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Mercy Mission

A Passion for Education in Gulfport, Mississippi, USA

My story began in Templederry, Co. Tipperary, Ireland, and the second member in a family of five. Early education at the local National School was followed by Secondary School in St. Mary’s, Nenagh. My first contact with the Sisters of Mercy was a happy one and upon graduation I entered the community in 1955. Just a few days after First Profession on August 18th 1958, I embarked on my U.S. odyssey.

I attended Loyola University in New Orleans from 1959 – 1961 and lived with the Sisters of Mercy (St. Louis Province) there. That was a wonderful and happy experience of community life – a home away from home. After graduation I returned to Biloxi and settled into teaching at Nativity Blessed Virgin Mary School.

The ministry of education was my passion from the very beginning and hope I have sown the seeds of faith, hope and love in the hearts of many students. As an educator, I always felt a great connection with Mercy. Our fourth vow names this ministry as one of our ways of following Jesus. The opportunity to pass on the faith, to open the doors of discovery for children, and to fan the flame of learning in them has always thrilled me.

To see students grow mature and give back to the community and church has been a fulfilling experience. During our free summers we catechized the rural areas of the state and met many wonderful people who shared their faith journey with us.

1969 was the year of Hurricane Camille and its memory is etched in the minds of many Mississippians. In 1973 I went on an exchange programme to the Sisters of Mercy in Kingston, Jamaica. This was a fabulous chance to see mercy at work among the poor. The joy of the people and the beauty of the island still linger in my memory.

In 1974 a wonderful opportunity presented itself and I got to study at St. Mary’s University in San Antonio, Texas where I pursued a graduate degree in Religious Education. This gave me a taste of Tex-Mex and I loved it! One Easter I travelled by bus from there to the Mississippi Mission in Saltillo, Mexico where I participated in the Easter Liturgy at one of the ranchos. The faith and sense of celebration of the people was an enriching moment and I saw in living colour the rich diversity of God’s people in our Catholic Church. Teaching Sunday school students is dear to my heart and another expression of our Mercy Mission.

1981 was another milestone on my journey. I was transferred to Our Saviour’s School in Cocoa Beach, Florida. The community there welcomed me warmly and made my initiation into Junior High teaching a lot easier. Ten years later I was sad to see our ministry there end. The Florida years were a golden opportunity to get to know our communities in the state and to live among such committed, hospitable and loving Sisters of Mercy.

1991 found me back in Gulfport serving in St. James School. Looking back on fifty years I feel a deep sense of gratitude to God for his never failing love, for his strength and grace to face the challenges, pain, losses and failures of life. I thank my Mercy community for the wonderful opportunities I had to grow and serve among such faith-filled, good people. Finally, I thank my family for their love, encouragement and support that is always a gift.

Now I look forward to the next phase of life called retirement, knowing that the God of Surprises will be there to lead me gently to the final goal – union with Him here and hereafter.

Sr. Anna Quinlan

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