I wonder if any of us Sisters of Mercy had the least inkling of what Mercy really means when we entered the congregation or, even, when we were professed. I certainly didn’t. I believe my feet were firmly planted on the path to becoming Mercy when I started attending school in Iona Convent, Pretoria, at age fourteen. I had not been consulted as to whether I wanted to go to a Catholic School or to which one – I probably would have chosen the Loreto convent where I had gone for Religious Education since I was seven years old. I did not know the Sisters of Mercy, or what they stood for yet the Spirit led my parents, my father especially, since my mother was a member of the Dutch Reformed Church, to enroll me in a school that would dramatically influence the course of the rest of my life.
Iona Convent School
My years in Iona, Pretoria, South Africa were the happiest in my school life – for the first time I really belonged in my academic environment; really felt loved and accepted outside of my home. Was this an expression of ‘Mercy’? I didn’t know, didn’t question the reason for my happiness – just accepted it and allowed it to form me.
During these years, too, the seed of ‘vocation’ was planted in my soul when one of the Sisters asked me if I had ever thought of becoming a nun. At that time I was very aware of my duties as the eldest in the family and the twin of a physically disabled sister so I put the thought from my mind, I thought!
After I completed schooling my father procured a position in the bank for me. Once more I didn’t question his decision although I had never thought of myself as a budding banker. Again, it was no coincidence as the bus stop where I alighted from the bus was in front of our parish church and I used to make a ‘visit’ there each day on the way home from work.
Elaine Pearton rsm
During one of these visits I received a very clear message that I was being called to dedicate my life to God. I knew it was a call I simply had to follow even though the financial situation in our home had deteriorated since my father had become an invalid and I was very seriously considering marrying a man I had known for some years.
Again, I had no specific desire to be involved in Mercy – I simply decided to dedicate my life to God as a religious Sister.
My novitiate in Limerick was a very difficult time as I had to adjust to a different climate, culture and language as well as being, for the first time in my life, in an ‘institution’ Still, after the first few months I knew I was meant to be a religious. I had, of course, studied the constitutions, the guides and any other information given to us, but I still hadn’t given serious thought to why I had been directed to, specifically, the Sisters of Mercy rather than to any other congregation that provided something of the same type of service. I knew the spiritual and corporal works of Mercy but didn’t feel any great call to any of them – I did them because I was a religious.
It was only much later that I began to question the deeper and broader meaning of Mercy. Certainly, the concept of Mercy does include service to those in need – but is that all. Could I be true to my calling to Mercy without performing a service – doing something for someone?
And so, after many years and much searching, I was given a sort of answer. Of course God is a mystery and all God’s ways mysterious so I try to make present in myself, through my intuition, rather than my logic, the basic ‘nature’ if I may call it that, of Mercy – God’s Mercy, because there is no other kind.: Mercy is a feature of what it means to be the divine one and it doesn’t exist anywhere else.
To me, Mercy has come to mean a certain quality of presence – a presence that sends a message that I am aware of the divine in everything around me; that I honour it, treat it with respect and radiate to it a positive energy that will help to provide the ‘atmosphere’ in which it can become the best possible vessel of the divine.
So, what I actually do, my ‘ministry’ in our parlance, is significant only to the extent that I radiate the energy of Mercy, to it continuously. I must be aware of the real presence of God in all God has made and ensure that the positive energy coming through me is focused and directed to where it can do the most good.
At present I am involved in the ministry of Justice, peace and the integrity of creation in my parish. The mandate of our group is to keep informed and educate the members of our parish and to encourage them (us) to make justice issues part of our everyday lives.
I have also been a Reiki practitioner for some years as I find this a powerful tool to radiate God’s energy to wherever it is needed.
Elaine Pearton rsm
South African Province