Women of Faith
The Chicago Sisters of Mercy and the Evolution of a Religious Community
Publication Year: 2014
Published by: Fordham University Press
Title Page, Copyright, Dedication
Introduction: “One Solid Comfort”
On December 20, 1840, Catherine McAuley, the foundress of the Sisters of Mercy in Ireland, wrote Sister Mary de Sales White at the Bermondsey convent in London, England, saying, “I think sometimes our passage through this dear sweet world is something like the Dance called ‘right and left.’ ” She continued with a description of the dance, incorporating the locations...
I. “Charity Embraces Those Who Abound”
1. “The spirit of our Institute is mercy, as its name denotes”
According to a nineteenth-century Directory for Novices,2 any “hope of happiness” for Sisters of Mercy came from the love of Jesus Christ and “His mercy” bestowed upon them. Images of Sisters of Mercy from the nineteenth century often do not show this joy, but they do convey directly that they were religious women. They committed their lives fully to God...
2. “Not Bound by Enclosure”
The Sisters of Mercy in the nineteenth century acquired the name the “Walking Sisters” because they often traveled from their convents on foot in pairs. Sisters throughout Illinois, Iowa, and Wisconsin moved in and out of streets, classrooms, and sick rooms. They journeyed from convents into schools, hospitals, orphan asylums, and homes for women. They entered...
II. “This Mutual Love and Union”
3. New Community, Same Spirit
The preceding passage, an excerpt from the Constitutions of the Sisters of Mercy, describes the good and sober sisters, the “handmaidens” of the Church, who avoided idleness in favor of diligent and unquestioning service to God. It conveys a seriousness of purpose, with little room for humor. It reminded sisters of the gravity of a religious vocation, as it urged...
4. Demanding Decades
From the late 1920s up to the changes instituted by the Second Vatican Council of the mid-1960s, the Sisters of Mercy of the Chicago Province, like many other communities of women religious in the United States, faced growing demands to staff parochial schools, to expand health care, and to continue to provide for the spiritual and material welfare of American...
5. “Change Is Blowing Hard”
In the fall of 1970, the front page of the Chicago Province’s newsletter, Exchange, contained a copy of the Opening Prayer of Apostolate Day. The prayer asked God for help in accepting the changes in religious life that had developed in the preceding years. It also asked God for inspiration to continue ministries and for each sister to “contribute the best of herself to...
6. Reinventing Community and Service to the World
In the summer of 1959, Sister Patricia M. Murphy read an announcement posted on the wall of the sisters’ residence at Saint Xavier College for a new mission to Sicuani, Peru. The announcement contained few details about the mission other than the altitude and the purpose of the endeavor: to establish a school and possibly have some sisters work in health...
III. New Life, New Paths, Same Spirit
7. “This Far by Faith”
In the Spring/Summer 1983 issue, editors of the Chicago Province news magazine Dimensions published a letter from the Chicago Sisters of Mercy to Catherine McAuley. They had not unearthed a previously unseen letter to their foundress. Rather, they published a contemporary letter composed in the spirit and tradition of McAuley’s own letter-writing: a means of...
Catherine McAuley wrote the preceding passage in a letter to Sister Mary de Sales White in Bermondsey in February 1841, a few months after her previous correspondence in which she ruminated on the impermanence of individual Sisters of Mercy. In that earlier letter, McAuley’s “little tripping about” placed emphasis on the centrality of God in her community’s...
Page Count: 336
Publication Year: 2014
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