Participating in the Mercy Challenge with an Open Heart
By Eileen H.
Two weeks ago, I had the opportunity to participate in the Mercy Challenge in Cumberland, RI. During this four day event, I, alongside five other young ladies, learned about Catherine McAuley, founder of Sisters of Mercy, and the mission of the Sisters of Mercy. Excited and nervous, I flew out of the West Coast and back to the beautiful East Coast although I had never been to Rhode Island before. With an open mind and an open heart, I was prepared for whatever I was to experience, not knowing how powerful and how precious an impact it would make on my heart.
Greeted by warmth and smiles from the moment I entered the Mercy Lodge, I felt a sense of comfort and knew I was exactly where God wanted me to be. Perhaps it was the excitement of being in a new place and being surrounded in such a positive and caring space, but I did not sleep for a long time that night.
The next morning, I began the day by celebrating mass at a Trappist chapel with the Mercy Sisters, Trappist Sisters, my fellow participants and other lay people. It was amazing to be able to share in this celebration not only because we were all at the Lord’s Table, but also because of the observation of how different, yet similar we all were to each other. We returned back to the lodge to have breakfast, prepare for the day, and participate in the morning prayer.
That day, we had some visitors: members of the Sisters of Mercy leadership team, who talked to us about Catherine McAuley and the Sisters of Mercy’s ministries. It was a great opportunity for us to listen to all the stories of Catherine McAuley. She had an unwavering faith in God, possessed a warm and caring heart, exhibited courage and strength well beyond her time, and led by example. The positive energy continued as I learned about the various ministries that the Sisters of Mercy are a part of as they focus on helping the poor, especially women, children, and the uneducated.
After learning all the wonderful things that Catherine McAuley did, we went to the New Dawn Center and heard some unsettling news about how much Mother Earth has been neglected and the importance of people coming together for the preservation of our environment. I know how important it is to recycle and not waste things carelessly, but I also learned some additional practices I can do like continued recycling, reaching out to one’s own work place/living community on volunteer opportunities to do things like clean-up projects, and how to minimize water waste when brushing teeth or taking showers, etc.
We concluded the Mercy Challenge schedule by spending some quality time with patients in Mount St. Rita’s Nursing Center. We had the privilege to meet with some amazing people who were eager to share their lovely stories and their mere presence warmed my heart in ways I cannot put into words. I gained so much by simply listening to their wisdom and am grateful that I had the chance to share that moment with them.
Later that afternoon, we prepared for guests coming from different directions to come and share a meal with us. There was an incredible energy that encircled the Mercy Lodge grounds that afternoon and early evening through the countless stories shared, smiles, generosity, helping hands, conversations, laughter, and even some tears. It was an incredible example of how important community is within the Sisters of Mercy. Everyone had caring hearts and was filled with compassion. The spirit of Catherine McAuley was undoubtedly present in every space.
I encountered mixed emotions when I left the following day. Part of me left with a heavy heart and lots of emotion because I was able to start what I hope to be long-lasting friendships and did not want the time to end. The other part of me left with the feeling that I found a community in which I yearn to become more involved and with an open heart, I welcome the endless possibilities ahead of me.