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Sr. Fidelma   Heeran

United States

My story began in 1942 in Fenagh parish, Co. Leitrim, the second youngest in a family of 8 girls and 4 boys. My early education was in the local National school where both my parents were teachers. Those early years were formative as both of my parents were living examples of helping the poor. We often shared our table with the stranger and the neighbor who was on the dole. I have memories of returning home on Sunday mornings in the car with my parents. If and when my father saw an older person walking home from Mass my sister and I were promptly told to give up our seats for the elderly. This was a regular occurrence. Already my life was being formed in Mercy compassion.

My first contact with the sisters of Mercy was my first piano lesson with Sister Attracta. To this day I remember her kindness, patience and hospitality. [My sister and I were always given tea and home made bread and jam.] This was such a treat especially after riding on a bike for 6 miles. She gave me a great love of music, and started me on a musical journey.

My secondary education was with the sisters of Mercy, Ballymahon. The values instilled in my home were furthered developed during these years. Upon graduation I entered the community in 1960.  Just a few days after my first Profession I was on my way to the USA. I attended Notre Dame college in St. Louis and earned a degree in music. For many years I taught in Columbia Catholic School giving the children a love of music and the arts. I loved teaching, and I hope I have sown the seeds of faith and love in the children. During these years I helped direct the liturgical music for the Sunday liturgies serving as one of the Sunday organists.

Fidelma Heeran

During some of the summer vacation times I. with other members of the community. catechized in rural areas of Missouri. Another summer we volunteered to run a summer camp for the children of the lettuce pickers in Colorado. I will never forget the poverty I witnessed there. I hope that we brought some relief and kindness to the children and their families. Another summer found me in New York City volunteering in a center for abused women and children. I met wonderful people there, and I saw Mercy being lived on a daily basis.  During other summers I studied and earned a Masters degree in Religious Education.

My next Mercy mission was Florida where I taught children both in the Catholic school and in the parish school of religion. I shared the gift of music with these communities and through song I introduced the children to the wonders and love of our God.

I took a year off to complete a Masters degree in Music Education, and in 1995 I came to San Jose, California.  An opportunity to be a catechetical director opened up and I was warmly welcomed by the people of St. Lucy parish. Helping parents, catechists and children was both challenging and rewarding. Being in a multi -ethnic parish, I was introduced to the rich diversity of Gods people. Preparing children and adults for the Sacraments of Initiation was a graced time for me and an expression of our Mercy mission. Music continued to call me - I now play the Celtic harp for liturgies, funerals, and vigils. I pray that the healing gift of harp music helps people in the dark days of grief.

My first Mercy Day celebration in California was with the Sisters of Mercy at Mercy Center, Burlingame. Having lived Mercy all these years, I suddenly woke up to who I am as a Sister of Mercy. It was here that I discovered again the great attraction I have had for our foundress, Catherine McAuley. It was from California that I first visited Baggot Street.  My mercy conversation has taken on a deeper significance.

2005/2006 was another milestone in my life. I was invited into a conversation that was frightening and debilitating. This time I was on the receiving side of Mercy and compassion. Faced with major depression, I sought help and spent several months in a therapeutic community. With the support of my Mercy family and the help of modern medicine and therapy, I have grown to accept and befriend the disease of depression. Having stepped out into this unknown sea of being vulnerable, I have grown into a new relationship with myself and with my God. I trust the process of life and in the words of the poet, David Whyte, I say:

There is a faith in loving fiercely
the One who is rightfully yours
and I will walk  across any territory
however fluid and however
dangerous, to take the
one hand I know
belongs in mine.
Where else can any of us go?

Catherine McAuley says in the Suscipe 'My God, I am yours for time and eternity.'

I now come to the end of my story, but before I leave you I need to share with you what I really enjoy. I treasure the beauty of our planet. I love to hike. California is a great place for hiking with all its national parks and mountain areas. The redwoods are just magnificent. It only takes me about 20 minutes to be in the mountains or visit one of its national parks. The beauty of the Pacific coastline is also breathtaking.

I also love to read and play the harp and the hammered dulcimer with other musicians.  I do set dancing and ceili dancing each week with some of my friends.  This is my story lived out in Mercy.

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