By Sister Michelle
Last week I had the privilege of flying to our Administrative Center in Belmont North Carolina for a “Sponsor Council” meeting along with about 7 other Sisters of Mercy, Associates and Coworkers. What is that about, you may ask?
Beginning with our Foundress Catherine McAuley and continuing with many others ever since; Sisters of Mercy have opened ministries to serve the needs they recognized in the people around them. Some were as simple as Sisters going to the home of the dying to comfort and help with care. Others as large as a school or a health system.
Those ministries often grow to the point that lay people become the primary workers and leaders in the institutions or agencies which evolve. In many cases there are no longer any Sisters of Mercy actually working in the ministry. Yet they are Mercy Ministries: They started out of the mission we share to serve the sick the poor and those who need some kind of education.
They continue to express our values of human dignity and compassion. They continue to operate in accord with Catholic Church teachings and they make present the Reign of God that Jesus Proclaimed “”The Spirit of the Lord is on me, because he has anointed me to preach good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to release the oppressed.”
So we have these “Sponsored Ministries” and the Sponsor Council is our current structure to ensure that these ministries continue to operate as clear expressions of the Mercy Charism and Mission. Sisters and Associates or Companions of Mercy may work within these ministries or serve on the Board of Directors along with many lay co-workers. Often the Sisters of Mercy provide a significant portion of the operating expenses for these ministries.
There are usually processes in place to teach and support the co-workers and the Board of Directors in understanding and identifying with the Mission of Mercy. The Leadership Team of the South Central Region of the Sisters of Mercy delegates some of the responsibility for overseeing these ministries to the Sponsor Councils. I serve on one which supports ministries which are in the “Social Spiritual and Pastoral” group and which provide longer term residential care (so, no schools, hospitals or overnight homeless shelters are on my list).
At this two-day meeting we received written and then in-person presentations of “stewardship reports” about each ministry under our care. It was VERY inspiring to hear of the great work being done in each one. They included: a homeless shelter, a halfway house for women in recovery from addiction with their children, Services for Mentally handicapped from infancy through adulthood, a home for homeless persons with HIV and several organizations which provide and develop low income housing and services for those in that housing.
The joy and dedication of the workers as they give Mercy Service to those in their care was palpable. The honest determination of ministry leaders to ensure the financial viability and to strengthen and ground the day to day operations in Mercy ideals is a sign of God’s continuing grace. I was also impressed and blessed by the intelligence, kindness of the other members of the sponsor council as they sought to understand deeply the strengths and challenges in each ministry. I felt like wisdom emerged naturally from this group to support the next right steps for each individual ministry.