Women of Faith: The Chicago Sisters of Mercy and the Evolution of a Religious Community

By Mary Beth Fraser Connolly | Go to book overview

7
“This Far by Faith”

Reimagined Religious Life
and the Sisters of Mercy

We carry out our mission of mercy guided by prayerful consideration of the
needs of our time, Catherine McAuley’s preferential love for the poor and her
special concern for women, the pastoral priorities of the universal and local
church, and our talents, resources and limitations. We strive to witness to mercy
when we reverence integrity of word and deed in our lives. Recognizing our own
human weakness, we know that only through God’s mercy can we be merciful
.1

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 remaining connected with the recipients of her many epistles. This letter, written 142 years after their foundress died, conveyed their desire to maintain a connection to Catherine McAuley and their need to inform her of how her religious institute had grown. In the spirit of Catherine McAuley’s correspondence, this letter also conveyed the news of foundations and described changes since the 1830s and 1840s, while simultaneously connecting the lives of 1980s Chicago Mercys to those of their predecessors and their foundress.2

This letter is also significant because the author, Sister Judith Niemet—at that time a member of province leadership and a part-time art therapist—used the dancing imagery that Catherine McAuley employed in an 1840 letter to Sister Mary de Sales White of Bermondsey, England, detailing her visits to Mercy communities in England and Ireland.3 Niemet wrote under the name “Your Chicago Sisters,” describing how some Chicago Province members had moved beyond the Midwest territory to live among other Mercy communities, and how Mercy sisters from other provinces worked and lived among Chicago sisters. Sister Judith informed Mother Catherine that Chicago Mercy Sister Madeleine Perkins now lived and worked in Washington, D.C. as executive secretary to Sister Theresa

-205-

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