Global Contemplation on the Integrating Poster: Mercy and Displacement of Persons
“What a paradox life is!” The opening words on the poster for Mercy and the Displacement of Persons set the context for the three global conversations on this theme which is at the heart of Mercy ministry. Held during the week of August 24, 2020, the conversations were reflections on the voices and images from Month Three of Segment Two of the Mercy Global Presence process centered on “Mercy.”
The paradox was visible in the very images portrayed and words used in the poster. The participants noted the captivating image of smiling Syrian children, living in the midst of a refugee camp, brought tears to our eyes even as it gave hope to our hearts. The modern-day Pietà entitled Good Friday 2020, with the healthcare workers holding the respirator to the face of Jesus and knowing that all their efforts were in vain, gave us yet another window into the suffering of this pandemic time. The young Aboriginal boy with his coloured drum in the apparently dry desert gave more hope in “Reclaiming Place: Continuing the Story.” It linked the displacement of persons back to the previous conversations on the degradation of Earth – the cry of Earth and the cry of the Poor are one. The image of the mother of Mercy holding in her embrace those with the COVID-19 virus, their loved ones and the healthcare workers, was yet another source of hope and a reminder of the depth of our tradition in grounding that hope. The invisibility of the Homeless Christ (male or female) touched many in the conversation circles. One participant quoted Pope Francis, “On the one hand, it is essential to find a cure for this small but terrible virus, which has brought the whole world to its knees. On the other, we must also cure a larger virus, that of social injustice, inequality of opportunity, marginalization and the lack of protection for the weakest.”
The paradox was expressed in heartfelt ways as participant after participant spoke of displaced persons in her or his reality – from the Mexico/United States border to the borders of Peru to the rural areas of Australia to the streets of St. John’s NL to the communities of northern Ontario to the cities of Australia to the towns of Peru to the long term care residences of Ireland and the United Kingdom. The displacement was highly visible and subtly invisible. It was within countries, and it was international. The ministry was heart-breaking and hope-restoring. Over and over again, the participants showed their struggles with being people of privilege in a world where so many have so little. Over and over again, they mirrored Mercy alive in the darkest places. One participant spoke of an Indigenous group who greet each other with the words, “How are the connections?”
The paradox was evident in attempts to balance contemplation and action. How can we not act when there is so much suffering and we have so much? How can we not create the connections that make action more effective? How can we not act when we call ourselves people of Mercy? And, yet, how can we act unless we also find systemic ways to change cultures and attitudes? How can we change systems and the hearts of people unless we ourselves take time to reflect on the realities of which we are part and to which we contribute by our own privileged lifestyle? How can we act and reflect if we do not time apart to find our way? The quotation from Jeremiah spoke to participants about standing, looking, asking, listening, and walking.
All three global conversations had returning participants and new participants, numbering in total 247 persons who were distributed fairy equally across the three groups. It seemed to all that we were finding a rhythm in our gatherings, learning to forget that the technology was there and leaning in to touch each other in these vibrant circles of Mercy.
—Elizabeth Davis rsm, Berneice Loch rsm, Anne Walsh
Messages to: MGP Guiding Team