God's Invitation to the Sisters of Mercy at This Time
Editor. The third and final part of the conversation with Sr Elizabeth concludes with her response to the question: 'What is God's invitation to the Sisters of Mercy at this time?'
'God's call is always — in some ways— the same because our God is a God in this time and in this place and God chooses to dwell with us. Not just to come and visit, or watch out for us, but our God chooses to dwell with us. Emmanuel — one of the first names we're given for Jesus — is God with us. The Jewish Tradition has that beautiful Feast of the Tabernacles, God choosing to dwell, whether it is in the tents in the wilderness of the forty years of wandering, or in the Temple in Jerusalem. God doesn't dwell with us in some kind of universal space, God always dwells with us in this place— whatever this place is for us— and in this time.'
'God has memory. God remembers, cries, changes God's mind (Elizabeth smiled) but God gives us memory to help us cope sometimes, to help us enjoy the moment and for us (Sisters of Mercy) we have that special memory that is Catherine's charism. God's gift to us.'
'So there is a group of women (Sisters of Mercy) in this world— 7 or 8 thousand of us today living— who have a rich memory of a special way that God met us and our foresisters in a certain time and then we were able to carry that tradition into this time so that in this time and place we can respond, nourished by that charism but taking that charism deeper for us as well.'
'So what are Sisters of Mercy called to today? We're called to be in this place — whatever that place is— to make this place more just, more peaceful because we were here. How we understand that today is very different from Catherine and how she understood it in her time. That charism, that energy is the same; it's carrying one of the qualities of God that is so rich and helping us live that on earth. But how different it is.'
'Catherine wouldn't have understood anything about the new cosmology— that all creation is one. We have that gift today. We don't really understand it too well either but we are starting to understand it. So the next generation of the Sisters of Mercy will have a better sense of that. Catherine did have a sense that the poorest, the sickest, the most vulnerable among us needed us to be present with them and so in that way she was certainly doing things we continue to do today, but again in our own place.'
'Many of us Sisters of Mercy are older and can't be actively engaged in teaching or communications or social work or nursing or many other areas of ministry, such as working with refugees or abused women. Yet we believe one of the gifts of the new cosmology is that a Sister whose ministry is prayer, or whose ministry is suffering, whose ministry is somehow entwined in a time of dementia, makes a difference to the whole of being. So every Sister of Mercy living today carries somehow the charism from all the Sisters of Mercy that come before us and that then strengthens us to respond in this day and time and moment and the world will be better because we were here. The place we were in will be more just and more peaceful because we were here. There will be more wisdom because we were here.'
'That's also true for every other being but for us, as Sisters of Mercy, we are able to articulate that in a way that even the very articulation of it gives us more strength, more courage and more wisdom to deepen it.'
'When I entered our Congregation first we were all either teachers or nurses. That's how we framed it. It was not in our awareness that many of our Sisters worked in the kitchen or the household ministry or in financial management or in administration of the Congregation. We didn't call that ministry in those days. Now we know that all of that is a face of ministry, and that's a new understanding for us.'
'When we entered we all knew we were going to be in a corporate ministry, those of us who were teachers or nurses. Today very few of us are in corporate ministries. We are in what we call individual ministries which is a misnomer because when we go to that ministry the Congregation is coming with us, even though there may be only one or two or three of us there. We no longer see it as something we are doing alone. We are walking this journey with people we are really privileged to be with.'
'When I spoke this morning to the Medical Regulators in Australia, somehow for that moment in time that group is in ministry together and I'm walking — for a very brief period of time— I have to believe— if this new cosmology makes any sense— that even my walking with that group for that moment in time makes a difference for that group and what they are about.'
'So I do not lament the fact that we (Sisters of Mercy) are older. Older women have a gift that we bring that younger women don't have and we rejoice in that gift and make a difference in that gift. I think we don't dare talk about the fact that many of our Sisters of Mercy have dementia. The person who has dementia is part of this ministry, this call to make life more just, more peaceful, more equitable, and in a way that we will never understand, or we won't for a long time understand. So we don't cease to be Sisters of Mercy. She (the Sister with dementia) is carrying the memory of the charism. She is carrying the lived experience of the charism in a very real way.'
'I think Catherine would be delighted we (Sisters of Mercy) did go to Newfoundland and Labrador. I think she would be very happy with the way the Sisters of Mercy have spread throughout this earth and become leaders in society, not just in the Church and the Congregation. I think she would be worried that we work too hard sometimes, that we don't find the balance in our lives that we might. I think she would be absolutely charmed that we are on the leading edge of thinking around things like the new cosmology, that we dare to go where others are afraid to go sometimes.'
'I think Catherine would think that the gift of our musicians and artists has not only made a better Congregation but a better world. She'd want us to keep remembering where we're rooted: in the Gospels and the Scriptures and in a belief in the Incarnate God, but also we're rooted in the basic, fundamental goodness of people and the goodness of all creation. She'd want us not to lose that sense that we're part of something way beyond ourselves and we give something to it and we get so much from it.'
'I think Catherine, Francis (Creedon) and Antonia (Egan) would be in absolute wonder that Sisters of Mercy in Australia, the Philippines, Ireland, Canada and Peru are so much alike when there is no central control that's making us alike and yet we understand each other immediately, even though we mightn't speak the same language. How did that happen?! What is the working of the Spirit that made that be so? That we can all meet through Mercy International Association, back in the place where Catherine spent her years and dreamt of a better world and we've spread out to 40+ countries, a dream become real.'
'I think all three would be overwhelmed, delighted that it is so.'
Messages to: Elizabeth Davis rsm - Congregational Leader