Coming Full Circle
By Gary Loncki
Sister Linda is one who believes in the value of a journey, where it leads and what you can learn from it. To hear her tell it, professing perpetual vows as a Sister of Mercy is her life coming full circle.
Linda professed her vows on March 12 during a liturgy at the Convent of Mercy’s chapel, Pittsburgh. According to Linda, when our hearts are centered in God, our directions are infinite. She has been there before.
A convert to Catholicism, Linda first entered the Pittsburgh Mercy community in 1966, professed perpetual vows four years later and taught at and was a principal in Pittsburgh-area schools. She said there was joy in her life. But in 1989, she decided to leave the community for personal reasons.
Even though she was no longer a Sister of Mercy, the spirit of Mercy never left her heart nor did her living of Mercy life. She sees it this way: No matter where we courageously journey, our merciful God calls us lovingly to himself, and we affectionately and creatively respond in trust and reciprocal love.
During her 20 years outside the community, she learned new skills and was led to experiences that taught her much about life. She says her knowledge, skills, and especially her love of God and his creation grew though her ministry with the Urban League, the Three Rivers Council of Indian Tribes, prison ministry, and Echo-Star – all ministries with the poor and marginalized. Linda took with her the spirit of Catherine McAuley, feeding those who were starving and putting shoes on those who had none. She says the people whom she was serving were actually teaching her. It was a two-way street.
The Mercy call in her heart led her to become a Mercy Associate in 2001 and, later, coordinator for associates. In 2005, she requested and was granted permission to return to the Mercy community. Sister Nancy, NyPPaW president, and Sister Mary, president of the Institute of the Sisters of Mercy of the Americas, presided at the ceremony. Sisters, associates, family and friends attended the liturgy and a reception that followed.
Linda says her work in ministries during her time away broadened her scope, and now she can bring back to the community new gifts. She planned everything for the liturgy and celebrations throughout the day to reflect the joy and fulfillment of her life’s journey. For example, she designed the cover of the program for the liturgy to reflect her path. Linda included a photo of a compass to show her openness to life’s continuing journey. Flowers shown on the cover express her gifts and desires: Iris, courage; Rose, gratitude; Cranesbill, love of God, blessed; Violets, trust; Hollyhock, humanitarian; Daffodil, joy; Clematis, creative; and Columbine, affection. The flowers are joined by Ivy symbolizing friendship, love and eternal life.
Linda believes she never really left the Community. The compass led her back. Her return is full circle.
Gary Loncki is Director of Communications for the Sisters of Mercy New York, Pennsylvania, Pacific West Community. He is based in Erie, Pa.