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Mercy e-News
Edition No. 607  |  11 February 2015
Featured Story

Editor: Today, 11 February, the feast of Our Lady of Lourdes, is World Day of the Sick. Today offers us an invitation to pray with those suffering with illness or frailty and an opportunity to give thanks for those who provide care to them. The title of our Feature this week—'Time spent with the sick is holy time'—comes from Pope Francis’ message for today. His message is linked to this item.

We invited some of our Sisters and Partners-in-ministry to share with us from their experiences of being engaged in the ministry of healing. In this issue of Mercy eNews you will read examples of traditional medical practices, complementary therapies and tools for wellness being used across the globe as Mercy people seek to give 'in the care of the sick, great tenderness above all things' (Catherine McAuley).

These stories are just some of the many ways Mercy works to bring healing and hope to people experiencing a time of suffering or frailty. We welcome your story of your healing ministry for publication in a future edition of Mercy Enews.

Messages to: Mary Reynolds rsm - Executive Director MIA


Image: cropped from 'Willing Hands', also known as 'Sisters of Mercy', painted in 1900. This painting hangs in the convent parlour at the Convent of Mercy Fitzroy, Victoria, Australia, the first foundation made in Victoria by Ursula Frayne (1816-1885). The artist  was John Hennessy (1872-1943). He was based in Melbourne, Victoria and exhibited at the Victorian Art Society (1900-1915). In 1907 he designed the school crest for the Academy of Mary Immaculate, Fitzroy, the school opened by Ursula Frayne shortly after her arrival in 1857. Photo used with permission.

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Vision in Action
MIA Prayer Intention for the Coming Week

Let us join in prayer today,
with all who are ill and suffering;
with our Sisters who, in the midst of their suffering, bring a ministering presence;

with those whose names are on our prayer list;
with those who today will find themselves in need of prayers;

with those wounded and otherwise affected as a result of war, conflict, tragedy or disaster;
with those who care for the ill, the suffering, the afflicted, the infirm;

with those who have no one to pray with them in this hour of need;
with those who today are at the end of life.

Post your own Prayer or Reflection in our online Chapel

Messages to: Mary Reynolds rsm - Executive Director MIA

Editor: Resources for the  XX111 World Day of the Sick can be found here

Register for the 2015 Pilgrimage of Young Mercy Leaders

Registration is now open for the 2015 Pilgrimage of Young Mercy Leaders (14 -17 July). This pilgrimage for secondary school students brings together students from across the Mercy world. These Mercy pilgrims will undertake their journey in the light of the story of Catherine McAuley. Students who participate in this pilgrimage will emerge with a deeper appreciation of our Mercy tradition – past, present and future.

Young Mercy Leaders pilgrimages have been taking place since 2011.  Videos and stories from previous pilgrimages can be viewed here

An overview of the program can be found here (PDF)

Please email MIA for Registration Materials.

Messages to: Mary Kay Dobrovolny rsm - Assistant Director Heritage & Spirituality

Daring Hospitality – “I was a stranger and you welcomed me” by Elizabeth Davis rsm

' Our Mercy Works team in Kiunga, PNG is going through a significant transition period of handing over to locally trained personnel. We have decided to use this series of reflections to help us deepen our appreciation and understanding of a Mercy focussed ministry...', 'I read it with interest and will make copies for the Community for our Meeting tomorrow. It will give much food for thought and discussion.'

How are you using this first reflection theme?
Join the conversation and share your personal reflection online with us all.

If you are following the suggested cycle, we are now entering week 3 'Prayer using the prayer services provided each month for use by individuals or groups'.

Messages to:
Mary Reynolds rsm - Executive Director MIA
Elizabeth Davis rsm - Author

Image: © Gerald Squires, A hand rules compassion as a hand rules heaven, The Gathering Place, St. John’s NL, Canada. Used with permission. 3 of the 6 panels

God of love and mercy, touch with your healing power and restore to full health: Madeleine Laks, John Sweeney, Linda Lesser, Baby Eliza, William Walsh, Thomas Murphy, John McCarthy and all whose names are on our prayer list.

We ask this with confidence through the intercession of Venerable Catherine McAuley. Amen.

Messages to: the Vice postulators

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MIA Members News

My name is Sister Marie Etheridge. I am a Sister of Mercy of Newfoundland. I began my Ministry of Healing at the young age of seventeen when I began my training as a Licensed Practical Nurse.

My initial experience was in a hospital setting which included ministry in obstetrics, pediatrics and a variety of other areas. I knew from the beginning that I was entering a profession that was dear to my heart. I found that in ministering to others in their need, my own life was being enriched. As I grew and matured in my healing ministry, something deeper began to stir in me. Eventually I realized that that stirring was God calling me to further dedicate my life in healing ministry as a Sister of Mercy...

Messages to: Marie Etheridge rsm

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Kathleen Petrie: Mission Coordinator for Nga Whaea Atawhai Aotearoa Sisters of Mercy New Zealand writes:

'While many secular organisations would have a ‘mission statement’, quite often this is something that sits on a wall plaque and never assumes a reality of its own.  Not so for Nga Whaea Atawhai, who have invested strongly in a Mission Team – He Waka Tiaki – covering the whole country.  Successive congregational leadership teams have recognised that mission is the pou or ridgepole of the house and that, in ministries staffed largely by lay people, of diverse faiths and sometimes of no faith, the story of Catherine and the tradition of Mercy need to be constantly re-told and re-invigorated, and that core Mercy values need to be integrated in all aspects of their ministries.[1]

Messages to: Kathleen Petrie

[1] Sr Eileen Wrobleski’s article  'Measuring Mission Integration' (2003) has been very useful in thinking about my role.

Image: l-r: Kathy Lynch rsm and Kay Ryan, Director of Spirituality, in the Hospice chapel

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Editor: Karen Scheer, rsm, MD is a member of the Institute of the Sisters of Mercy of the Americas and lives and ministers in the Philadelphia Area. She is a Family Medicine physician who visits her patients as a House Calls physician.  She also serves as the US Coordinator of Focus of Haiti (FOH), a grassroots organisation within the Institute to address ongoing needs in partnership with the community of Gros Morne, Haiti.

In her heart-warming article linked to this item, Sr Karen shares with us the events of one January day this year. We meet some of her clients— "Mary", "Peggy" and "Laura" —and come to understand why, as Karen puts it, she is 'able to be a Mercy physician and give “in the care of the sick, great tenderness above all things." ' (CMcA)

Messages to: Karen Scheer rsm, MD

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At the start of the New Millennium, I was privileged to have some sabbatical time in Berkeley, U.S.A. This was a refreshing time and quite a change from my ministry of teaching at second level in Ireland. During my course, I found that I had leisure to explore other interests, and one of these was the area of complementary health.

My first massage training in San Francisco was with Mary Ann Finch and is called Care Through Touch - Massage as the Art of Anointing. I was glad to follow this up with training in Swedish massage. This opened a whole new area to me and meant that I was very receptive to encountering a different form of body work called Capacitar.

Over the last Nine years, I have been honoured to do further body work through Capacitar, a word which means 'to empower, encourage or bring forth'...

Messages to: Anna Haughian rsm

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In November 2014 we celebrated the 175th anniversary of the arrival of our Venerable Foundress, Catherine McAuley, in Bermondsey with five Sisters, thus marking the first Mercy Foundation in the UK.  We know from reflecting on our early history that these pioneering women not only visited the sick poor in the local  Dickensian hovels, but also in the famous hospitals of St Thomas’ and Guys’ as well as branching out to the Crimea with Florence Nightingale.

Reflecting on my own faith journey I have had the enormous privilege of accompanying  the sick in different times and different places. Parish visitation was a definite part of our formation and later we were expected to incorporate this ministry into our normal working week which for me was the classroom...

Read the reflection linked to this item

Messages to: Assumpta Walsh rsm

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I know Joan pretty well (story used with permission). In fact she is one of the people I work with.  Joan is 55. She and husband Denis have three children.  Joan works part time as a hairdresser and is in pain pretty much all the time.  The doctors can’t do any more for her. She has had surgery to correct two protruding discs in her back.  She has had to give up tennis and reduce her time in the garden.  She finds some relief from medication but is concerned that this relief comes at some cost to her balance and her capacity to think.  

She said to me the other day: “Chronic pain is like throwing a stone into a lake.  The stone is the pain and the ripples affect every part of your life”. 

In my role as a physiotherapist, I work with many people like Joan.

Chronic pain has been described as the hidden epidemic.  The statistics are quite alarming; one in five people suffers from chronic pain.  Behind the numbers is something often harder to see - the impact of pain on the person... 

Messages to: Rebecca McCabe rsm

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In the early twentieth century the Religious Sisters of Charity from Dublin, founded St Joseph's Hospice 'for the dying' in Hackney, East London. Since then the hospice has gone from strength to strength and now provides specialist palliative care, advice and support for people with both debilitating and terminal illnesses and for their families in a wide catchment area of 1.5 million people in East and North London, St Joseph's is a beacon of hope for a very diverse population, coming from a large number of ethnic groups.

Tower Hamlets, Hackney, and Newham are the most socially deprived boroughs in the country. The staff, one and all, are amazingly dedicated, and I, as a volunteer complementary therapist, feel very honoured to work there in the Day Hospice and as a Befriender in the wards. ..

Messages to: Teresita Heenan rsm c/- Kathleen Gooch rsm

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For the last thirty years, I have facilitated Human Wholeness Retreats: a wellness retreat ministry that seeks to honor the whole person, body, mind and spirit. Retreatants come from every walk of life. Some want to enhance their gift of life in a spiritual context. Others come struggling with sufferings, challenges, worries, concerns, named or unnamed disease processes.

We are all familiar with considerations affecting a healthy lifestyle: nutrition, exercise, prayer, stress reduction, rest, meditation, relaxation, visualization, silence, healthy community and environment. To these, I add creativity as an integral tool for wellness. One path into the creative process is through the meditative practice of Art-Journaling®, a wholistic approach combining visual expression, journal writing and contemplative presence...

Messages to: Marianne Hieb rsm

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The Ministry of Pastoral Psychotheraphy (Americas)

'The discipline of pastoral psychotherapy is filled with the theology of Mercy. Both are modes of relationship with God and others. Both are habits of mind, heart, and spirit. Both imply a theology that  God suffers with humanity.  The cries for Mercy in today’s world are loud and clear, but too often go unheard.

I am not a theologian, but as a Sister of Mercy I have come to believe that Mercy is the honest recognition of our sinfulness and our sharing in God’s compassion “suffering with” forgiveness, and comfort as“standing strong

Download the complete article ( 7pps; PDF)

Published here with the permission of the author, Fran Repka rsm, and of MAST. First published in MAST, vol 22 no 2 Support MAST. Details are here

Messages to: Fran Repka rsm

Arriving at Mater Health Services Brisbane in 2008 into the role of Executive Director Mission Leadership felt a little like ‘coming home’. The foundation of my commitment to healthcare as a ministry and my appreciation of the Church’s mission as expressed in the healing ministry of Jesus, commenced in 1980 in nursing and later midwifery hospital based training undertaken at Mater Brisbane.

For the past 34 years I have been involved in Australian healthcare in some way. Roles have been varied... Along the way, professional development, graduate and post graduate studies interspersed these work commitments. Each shaped me in enabling me to ‘fit’ into my current role...

Messages to: Madonna McGahan

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While chaplaincy may not immediately come to mind in a reflection on the ministries of healing, with this article, I’d like to offer my experience with training chaplain interns and residents to practice deep listening as a ministry of compassionate healing.  Scores of books have been written about the emotional and spiritual toll of war on soldiers.  In this article, I hope to share how, when framed as the art of listening, of truly hearing another person’s story, chaplaincy becomes a gift of healing, both to the one speaking and to the one listening.  

As a Clinical Pastoral Education (CPE) supervisor, I had the privilege of working for twenty years with many chaplain interns and residents as they learned this art of deep listening, an art that is developed, not by reading a standard textbook, but rather from actual, real encounters with others.  In my most recent ministry, I served as a CPE supervisor at a Veteran’s Administration hospital.  This experience opened up a whole new perspective on chaplaincy and education for me.  By learning alongside chaplain interns and residents as they visited with veterans, I heard firsthand from military chaplains about their experiences of walking with soldiers, both in war zones and when they returned home to the United States...

Messages to: Maureen Mitchell rsm


Image: 'Soldier Cloth'. Image courtesy of lobster20 at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

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I work in the health ministry in the medical specialty of Dermatology. After finishing school, I studied Medicine at university, and then later trained as a Dermatologist. I reduced my working hours whilst undergoing the initial formation programme with the Sisters of Mercy and after making my first profession of religious vows last year, I was grateful to be able to return to full-time ministry in health.

I was initially attracted to the specialty of Dermatology as a junior doctor, because I was keen to learn more about skin diseases. Not knowing too much about it at that stage, Dermatology seemed to have an aura of mystery. I am very interested in the link between internal medicine and the skin – primary diseases of the skin have systemic internal manifestations on other organs of the body, and also vice versa – many internal medical conditions manifest outwardly as visible skin conditions...

Messages to: Michelle Goh rsm

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Do you wonder about healing? I do! When the sick or dying speak, they are engaging with a reality that faces each of us- our vulnerability. I believe at these times a very important conversation is taking place and as chaplain it is often my role to be present to the murmurings and questions, answering, if possible, John O' Donoghue’s question, 'Why did this sickness visit?'

Simply put, I have the wonderful privilege of being “invited in” by patients, their families and staff to share their journey of life,  the moments of “truth”, the “shock” —or for some the “relief”— of a diagnosis, the treatment, the acceptance and the quest for healing in its many subtle expressions...

Messages to: Fiona Galligan rsm


Image: Stock photo. Used under CCO

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The one word “Wellbeing” reflects somewhat for me; the goal of healing ministry. 

This article offers a brief window into my process and some of my favourite tools.  My background is in Transpersonal Psychology, counselling and natural therapies, and my current ministry engagement is in counselling and part time work in complementary therapies in an aged care facility.

A common thread running through the lives of many of the people with whom I engage is a lack of a sense of personal power and control over their lives.  There is an overall absence of a sense of connectedness of mind, body and spirit.  In learning new skills, they will discover that they do indeed have choices and they do have a say in creating their own reality...

Messages to: Teresa Neylon rsm

Image: Stock photo. Used under licence

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Mercy Matters

The Mater Misericordiae University Hospital is a charitable voluntary hospital and holds a unique place in the delivery of healthcare not only as the main charitable and voluntary general hospital serving Dublin's north inner city, but also providing healthcare to the rest of the country with its national and tertiary services.

The Hospital was founded by the Sisters of Mercy in 1861 and opened on September 24th 1861

'Caring for the Nation'  by Eugene Nolan rsm tells the story of Ireland's best known hospital

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Even the most fortunate of us can expect setbacks every now and again. Here are some ways to get back on your feet.

Source: The Guardian

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1844: Eliza Jane Tiernan entered, first American postulant
1858: Foundation to Buffalo from Rochester - M Austin Carroll
1873: Foundation to Borris-in-Ossory, Co Laois
1882: Foundation to Durango, Colorado from St Louis, Missouri - M John Baptist Meye

Submit a fact about the Story of the Sisters of Mercy for our online archive

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'...This is the mission of the Church: to heal the wounds of the heart, to open doors, to free people, to say that God is good, God forgives all, God is the Father, God is affectionate, God always waits for us.

It’s true, we have to help and create organizations that help in this: yes, because the Lord gives us the gifts for this. But when we forget this mission, forget poverty, forget the apostolic zeal and instead, place our hope in these human means, the Church slowly slips into becoming an NGO, it becomes a beautiful organization: Powerful, but not evangelical, because it lacks that spirit, that poverty, that power to heal...'

-Pope Francis: Homily at Mass at Santa Marta, 5 February 2015

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Today's Mercy Quote

Life is very short! What folly, then, to waste any of its precious hours on trifles.

- M Austin Carroll

Visio Divina, a recently produced video resource, is part of the Institute of the Americas membership engagement process of Women of Mercy, Women of Hope—Year 3. Script is by Marianne Hieb rsm. Length is (17:45)

We are grateful to the Institute of the Americas Leadership Team for making this resource available to the Mercy world.

The video is available in both English and Spanish. Click on the appropriate link for the version you wish to experience:

English version

Spanish Version

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Further Resources

Worth Watching:

Pure artistry

In beautiful and evocative videos, Gael Towey & Co. Short Films document artists and their inspirations. In Season One Portraits in Creativity presented the work of contemporary female artists: Maira Kalman, an American illustrator, writer, artist, and designer (13:54); Gabriella Kiss, jeweller and master craftswoman (12:43);  Alabama Chanin, creator of haute couture clothing (08:24) and Sheila Berger, painter and sculptor (07:57). Just  added is the first artist for Season Two - Singer, songwriter Rosanne Cash (17:28)

These portraits are nourishment for the Spirit. Ration your viewing!

Worth Reading:

'34 Affirmations for Healthy Living'
Try positive self-talk to eat better, feel stronger, and rejuvenate your body. - Read the list here

Health and Social Care

Routledge has released a collection featuring the most downloaded articles that were published and downloaded in 2014 in each Routledge Health and Social Care journal. Examples of articles available for reading online or downloading at no cost as a PDF are: Baby Boomers Ageing Well? Challenges in the Search for Meaning in Later Life, by Rev. Prof. Elizabeth MacKinlay and Faith and Forgetfulness: The Role of Spiritual Identity in Preservation of Self With Alzheimer's, by Susan Crawford Sullivan & Renée L. Beard. These articles, originally published last year in the Journal of Religion, Spirituality & Aging, can be found in the Health collection, in the subset of Health & Religion.

Articles will be freely available for research, teaching, and private study purposes until 30 June 2015 via the Health and Social Care article collection

Kathleen Glennon rsm (The Congregation) wrote  'Healing and Wholeness' , her second book, "for  those who are ill or for those who are dying and for their carers'.
An account of  the origin of the book and how circumstances in her own life changed her focus can be read here. Order from The Columba PressVeritas or from Amazon

'Technology can assist us in being neighbors, but it cannot replace human encounter. As we study the possibilities technology has to offer in delivering spiritual care to patients and families who do not have direct, local access to trained professional chaplains, we need to pay more attention to the processes we are developing than the equipment we are purchasing. There is no substitute for genuine empathy, engagement and compassion.' from 'Mission and Leadership - Details of Encounter are Key in Telespiritual Care' by Brian P Smith in 'Health Progress', January-February 2015, Volume 96, Number 1.  Read it here

Worth Listening (and watching):

National Public Radio (NPR) hosts a series of 'tiny desk concerts'. These intimate performances are recorded at the desk of the host of 'All Songs Considered', Bob Boilen. Hear from names you'll know and artists new to you as you explore the great range of musical styles performed here.There's enough on offer to enjoy a concert a day for a month.  View the list here Can't sit around and watch? All concerts are downloadable as mp3 files.

Worth Playing:

Blessing Song by Joe Wise (04:33)

Year of Consecrated Life

Michelle Sherliza OP who put this Blessing Song video clip together with Joe's singing, has created videos for 'Wake the World With Dawning Joy', the song for the Year of Consecrated Life. The English version can be found here (02:40). The multi-cultural version can be found here (02:42)

Send suggestions and contributions for the 'Worth...' section 2015 to: the Editor

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Certificate Number 194263. Public Company Limited by Guarantee. Registered Office: Mercy International Association, 11 Adelaide Road, Dublin 2. Registered Charity no CHY 10078
Directors: Sister Denise Fox (ANZ), Sister Patricia McDermott (US), Ron Ashworth (US), Peter Burnett (GB), Sister Colette Cronin (GB), Mary Moorhead (IRL), Kevin Hoy (IRL), Sister Margaret Casey (IRL), Sister Scholasticah Nganda (IRL)