We have been steeped in the history as well as the modern approaches of the Sisters of Mercy, making explicit connections between the two. Today marks the last day knowing Catherine’s Dublin first hand. We are immersed in juxtaposed perspectives: the 1850’s Dublin with challenges of abject poverty, incurable illness, lack of education, and a rich-poor divide, and the modern-day Dublin with the same architecture, buildings, and city layout yet very different challenges and offerings of this city; the original sisters we met through living, breathing stories of ministry and today stood over their graves; the past works of Mercy woven with today’s global perspective and outreach to modern day marginalized. We walked along this path through the modern city reflecting on the past.
We visited St. Theresa’s church in the heart of a bustling Dublin, down a side alley, where several of the young sisters were buried in the catacombs during a time of grave robbery. It was typical of the rich to be buried inside yet these young sisters, some in their teens, were protected here after they had given their short lives to serve others. Outside the Church you see sneakers tossed over the power lines, a reminder of modern times and rituals. Inside we see a vibrant church where the principles of Mercy are carried out by modern day Catholics. Here they worship in the middle of the day, in the middle of the work week. We also see Sister Mary Joy, one of our own pilgrims, standing before the altar, witnessing the miracles we are offered here, in the U.S., or other parts of the world where the Mercy tradition thrives.
We were privileged to spend time in the chapel where Catherine took her initial vows and gave over herself and her Mercy mission to God. The tabernacle here is a carved image of a pelican feeding her chicks. A pelican mother will pierce her own gullet to get the food to give to her chicks. Catherine, born into wealth, given an inheritance of a friend of her family, gave to us all she had in the form of Mercy, a tradition that is so simple and compelling that it applies to any time or place.
Note: I think we convinced Sister Sheila to write a travel guide to Dublin from the perspective of Catherine McAuley, with, of course, a modern-day twist on the best and most fun places to eat. She’d be very good at that!