Mercy walks with the differently abled

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This year’s Mercy Day celebrations center on the theme of “Walking with Mercy.” While the concept recalls the description of Sisters of Mercy as “Walking Sisters” that is tied to the very beginning of the Mercy Community, it is also deeply connected to the ministries in which the sisters are engaged today, walking with others in a spirit of encuentro.

By Sister Larretta Rivera-Williams 

Although Catherine McAuley did not initially envision founding a religious order, she did inadvertently and here we are today. We will forever be known among millions of women and men who have been ministered to by Sisters of Mercy, Mercy Associates, and Companions in Mercy. 

Today, be it through active ministry or sitting quietly in prayer, we walk in the footprints of Catherine. 

I am a chaplain at Holy Angels, Inc., one of the Sisters of Mercy’s sponsored ministries that gives around the clock care to people of all ages who are differently abled. It is my privilege to walk with the residents. The majority are confined to wheelchairs, unable to speak or unable to see. It is my honor to be a presence of Mercy for our staff and to listen to family members tell stories of what brought them to Holy Angels. 

The residents and their families show me what it means to walk in mercy every day. They have seen many challenges but rise to meet them with grace and goodness. One of the residents I have the pleasure of seeing on a weekly basis sustained developmental disabilities during what some might consider corrective and non-life-threatening surgery. Imagine a young, happy child going into surgery, but not coming out of surgery with the ability to talk, walk or see.  

I have personally experienced the inability to walk from past paralysis due to multiple sclerosis. Nothing has humbled me more than to look into the mesmerizing eyes of a child who has never had the ability to walk.  

What lesson of God’s love and mercy is there in such a situation for parents? How do you explain such an unfortunate case to a child’s siblings? What has drawn me to love this child and experience separation anxiety when I can’t be present? Is it the love that continues to radiate from the child’s humming sounds, searching eyes and contagious smile? Yes, it could only be God’s grace and the infinite mercy of God! 

With God’s mercy as a guide, we must walk through life considering how our choices and actions affect those around us. If I don’t take time to consider how my being affects the presence of another, I could possibly become a digression of the manifestation of God’s grace. If I don’t take time to breathe through moments of anxiety, I could possibly deplete the room of sustaining joy. If I were to drive “fast and furious,” I might cause serious injury or deprive another person of life. If I fail to consider what is right and just, I could possibly undermine the charitable gift for one in need. If I refuse to speak truth in the face of lies, I have possibly let the innocent suffer.   

The way we walk through our lives has rewards and consequences. Luckily, there are infinite ways of walking in mercy.