MERCY Presence

for Mercy Members

If you are on Facebook, and a Mercy Sister, please check out the "Mercy Creatives Group." It has wonderful art, poetry and creative photography from Mercy Sisters in the U.S. - I believe I am the only Canadian Mercy who posts there...

Voices Past and Present

This section will offer reflections on being a Mercy Sister from a very young age. The poems below were written over many years; they are direct conversations with my own long reflections on being a Mercy Sister of Newfoundland for well over fifty years. Catherine McAuley founded the Ssiters of Mercy in 1831, in a burst of vision and grace that has brought healing attention, education and care of the poor and the sick to the whole world. These poems speak my soul connection with her in very personal ways.

                                                                      The Mercy Star

                                     (For Catherine McAuley, inspired and inspiring still)


When you found the quality of Mercy –

a burning compassion shining in your heart

like a pulsing star –

you fell in love with its blinding

protective intensity.


It became your guide.

It led you through deserts dry with old dust

and mountains of unbearable heights

with no beaten paths for guides.

It bathed you in its shimmer

and fed you with food

not to be found in any other place.


It was the Mercy Star that led you

unerringly through lands

as unknown as the moon. And –

against all odds and obstacles –

you followed it faithfully

through criticism


from those closest to your heart

and obstacles to your own unfolding.


Later, it led you home, leaving us –

the daughters you would never know –

who also glimpsed the Mercy Star

through your eyes –

to find and follow it,  navigating

as many unknowns as you did yourself.


Not through our works

not through our education,

or our buildings or our monuments

rightly built to women

who lived their lives through wars

of all kinds to make this world brighter

for women and the poor –

those countless who could not and cannot

find their way alone –


no –


but through the Mercy Star

guiding our hearts.


That’s what you plucked down

from the heavens

and embodied:

no less shining

even as our monuments fall down,

even as our works transform

beyond recognition

and our numbers dwindle and disappear –


the Mercy Star continues to shine

finding receptive hearts


in worlds yet to emerge.


                                                                                      -Brenda Peddigrew RSM(NL)



                                                             A Mercy Door*

 Mercy opens a door in the heart –

just that. All else –

how, what, when, who, where and

how much – these are

frills and frames,

and when that door opens

these take second place

to the pulsing presence

of palpable love, flashing briefly,

flame from spark.


That spark

finds its way predictably

and often outside

solidly framed doorsills

which only provide

an ephemeral highlight,

a perceivable outline

framing the flame.

the frame doesn’t matter.


The best of Mercy traverses the door

as softly as a cloud,

as silently as prayer. It is

given and received without fanfare,

a sacred mystery of mutual blessing.

For what is Mercy

but Compassion’s countenance?

an empty doorway embracing all?


Most of all, Mercy is known in a moment,

seen and sent forth

a feather on the wind

uncontained by any door.


-Brenda Peddigrew, RSM(NL)


*(by written for the door-openings of the Year of Mercy, 2015-16)


*Mercy is expansive, and, to be real, reaches out. Mercy extended grows and has the power to change situations, people and lives. Mercy can enable someone to do the unexpected.”

(Philomena Bowers RSM in Mercy eNews, December 7, 2015)




Coolock Window Pane

 When Catherine noticed the crossed window pane

of her Coolock bedroom, no doubt staring out one long night,

lost in the meaning of her life – she saw, as though a portal opening to God,

what needed doing, what she longed to do

for the poor, the sick and the victimized women of her world.


She opened that door for thousands

calling us, through that window’s portal, to surrender to her vision

of allowing God to use our hands and feet, our eyes and hearts and souls,

to bring into being a new way of transforming the world.


The world? One person, one straggling group, one

long-lived institution in the world, which is, after all, a hologram:

change one small thing and the whole world changes.


With Catherine standing vigil in my praying heart,

I found my ministry of transformation.

Within and without,

while keeping my collaborating eyes

fixed on her crossed pane in the Coolock window,

I accompany people and groups

who long to bring into being

what cannot yet be seen,

who accept that transformation is God’s work,

not ours alone or even primarily,

and who are willing

to step out of the familiar, out of comfort,

out of security

into the dark unknown

with only God’s light.


Catherine knew she didn’t want her women

to live like all the other orders of her time.

She knew that something else was being born in her

and she trusted, through all her anxiety, she trusted –

without seeing much beyond one moment at a time.

She didn’t play the double-think games or take part

in the power-struggles of her time. Instead,

she acted on the elemental truth she saw

in the crossed pane of her Coolock window

or while sitting beneath the walnut tree

in the Coolock garden.


The ministry of transformation involves

much “tripping about” as Catherine experienced,

and – like her – I try to keep my heart

“always in the same place” as she so lightly said:

“centred in God, for whom alone

we go forth or stay back.


Forms change, as Catherine saw. With or without us,

and even with our most careful planning, they change,

or – as Rumi said – “the lamps are all different

but the Light is the same.”

My ministry is to midwife transformation

to point out the Light

that might be lost in holding on to old forms

and to dance – as Catherine did –

with delight in the new.


Brenda Peddigrew, RSM(NL)

(while staring out Catherine’s Coolock window, July 2015)


Finding Fire, Casting Fire

(to Catherine MacAuley – a personal reflection)


For too many years I’ve been thinking of you too much

and relating to you too little. Lately, I’ve been brooding about you,

searching for what it was that opened your eyes to the world

and compelled you to cast your fire upon it.


You neither loved wealth, nor feared it. Rather,

you used it with confidence, trusting your own perception

of how it should be given and enjoyed.

No false poverty for you, no

scrimping and saving for the sake of it,

no bowing and scraping to authority.

You knew your own authority

and acted on it,

being personally intimate with the God whose source it was.

You wanted your women to do the same.

This is poverty.


Neither did you seriously doubt your vision,

however hard others tried  to make you do so.

Though it was previously unheard of – what you

wanted women to do and be – and though ecclesial princes

would have you believe it impossible, scandalous –

you listened to your inner voices and trusted them.

You felt the fire of God bringing about a new thing

and that fire walked you through all the false claims

of small minds and even smaller hearts,

your first allegiance to inner, not outer authority.

This is obedience.


And oh how you weren’t afraid to love!

Love pours through your words, which we still read,

streams through all the ways you found

to brighten the lives of women with confidence in themselves.

Love shines through your steady respect

for the women who joined you in the work,

for their health, for their enthusiasms. You weren’t afraid

to love Frances best of all and let it be known

You were a lover. From it came your strength.

Not for you the fearful frozen distance that passes for celibacy,

hiding in tradition, rules and overwork.

This is chastity.


After all the years, I see that your fire was a mirror for my own

and that’s how you would have wanted it.

Not for you the hero worship

with the worshipper placing you on a pedestal

and avoiding herself, shirking her own power.

Not for you the hiding behind imposed authority

already dead from killing other spirits.

Not for you the life of comfort you might have had

and couldn’t while you saw anyone in distress.

Your security disappeared when you used your whole fortune

for one house against all advice and still you chose

that inner fire, telling you otherwise.


I see a line of fire reaching back from me to you.

Since I was a child, I knew you were my ancestor,

a true grandmother, a wise elder.

Now that I am older than you were when you died,

I finally grasp what legacy you give me

over decades and lost time.

It’s the legacy of fire, my own fire,

inspired by you but not yours.

You ask me what my fire is telling me,

what in my world needs to be challenged

so that the poor, the wounded and the lost

can find a bit of light. Your fire

is not your works, but yourself.

This is charism.


I think you’re proud of us all, all

the thousands who have lived your vision,

covering the world with lived Mercy.

I think you’re surprised

by what faithfulness to your own vision

brought about. I think you’d want the same

faithfulness for each of us, joining our singular visions

into your large one. You don’t want us

stuck in the very structures you rejected.

You don’t want us held back

by long range plans that unsuccessfully

try to contain the freedom of Spirit.

You never wanted us hierarched, divided,

mistrustful and afraid to offend.

You want us fired up, free, focused on the broken world

and loving intensely in all ways,

letting any structures we need grow around that

and not the other way around..


“How? I ask you? How can we?

The world is big and we are so set in our ways.”


You laugh.  “So was my world,” you say,

“and everyone around me.

Look within, each one of you alone for awhile.

When you find your fire, get together.

Throw off the blinders of should and must and can’t

and especially the blinders of


You cannot get to a new place going the old way.

Trust the fire of God that is beyond human structures

and remember that Church is also a human structure

that needs waking up from time to time.

We don’t set out to do that but being who we really are

seems to have that effect.


That’s how it’s done.

You are not my daughters,

but my sisters. We are equals.”


And as often happened, I have read about you,

there is a twinkle in your eye and a dance to your step

as you tell me this.


Brenda Peddigrew, RSM








Brenda Peddigrew 23.11.2022 19:20

Hi Marilyn...can you share your writing when there's a chance? Love to read some!

Marilyn Waller 25.04.2021 01:27

Hi Brenda,
I did some writing this last week.
Here is it. :)

| Reply

Latest comments

23.11 | 19:20

Hi Marilyn...can you share your writing when there's a chance? Love to read some!

04.01 | 19:04

Thanks, Andie...that's it exactly ! So glad you experienced it!

04.01 | 18:36

'Whatever you need
and wherever you go next -
will come to you'
My holiday experience.

28.12 | 15:12

Hi Brenda,
I've just finished reading The Choice - got it from the public library. What an amazing story and an unbeatable spirit. I'll check out youtube now