March 09, 2010

Where Sisters of Mercy Minister: Chile (5)

In light of the 8.8-magnitude earthquake which struck Chile on Saturday 27 February 2010, we have chosen to highlight this week the presence of Sisters of Mercy in Chile. 

At the current time, there are eleven Sisters of Mercy in Chile: 9 belong to Institute of Sisters of Mercy of the Americas (4 from Rochester, New York, USA and 5 from Chile); 1 belongs to the Sister of Mercy, New Zealand; and 1 belongs to the Congregation of Sisters of Mercy (Ireland). 

We are grateful to report that all of the Sisters of Mercy in Chile are safe, although there was some damage to their houses as a result of the earthquake. 

Janet Caufield rsm, a Sister of Mercy originally from Rochester, New York, who ministered in Chile for over 40 years, died suddenly and unexpectedly two days before the earthquake; the return of her remains to New York was delayed as a result of the aftermath of the earthquake and closure of the airport.  Mercy International Association invites everyone to pray for the Mercy community in Chile as they recover from the earthquake and mourn the loss of a beloved member.

Sisters of Mercy have been present in Chile since 1965.  In 1961, Pope John XXIII requested that religious orders and dioceses in the United States and Canada voluntarily send 10% of their membership to Latin American countries.  The Mercy community in Rochester, NY, responded to this request by selecting four sisters to study Spanish and be missioned to Chile.  The first sisters to go to Chile ministered alongside the Columbian Fathers in a very large urban poor parish in Santiago.

The Sisters of Mercy continue to minister in Santiago, the capital of Chile.  In addition, they minister in Copiapo (521 miles/839 kilometers north of Santiago), Rungue (39 miles/63 kilometers northwest of Santiago), and Viña del Mar (74 miles/120 kilometers northwest of Santiago). 

Ministries in which the Sisters of Mercy are involved in Chile include: development of lay leadership in small Christian communities, pastoral work with women and children, instruction of lay catechists and liturgical ministers, health promotion, leadership development of women, youth and young adult faith formation, peace and justice advocacy, pastoral and social care for those affected by HIV/AIDS, residential care to teenage girls, and archival work for Sisters of Mercy of the CCASA Community (Caribbean, Central America, and South America Community of the Institute of Sisters of Mercy of the Americas). 

For those interested in reading reflections on one Sister of Mercy’s time in Chile, see Reflections on a Life: Ó Mhuigheó go Valparaíso by Teresita Durkan  (published by Veritas, Dublin, 2005).

The areas where all but two of the Sisters of Mercy live are in areas that received “severe shaking” and “very strong shaking” in the recent earthquake and its aftershocks.  Santiago is 200 miles (325 kilometers) northeast of the epicenter of the recent earthquake.  It, Rungue and Viña del Mar are in the northern portion of the area most impacted by the earthquake. 

Messages to Mary Kay Dobrovolny rsm Assistant Director Heritage & Spirituality

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