is dedicated to prayer in image and color. Icons convey the presence of Christ and the saints to those who pray by gazing at them in silence. Icons are part of my cultural and prayer heritage, as my father introduced them to me when I was a child. Art is a part of who I am. It is very natural for me to express the charism of Mercy through prayer and art.

I find Mercy in many experiences I have had writing and showing icons. A homeless man would often pass by the window of my studio when I was painting the icon of St. Michael the Archangel. Every day he would knock on my window and show his approval or disapproval of the work. Always, he would linger, gazing in silence before he went his way.

An artist once visited my studio, and after I told her about iconography, she said, “Oh, I see. You are not an artist but rather an alchemist. You turn plain stuff into gold.” Icons are always about beauty and transformation. I have seen poor people, lonely people, all kinds of people seek peace and mercy in front of the icons I write. Some of them have found those things, and so have I. The icon itself, rather than the person writing it, is the mediator of God’s mercy and love, and I am privileged to do this work.

Icons by Sister Anne Sekul

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 »

Who Will Care for the Caregivers?

October 6, 2017

By Liz Dossa, West Midwest Communications

Sister Kathleen Kearney

When Sister Kathleen Kearney was chief operating officer at St. Mary’s Medical Center in San Francisco, she was keenly aware of the needs that therapists at the hospital’s McAuley Psychiatric Services were trying to meet. She realized she wanted to step in personally to meet those individual needs. “After 16 years in hospital administration, I wanted to work one on one with people,” Sister Kathleen said. She had a degree in nursing from University of San Francisco and in public health from Cal Berkeley. Her next step was to return to school for a Doctor of Psychology (PsyD) degree in clinical psychology at John F. Kennedy University.

During her years of practice required for training and then licensing as a therapist, she first counseled emotionally disturbed teens. Then she worked for a program that assessed both physical and mental health needs of elderly people in their homes. In the process, she became acutely aware of the great needs of their caregivers. She saw that caregivers labor for years for their spouses or family members, exhausted and often unacknowledged. Many times the stressed caregiver dies before the patient. Read More »

In Awe of God’s Mercy—Ministering at a Women’s Shelter in Chicago

August 17, 2017

By Sister Carlotta Oberzut

Sister Carlotta (left) works with a former resident at St. Martin’s.

I was praying for God’s guidance, asking where I could make a difference in people’s lives, when I heard a formerly homeless woman tell her story about how the staff at a certain homeless shelter had helped turn her life around. Her story sparked a strong inner desire in me to minister to homeless women, knowing that I would be engaged in one of the works of mercy—sheltering the homeless. I also realized that caring for women who are suffering from poverty was Catherine McAuley’s passion and is one of our Mercy Critical Concerns (PDF).

There is a great need for psychological and emotional healing with the women at St. Martin de Porres House of Hope in Chicago, Illinois. As a licensed clinical professional counselor, I express mercy by giving them an opportunity to heal from losses and many kinds of traumas and abuse they’ve experienced as they engage in the counseling process. I try to be a caring, non-judgmental presence, providing a place where they can feel comfortable to open up and share secrets they have kept locked up for many years.

When I hear the stories of their lives, I am in awe at God’s mercy. The women tell me that they know that if it weren’t for God, they would be dead because of their dangerous lifestyle, living on the streets and in abandoned buildings. Many of them tell me that they know God has given them a second chance by guiding them to the recovery program at St. Martin’s after they have relapsed. I also see God’s mercy at work by the way each woman’s whole way of being changes as they work the 12-Step program. They blossom. A new person emerges. I see them becoming the person God created them to be.

Continuing a Legacy from 1910

August 1, 2017

By Sister Judy Morasci

From left, Donna Fink, art center director; Sister Judy Morasci; and the mother of a two-year-old child who died and whose organs were donated.

From left, Donna Fink, art center director; Sister Judy Morasci; and the mother of a two-year-old child who died and whose organs were donated.

My ministry is vice president of mission integration for Mercy Hospital in Bakersfield, California. I orient employees, physicians and volunteers, helping them understand the mission and values of Dignity Health (one of the largest health systems in the nation founded by the Sisters of Mercy). Through my work, they realize how they can integrate our mission into their role and the work environment. Employees from a variety of religious and cultural backgrounds are here to serve the patient. The mission gives them a sense of the meaning and purpose of their work.

I also facilitate the human kindness retreats for staff. The retreat theme is that the core of our mission is reaching out with human kindness to suffering patients and their families.

I am also in charge of spiritual care and the hospital auxiliary, and I serve on the board committee for community outreach. My whole purpose is to instill a sense of the legacy of Catherine McAuley, founder of the Sisters of Mercy, and Baptist Russell, founder of St. Mary’s Hospital—the first Catholic hospital on the west coast. We continue that legacy begun here in 1910 when the hospital was founded.

I find Mercy in the service we provide; in the hands of Mercy; in our care for the sick, the poor and one another. Mercy is in the sense of hospitality in our hospitals. I am here to express Mercy through a compassionate, listening presence, by being there for people and by being a Sister of Mercy.