San Diego ‘Friends in Mercy’ Celebrate Mercy Every Day

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By Sister Mary Waskowiak

Institute Leadership sent a Mercy Day message this year that included these words:

“We are ‘friends in Mercy’ wherever we gather … and in all those moments of heart and consciousness … we draw unto ourselves those who offer mercy and seek mercy.”

That message describes the blessing and open house of the recently established Community Resource Center (CRC), an outgrowth of the presence/service of the members of Casa de Misericordia intentional community in San Diego, California.

On Mercy Day 2020, Pastor Martin Silva, SJ, blessed the house called Casa de Misericordia (House of Mercy), purposefully named to honor the first House of Mercy at Baggot Street. He blessed the six members of the community, including Sisters Gloria Mary Avila, Mary Kay Dobrovolny and Mary Waskowiak.

The CRC opened its doors in April 2021, using space in the parish hall of Our Lady of Guadalupe Church. In August 2021, services and programs of the CRC were moved to a two-bedroom cottage owned by the parish. To celebrate and highlight the services that have been provided over a five-month period, Mary and co-founder Adela Garcia invited leaders from the civic, nonprofit and church sectors to the September 24 blessing and open house. Sixty “Friends of Mercy” were present! San Diego Bishops John Dolan and Ramon Bejarano blessed the house in which the CRC services are provided.

San Diego Supervisor Nora Vargas declared a proclamation, making September 24 a special day. Members of the San Diego County Health and Human Services department listened to the testimony of a man who was signed up in one hour for services he had sought for 18 months, thanks to the social worker provided to the CRC by the county. 

The 60-person group then walked a short distance to the Community Garden, a program hosted by the Casa de Misericordia community and led by community member Angelie Ryah. Giant sunflower plants dominated the garden area. Zucchini, eggplant and squash were visible to the attendees.

Angelie gave a brief presentation and invited one of the gardeners to give testimony. She spoke of how the garden has helped the healing of heart and mind for herself and others, including the children of family members who worked the soil. A representative from Blue Cross/Blue Shield of California spoke of her amazement to see such solidarity of family commitment to the work of the garden. She explained that the Community Garden is one of four entities to receive monetary donations during Hispanic Heritage Month (September 15 to October 16). Father Silva blessed the garden and the burrito lunch boxes that everyone enjoyed. Smiles, nodding of heads in affirmation and COVID-distanced embraces brought the 90 minutes to a conclusion.

Friends of Mercy are alive and well, and the Casa de Misericordia continues into its second year. In addition to the work of the CRC, efforts are continuing to more closely accompany the new migrant individuals and families. Mary is working with leaders in Tijuana and San Diego to organize avenues of assistance. The promise of growing “Friends of Mercy” continues—and Catherine is here!