Thursday, September 5, 2013

Under Much Grace Names “Great Mercy Women” in the Last Hours of the Williams Trial

In previous posts, I've talked about the very strong female role models in my life as a young Christian. One of them I would call formidable. I decided at a rather young age that I was quite impressed with some very impressive nurses. One was a young missionary nurse who served in what is now the Congo with the Assemblies of God. She talked about the amazing and miraculous things that she did that made a remarkable difference in the lives of others. At the age of 22, I had the honor of accompanying her on a short-term trip, but I learned that she, Dr. Joann Butrin, now holds an impressive role as Director of International Missions for the Assemblies of God. The other early role model was a health educator for whom my mother worked when I was in elementary school, a PhD nurse who impressed me very much. She was also the wife of a local Moravian minister, and she spoke of the struggles that her young family faced on the mission field when her husband did foreign missions work. I wanted to be such a person, and I wanted to help to bind up the wounded and to set at liberty those who were bruised. In so doing, I would have an opportunity to tell people why I was motivated to care for them – to share with them the love of God and the comfort that others had shown to me.

My parents desired for me to attend a private college nursing program, despite our family's limited resources. I'd gone to a private Christian high school and was uncomfortable about transitioning into the real world at the tender age of sixteen. Messiah College had a nursing program, but it was new and not yet accredited with the American Nurse's Association which could cause problems if I wanted to transfer licensure to another State. During a year of community college where I took many basic classes, they decided that the two year program at a local Sisters of Mercy college would provide me with the most advantage and economy. I could be an RN in an associates degree program in only two years, but I could then easily finance the remaining classes I needed to earn a BSN at the same institution. I consider the school to be one of the best in the Philadelphia area, and it produced quite a number of “movers and shakers” in the profession. In addition to the excellent reputation for nursing education, it was also small, and the on campus population was approximately 98% female. I also took comfort in learning nursing as a ministry from Christians as opposed to going to a school like Penn State where I would have had classes with at least 200 other students, learning the ministry of nursing from a purely secular perspective.

I took great interest in the history of the founding of the order of the Sisters of Mercy. It was endowed by an Irish woman, Catherine McAuley, who was orphaned but inherited a great some of money from her family. As a young adult, she was moved with compassion for the poor and disadvantaged women and children who wandered the streets of Dublin in the 1800s. Though she considered Protestantism for a time, she apparently believed that the Catholic Church provided the best means by which she could establish a viable, effective, and permanent ministry to those needy women and children. I am of Irish descent, and I took great pride in her benevolence, faith, and even her Irish heritage. It was something I had not expected to find during my training at Gwynedd Mercy College.

I was amazed when I attended the graduation ceremony in 1986 at Gwynedd Mercy, as the featured speaker was a very dynamic attorney from Philadelphia who also championed the cause to protect abused children. She delivered a compelling and moving address, and the college bestowed on her a Doctor of Laws degree. And then, they declared something wonderful that rings in my heart until today. They declared that she was a “Great Mercy Woman.”

Those words stirred my soul very deeply, and I thought of standing before God one day, by faith and grace, to hear, “Well done, my good and faithful servant.” Maybe I could one day be worthy of such a title on this earth, too, like this woman – A Great Mercy Woman? I felt very connected to the history of the school that day, the fact that my heritage is Irish, and also to the original mission of caring for the disadvantaged, particularly women and children for which the Order of the Sisters of Mercy was established. I don't know that I will ever qualify for such a title, as I tend to be more of the wild prophet type. One thing of which I am proud, however, is that in this current season of my life, I seek to help wounded women and speak out against the injustice suffered by children. I never dreamed that I would find myself advocating for them within my own religious circles within Evangelical Christianity. In that respect, I find myself focused on the same population that inspired Catherine McAuley with so much compassion.

Contemplating Great Mercy Women While Awaiting the Williams Trial Verdict

I do not speak with the authority of the Sisters of Mercy, yet I offer the title to these women on my own account. I offer it as something of a daughter of their instruction as one of their nurses, as a “daughter” of the mission of Catherine McAuley. Sometime in the future, I may name a few more, but today, I will limit the honorees to these for the compassion and care that they offer to abused little ones.

Maureen McCauley Evans. When reading about the events of the Williams Trial over the past several weeks, I could not help but notice the name of Maureen McCauley Evans who has reported on the events she observed in the courtroom at her blog, Light of Day Stories. Another McCauley! She has parented four adopted children, seeing them through to adulthood, was an executive director of the Joint Council on International Children's Services, served as an interim executive director of the Barker Foundation, and as an executive director of Children's Home Society and Family Services-East. Her compelling words and observations, compassion and care, have moved me as much as that attorney who spoke at my (first) college commencement long ago. I find myself at a loss of adequate words to describe Maureen's trenchant, moving, honest writing, giving me and so many others a window into this painful and tragic world that Hana and Immanuel and their siblings endured. I could not help but to think of her as a Great Mercy Woman. I am positive that the Sisters of Mercy and Sister Catherine would gladly concur.

Hermana Linda. I have terrible difficulty even thinking about the harm done to children in general, and the religiously-motivated harm that parents have inflicted upon their own children makes the subject that much more difficult. I am so glad that Linda has cataloged everything related to Michael Pearl at Why Not Train a Child?, about three years before I ever started blogging here. She has protested Pearl's abuses and twisted principles of Christianity (about which he so arrogantly brags), has chronicled the abuses that so many have endured, and she offers hopeful alternatives and encouragement. She is a fellow Christian who feels much like I do about many of these things, and I do not know how she has so faithfully managed to write about these matters for so long. I know that she does so with a very broken heart, but in the hope and faith that by doing so, the abuses will one day be halted. In a private exchange some months ago, Linda wrote to me and said that she prays for me daily. I was undone with gratitude. For her steadfast work which is not for the timid which she does with a tender heart, for her kindness to children as a loving mother, and for her work other places online (which I sometimes get to see through tracing links that come into this website), I also declare her to be a Great Mercy Woman.

Anonymous Recipient. (29Sep13 addendum:  At the request of the honoree, specific content was removed.)

To all of you, 
I declare that you are 
Under Much Grace's Great Mercy Women.

There are many other Great Mercy Women, but for today, I proudly honor these three for all that they offer, directly and indirectly, to the most tender, fragile, and precious persons for whom we are called to nurture and to care.

Long Live Mercy