By Sr. Myra Bergman, RSM, Mission Integration Consultant, Trinity Health Michigan
Mercy Day — Our Special Day
“Give thanks to the Lord for he is good, his mercy endures forever” (Psalm 136:1)
Catherine McAuley, a wealthy woman living in Dublin, Ireland, in the 1800s, embedded this faith belief in her personal spiritual life and compassionate community service. Catherine’s heart and spirit were deeply moved for the economically poor and vulnerable of her time. As a young woman she devoted a sizable inheritance to the building of a residence — a place which would become home for herself and for other women who shared her social concerns. It would also be a “safe house’ for orphaned children and vulnerable young women.
This residence opened on September 24, 1827, named The House of Mercy. It proved to be a significant impetus for Catherine to continue her works of mercy, eventually leading to the creation of a religious community of women — the Religious Sisters of Mercy. The spirit and mission of this new Community focused on special concern for the economically poor, the uneducated, and the sick — a focus which remains wherever Sisters of Mercy have served or continue to serve to this day.
The House of Mercy remains today on Dublin’s Lower Baggot Street as a symbol of God’s enduring Mercy, expressed through diverse ministries of the Sisters in today’s world. For Sisters of Mercy across the world, September 24 — MERCY DAY— is a special day of remembrance and re-commitment to Catherine’s vision.
So, what does Mercy Day mean for us who serve in Mercy Health and St. Joseph Mercy Health System?
Many of our ministries have been blessed with the presence and ministry of Sisters of Mercy — as foundresses, leaders, and persons directly ministering to patients. Though changes of time and circumstances now mean that the physical presence of these Sisters has changed in our facilities, their spirit of merciful love and hospitality is embedded in our Mission, Core Values, and cultures. It remains in the heartfelt dedication of each and every person serving our health ministries.
A colleague (I will call him Joseph) shared a story that exemplifies this reality. Joseph recently was admitted to one of our Emergency Departments. He was understandably fearful and concerned about his physical condition and what the diagnostics would find wrong. Joseph’s recollection of that experience was generally positive — but what impressed him the most was the interaction of one of the physicians. The physician, obviously sensing Joseph’s anxiety, bent down beside the gurney, placed his hand gently on Joseph’s shoulder, saying: “I am here with you!” This act of human kindness and solidarity meant the world to the patient — and has continued to touch his life and his own merciful service to those he encounters.
These kinds of loving, human interactions are exactly what merciful service is all about: They are acts of kindness that each of us can generously give each and every day — no matter what our specific job responsibilities may be.
Let us pray that Mercy Day 2019 provides an opportunity to re-dedicate ourselves to service as living expressions of God’s enduring merciful love for all humankind, remembering with gratitude that we, too, are the recipients of God’s mercy each and every moment of our lives.
May the example of Venerable Catherine McAuley be a source of inspiration and hope as we daily live into our Mission of merciful, compassionate love.