Monday, September 24, 2012

retreat reflection

Tomorrow is Mercy Day, where we celebarate Catherine McAauley and the opening of her House of Mercy in Dublin, Ireland. I love Mercy day! Time is on my side, because I attended a Mercy retreat this past weekend so Mercy is flowing through brain at high speed right now.

 I almost did not come on the associate retreat. With everything going on in my life, I wasn’t sure that I could add just one more thing to the agenda- I thought I needed a weekend to just be alone.
But something changed when I heard the news of the sweet Sister Mary Jo’s decline. Something inside of me said that I had to go on the retreat. So I registered and squeezed in at the very last moment. Now that the retreat is over, and I’ve had some time to process, I am so very grateful that I had the urge to go.
For the past several weeks, I have been struggling at work with my purpose, or my role. When I tell people I work at hospice, I get “the face”- you know the one- that sad, half smile, half cringe kind of face. And people usually say “you must have a huge heart”. I usually follow that question up with “Oh, I’m just the volunteer coordinator”. Although I enjoy my WORK, I have never thought of what I do as very important….until this weekend.

One of the associates, Bev, was giving a talk and spoke of some of the work Catherine was involved in. She said “Catherine was essentially running a hospice; and she taught people how to make the dying comfortable”. When she said that, my cheeks flushed and my heart pounded a bit. THAT’S WHAT I DO! I wanted to scream – it hit me at that moment, that I am not just recruiting volunteers or training volunteers- I am empowering them to be compassionate people, to care for those that are dying. Looking at it in that sense makes me feel so much better, and a bit more passionate about my work, and ready to go in and do it with a bit more grace.

The other thing I have been thinking about lately is: what exactly will my role be as an associate? What does that really MEAN for me? I don’t want to just show up for events once in a while, I want to really journey with the sisters and associates in Mercy. So this weekend I spent some time discerning that, and thinking about the things that I would like to see strengthened within our mercy community. Two things have continued to come to my mind: 1. A deeper connection between the high school and the sisters of mercy and 2. Alzheimer’s/dementia education at the McAauley center in Farmington hills. Both of these are things that I see as needs, things that I would like to see happen. Since they are consistently on my mind and heart, I am taking that as a bit of a sign/urge/prompt/call to take a lead on them and see where they take me.

I shared this in a large group discussion this morning; but during some reflection time it hit me, in a bit of an overwhelming way, how blessed I am to be a part of this community. Many of my friends and even family do not understand it, and to be honest sometimes it is quite exhausting to try to explain it. But it makes perfect, complete sense to me. Mercy is where I belong. Mercy is home. It has been since the moment I walked through that door on 11 mile and middlebelt as a 14 year old. I have such a deep, deep connection to Catherine McAauley and to the spirit of Mercy that there’s no way I can let it go, and pretend like it is a thing of the past. Because it is very, very present. And I embrace that with open arms. 

This weekend opened my eyes and my heart. I met people who sprinkled a bit of wisdom into my mind, I met people who touched my heart with their outpour of compassion, and I met people who made me laugh so hard my tummy hurt. The associates who led the retreat did a phenomenal job, and I am so glad to call them my friends and my community. 

I cannot wait until November 2nd to make my commitment to walk with the sisters and associates in mercy.