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Grow Where You Are Planted – Sister Marie

When asked to do a short resume on my vocation as a Sister of Mercy, the Irish maxim “Be short, be simple, be sincere” came to mind.

My name is Sister Marie Windle and I come from County Kerry in Ireland. I entered the Convent of Mercy in Newcastle-Under-Lyme, Staffordshire in 1958. In Ireland I went to the local primary school and a co-educational secondary school –
St. Ita’s College in Tarbert.

Looking back at my “Road Map” to Religious life a flood of disconnected images flash through my mind. I was born into a happy and loving family, where my parents were my first and best teachers. My decision to join the Sisters of Mercy was not based on inspiration by Catherine McAuley
(I knew nothing about her!) I suppose I was influenced mainly by family relatives (priests and nuns) who came on holidays each year. To me, they seemed to be happy, fulfilled and grounded people who had a love for God and people. Being young and idealistic I felt I could follow my dream in a convent situation.

Since the slogan “Grow where you are planted” always resonated with me, so I entered the convent in Newcastle in 1958 – and I am still here sixty years on! Formation and discernment were very different in those days. The Community decided I should go to Endsleigh Training College for teachers where I spent three happy and successful years. At the end of that time, I was offered a job in a local secondary modern school. The following thirty and more years could be described as hectic, always trying to keep a balance between Community Life and school commitments. These were the years when educational policies and syllabuses were constantly changing and the changes brought about by Vatican II impinged very much on Religious life.

On a personal level there was the death of both my parents and the untimely deaths of my three brothers. I thanked God for the support of a loving community. Sadly, my teaching days came to an end in keeping with County Council policy. Again, this was a difficult time initially. I left behind a clearly defined job description, aims and objectives, targets and colleagues who sung from the same hymn sheet. I was offered a job as a parish Sister locally and then worked for nineteen years with a parish of equally committed and professional people – who strove for eternal targets. I can honestly say I have been enriched in my own vocation by encounters with so many good people. I have been privileged to share the joys and sorrows of so many lives – the births, the deaths and the living between these. The joyful celebration of the liturgy, the involvement with global problems and the large number of people who joined the Catholic Church through “Journey in Faith” gave me an opportunity to pursue my Mercy vocation. The next challenge – Laudato Si, Fratelli Tutti and Let Us Dream – thanks to Pope Francis.

Mercy Enabling Justice – Sister Margaret

I am a Sister of Mercy because of many reasons but the underlying reason is that I felt a personal call from the Lord to follow him as a Religious.  Responding to that invitation led me to the Sisters of Mercy many years ago.  The Sisters of Mercy have a unique calling to respond to those in need.  For us “Mercy enabling Justice” is important.   We respond to the need and work to change the system that causes the need.

Over the years this included teaching and later working with the Deaf Community.   It became clear to me that many members of the Deaf Community did not have full access to the life of the Church due to a lack of sign language in most of our parishes.  So while communicating at mass, I also encouraged some priests and parishioners to develop signing skills.

Since God has created our Cosmos and we see the glory of God through wonder of Creation, the needs of our Earth cry to me.  Hence, I am called to raise awareness of ways we can change our life styles to reduce our carbon footprint and help our Earth to regenerate.   We saw how quickly air quality improved when we were in lock down.

Why am I still a Sister of Mercy?   Because I still feel that same call to follow the Lord – the language may change, the ministry change and the understanding evolve/deepen but the invitation and the response stays as strong and clear.

Meeting the Person of Jesus – Sister Bernie

Vague ideas about a call to find the Lord crystalized for me when I read Mark’s Gospel for the first time as part of O level Religious Studies. On these pages I met the astonishing person of Jesus- one who laughed , cried, got angry, felt tired, was disappointed in his friends and felt fear. Someone I could love and fall in love with, not just admire from afar. Someone who called me to move from self- absorption to self -emptying. Someone who asked his followers to embody his spirit of compassion to others. So began a continuing journey of call and response, call and stumbling, call and hesitation, call and seeming darkness. All within the context of sharing the journey with other women who had heard and responded to the same call, in their different ways as Sisters of Mercy. Catherine McAuley in response to an enquiry about the requisites for becoming a Sister of Mercy wrote: An ardent desire for union with God and to serve the poor. I don’t think I can improve on that, only to add that I realise more and more that all is grace.

Walking On The Margins- Sister Geraldine

I had never planned to enter Religious Life and become a Sister. However, after many happy years teaching in a primary school and being an active member of my local parish, I felt that God was asking more of me. I started to pray more, to read scripture and to listen to God and it was then that I started to think about the possibility of Religious Life – the giving of my whole life to God in the service of others. God invites every person to follow him in a particular way and the call to dedicate your life as a Religious is one response to answer that call.

There are many different congregations of Sisters so why did I choose the Sisters of Mercy? When I heard the story of Catherine McAuley, who founded the Sisters of Mercy, I was reminded of the gospel values of compassion and justice. I was inspired by her desire to reach out and empower the less advantaged in society and her courage in challenging the status quo, just as Jesus had done. As well as professing the three vows of Poverty, Chastity and Obedience, Sisters of Mercy also profess a fourth vow of Service of those in Need. This resonated deeply with me. The more I learnt about the Sisters of Mercy and their way of life through meeting Sisters, the more I felt at home with them.

Since becoming a Sister of Mercy, I have continued to work in Education but have also been privileged to work with adults with learning disabilities. I have become involved with advocating for and supporting asylum seekers and refugees and those with immigration issues. Some of my volunteer roles have been supporting women who are fleeing domestic abuse or sexual exploitation who have no recourse to public funds.  As Sisters of Mercy, we are called to reach out to those on the margins of society, not just to alleviate their suffering but to walk with them, empower them and also to challenge the unjust systems that create inequality in the first place. Living and praying in community with others who share that same desire and vision supports and encourages me to continue to answer that call from God and to follow Jesus’s footsteps in trying to bring about a world full of justice and compassion.

Sister Cathy – Video Story

Sister Mary – Video Story