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Young sisters giving voice to mercy

Team Trac(e)y! I had the pleasure of leading this retreat with a dear friend, Sister Tracy Kemme, SC.

Team Trac(e)y! I had the pleasure of leading this retreat with a dear friend, Sister Tracy Kemme, SC.

“Many were gathered together…and Jesus was preaching the word to them. Some people came, bringing to Jesus a person who was paralyzed, carried by four friends.” (Adapted from Mark 2:1-12, An Inclusive Language Lectionary)

When the fifteen of us sat in a circle pondering the image of this Gospel story Friday night, I didn’t realize how perfectly it would parallel my experience of the weekend.

Last weekend was my first time attending the Giving Voice 20’s/30’s retreat at the Our Lady of Guadalupe Monastery in Phoenix, Arizona. Giving Voice is a peer led organization that creates spaces for younger women religious to give voice to their hopes, dreams and challenges in religious life. I greeted some familiar sisters, but many faces were new. As we began to unfold what the theme “Contemplating the Mystery of Mercy” meant to each of us during this designated Year of Mercy, the sisters around the circle shared stories about learning mercy from those they ministered with, struggles to have mercy for themselves, and the simple but challenging calls to mercy in the ins and outs of community life.

Each retreatant brought her own image or symbol of mercy to contribute to our prayer space.

Each retreatant brought her own image or symbol of mercy to contribute to our prayer space.

One sister spoke of coming to a new sense of compassion after a long and difficult conversation with a woman in her parish ministry. Though initially resistant to going deeper into an uncomfortable situation with a parishioner whose views were starkly different from her own, this sister found in the interaction a new appreciation for the woman’s story and how it has shaped her worldview. Another sister came to realize the meaning of her ministry as a nurse to patients who had committed crimes. What she saw as doing her job with the tender compassion expected of a health care minister, her patient experienced as extraordinary mercy.

Throughout this sharing, I sat in awe at the collective wisdom of the group “gathered together,” and became profoundly aware of Jesus “preaching the word” through these dedicated, open and real women.

This growing sense of awe seemed to pique during our Taizé prayer service Saturday night. Hearing the blending of our voices as we sang,

“In You there is healing, wholeness and forgiveness, freedom from fear, lasting peace,”

I felt the energy of a common desire for mercy expressed in a variety of pitches and volumes, in melodies and harmonies, in spoken chant and wordless tones. Together in prayer, we held the intention of our generation to deepen in mercy. We held our common experiences, knowing the energy it takes to live in the tension between the idealism, inclusivity, and openness we feel called to live into and the weight of the diminishment and fear of change we often encounter in our communities. To be so much a part of what many see as an ending of an era when you are just beginning can be unsettling. Yet, as our lilting voices rose in the chant, “Bless the Lord, my soul…who leads me into life,” I felt absolutely centered in a space of new life, in the core of who I am.

So grateful for the chance to reflect and share with this group of Sisters!

So grateful for the chance to reflect and share with this group of Sisters!

Leaving Phoenix, I know that I’m being carried by more than four friends. Beyond the Sisters I know and love in my own community, I know I can also lean into the energy of this group – this already thriving generation of faithful women – to lead me into the mystery of mercy.

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Sister Tracey Horan

Sister Tracey Horan is a Sister of Providence in formation. She professed first vows in 2017. She is a former intern at White Violet Center for Eco-Justice, a ministry of the Sisters of Providence. She currently ministers as education coordinator at the Kino Border Initiative/Iniciativa Kino para la Frontera where she works with an education team to coordinate and host individuals and groups for immersions to the U.S./Mexico border in order to engage participants on the current reality of migration.

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4 Comments

  1. Donna Butler on January 26, 2016 at 8:23 am

    Tracey,
    I’m glad you had this wonderful opportunity! What is a gift to you, you always bring back to share with us. We are so blessed by your presence among us!

  2. Marsha Speth, SP on January 26, 2016 at 10:04 am

    Thank you for sharing! Sounds like a call for all of us to hold the tension between the old and new, past and future with mercy and trust in the One who “leads me (us) into life.”

  3. Paula Modaff, S.P. on January 26, 2016 at 2:57 pm

    Thanks for giving us such a clear idea of some of what you experienced, dear Tracey. Glad you know the support of at least four friends from this event, in addition to your sisters of Providence. As we keep our minds and hearts open, know of our prayer with you during this journey of faith and love.

  4. John F. Herbertz on January 30, 2016 at 2:42 pm

    Dearest niece Sr. Treisi,
    “Many were gathered together…and Jesus was preaching the word to them. Some people came, bringing to Jesus a person who was paralyzed, carried by four friends.” (Mark 2:1-12)
    I began to cry as I read these words. It is amazing to me that the words of the Scriptures are alive and ever new. For as many of you may know, I recently had open heart surgery on the 11th of January to replace a defective heart valve from birth. So, as I read these words (that I had read many times before), they were new to me once again. For I became the “paralyzed person”, whom they carried to Jesus. The four friends were my wife, Mary; my two brothers, Chris and Andy; and my friends: Cassi, Pat (who had just lost his wife, Sue), and newly-ordained Deacon Jimbo. The many gathered together were those who attended my anointing the day before and the many who were praying for me: the Sisters of the Woods, my mother in Indpls., and my friends from Connecticut to Sacramento. At Thanksgiving, I had written to my family in Indy: “I prayed to God for a more merciful and compassionate heart, and I guess he will give me one. Watch what you pray for because God chooses to answer your prayer in his own way.” The new mercy that I have experienced has come through total humility: my total dependence upon God, and that has been given to me graciously (totally free and without cost) through my family, friends, and totally-unknown strangers (including you of the Woods). Of course, the surgeon and hospital were not free! LOL So, my new heart of mercy is grateful to God for the many gifts I have received. As one of my fellow eucharistic ministers at the Duluth Federal Prison Camp reminded me: “I shall give you a new heart, and put a new spirit in you; I shall remove the heart of stone from your bodies and give you a heart of flesh instead.” Ezekiel 36.26.
    God bless you all for your thoughts, prayers and redemptive suffering on my behalf. I am healing well.
    Love & Prayers, Uncle John H. (Duluth, MN) xo

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