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Inspiring and transformational quotes, prayers, poems, videos and books we discover or rediscover
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There is a song Standing on the Shoulders, words and music by Joyce Johnson Rouse used in many anniversary-type rituals. As we near the celebration date for the Golden Jubilee of Mercy Center by the Sea, it would seem a fitting conclusion to these weekly blogs to recognize that we are standing on the shoulders of the ones who came before, stronger for their courage, wiser for their words, lifted by their longing for a fair and brighter future; we are grateful for their vision, for their toiling on this Earth.
We stand on shoulders of Catherine McAuley who founded the Sisters of Mercy in Dublin Ireland in 1831 and the Spirituality of the Sisters of Mercy with an awareness of God’s action in our lives inviting us to a compassionate engagement with the world around us.
We stand on the shoulders of the Community of Sisters, Companions and Associates of Mercy who have supported this ministry and mission as sponsor and serving as staff, Board members, volunteers, donors and friends.
We stand on the shoulders of the administrative leadership of 50 years, paying tribute to the eight leaders during this time.
Patricia Rooney RSM, 1973-1979
Jeanne Snyder RSM, 1979-1985
Genie Guterch RSM, 1985-2004
Jim Emswiler, 2004- 2008
Krista May, 2008-2010
Charles Frey, 2011-2013
Eileen Dooling RSM, 2013-2021
Mary McCarthy RSM, 2022
We stand on the shoulders of those who serve as Board members past and present sharing their talents and resources in support of this work with the Sisters of Mercy.
We stand on the shoulders of those who serve as staff members past and present who work here and have worked here as receptionists, registrars, program directors, program presenters, spiritual directors, book-keepers, accountants, secretaries, directors of services, marketing and development and our housekeepers, chefs, cooks, maintenance and groundskeepers. We thank you for your hard work and ever-compassionate and respectful care given to our guests and each other.
We stand on the shoulders of those who are generous in their supportive service and their presence as volunteers who have given generously of their time and energy in support of innumerable tasks and responsibilities.
We stand on the shoulders of the many persons who have been generous in their financial support providing financial resources - large or small - for your gift of presence and support . You may never know who and what your gift supported but your generosity has contributed to the continuance of Mercy Center by the Sea these fifty years.
Oh, yes, you lift us higher than we could ever fly, carrying our burdens away. Just imagine our world if you hadn't tried. We wouldn't be here celebrating today.*
And so we declare to you what was from the beginning…what we have heard, what we have seen with our own eyes; what we have touched concerning the mission and spirit of Mercy Center by the Sea; giving witness to this rising light of 50 years. We give thanks for God’s Mercy that has been revealed to us. We know that tomorrow there will be a new light rising, a dawn for each of us and for Mercy by the Sea.
May the healing rays of the sun touch our earth. May the hope of dawn resonate throughout our earth, bringing renewal and restoration. Out of God’s deepest Mercy, this new dawning light shall break upon us, lighting the darkness and guiding our feet on the path of peace. Amen.
*Adaptation of words for Standing on the Shoulders by Joyce Johnson Rouse, Earth Mama
“Every human being Has a great, yet often unknown gift To care, To be compassionate, To become present to the other, To listen, to hear and to receive. If that gift would be set free and made available- Miracles could take place.”
-Henri J. Nouwen
This quote from Henri Nouwen is a very treasured gift to Mercy Center that goes back to early days when Henri was at Yale and often stayed at the Center while writing or bringing groups of students from Yale. Henri wrote in later years Reaching Outwhich described the paradox of hospitality. “The paradox of hospitality is that it wants to create emptiness, not a fearful emptiness, but a friendly emptiness where strangers can enter and discover themselves as created free. Free to sing their own songs, speak their own languages, dance their own dances, free also to leave and follow their own vocations. Hospitality is not a subtle invitation to adopt the lifestyle of the host but the gift of a chance for guests to find their own."
Mercy by the Sea recognizes a rich tradition in a hospitality that reveres the value and uniqueness of each person and that fosters a welcoming space where strangers can enter and discover themselves as created free.
Mercy by the Sea recognizes a rich tradition in extending a hospitality and spaciousness that nurtures right relationship with the Sacred in self, others and creation.
These mission statements through the years reflect and inspire a hospitality of relationships that foster a mutual respect, where we are present to each other to listen, to hear and to receive. Hospitality is one of the service pillars of the Center with staff and volunteers committed to making individuals and groups feel comfortable and welcomed. There is a long tradition of welcoming church and professional groups, civic organizations and businesses.
To the staff, past and present, who have worked here as receptionists, registrars, program directors, program presenters, spiritual directors, bookkeepers, accountants, secretaries, directors of services, housekeepers, chefs, cooks, maintenance and grounds keepers, thank you for your hard work and ever compassionate and respectful care and hospitality given to our guests and each other.
Thank you! Thank You! Thank You!
Catherine McAuley foundress of the Sisters of Mercy had her own brand of hospitality. At the end of her life, she said to one of her sisters, “Be sure you have a comfortable cup of tea when I am gone.” Ever since, a cup of tea has been a symbol of the warm and caring relationships which were at the heart of Catherine McAuley's Mercy vision.
As a little tribute to fifty years of comfortable cups of tea: in the old coffee corner with a friend or one of the many gatherings over 50 years sharing in relationships and creating new ones.
Do you remember Mother’s Day Brunch, dancing under the stars, lobster bakes, jazz bands, autumn food and the Connecticut Opera Express?
And the Alexander Peloquin Concert, Christmas parties...
One hundred thousand is a large number for programs, presenters and facilitators that have graced our lives! One hundred thousand thanks is a poetic Irish way of saying thank you, often to mark a milestone or to express gratitude perhaps with a “wee” exaggeration. Mercy Center by the Sea in its fifty year journey has offered thousands of programs through the presenters and facilitators who have shared their own journeys with us. There are many programs that have had a long duration, sometimes with the same facilitators, and other times the thread is carried by a new presenter. The Enneagram is one example. I would like to highlight a few long, enduring programs that have anchored the spiritual renewal and human development programs these 50 years and have not been mentioned in previous blogs.
Sunrise Group, Breakfast Club, Seekers, Men Journeying Together: Early morning, bi-weekly prayer and discussion groups for men focusing on spirituality, relationships, community building and other human development issues have been a thread for nearly 30 years offering time for reflection and sharing on issues of love and intimacy, work and money, male friendship, feelings on how it all integrates into spirituality. These groups have been faithfully facilitated by Jay Bowes and Lee Chamberlain.
Recently retiring, Jerry Silbert has facilitated programs in Mindfulness at Mercy Center by the Sea for 25 years. Mindfulness helps us to intentionally be aware of what is going on inside us and around us. It helps us look honestly at our thoughts, our judgments, our emotions and our behavior.
Have you experienced this wish of loving kindness? May you be kind to yourself; may you feel safe and secure. May you live with wisdom and courage; may you live with kindness and compassion. May you be at ease in yourself; may you find the healing you seek. May you find peace.
Advent Retreats have been part of the spiritual fabric of Mercy Center by the Sea for at least 35 years. You may remember the Advent Retreat Weekends that Sister Florence Trahan planned since 1979, almost every year until her death in 2009, which was a week before her annual planned Advent Retreat. The tradition of an Advent Weekend Retreat still continues for that beautiful season of waiting.
Sabbaticals, an experience of renewal of Spirit, started in 1990 with the flexibility of one, three, six or eight months, were individually designed to respond to each person’s request for quiet, rest, solitude and time to reflect and renew in prayer, spirituality, faith development with individual mentoring and option to participate in programs offered during the participants stay. Sabbaticals are still offered to religious women for a six week stay annually.
Summer Sabbaths, an experience of renewal open to all, invite participants to come to the water to renew their connection with life’s animating Spirit and recover one’s potential for joy and peace.
Celtic Spirituality: Over the years Mercy by the Sea offered many series and experiences to help us see life through the Celtic Spirit…seeing life in a deeply creative way as holding the presence of the Divine.
There were and are several cycles of programs with John Philip Newell; programs in creativity and spirituality following the Celtic muse; many prayer series on the Celtic year inviting us to listen deeply to the message of the unfolding seasons of the year knowing the deeper reality. The equinoxes and solstices along with other celebrations of returning light, the beginning of summer, the harvest season and the time of darkness are offered.
Directed Retreats: In 1979 with the arrival of Sister Patricia Cook, the program department directed retreats offerings became an annual offering with staff and invited directors, particularly in the summer months where it grew to nine directed retreats each week during at least seven weeks of the summer months. Directors and directees gathered from many parts of the world. This opportunity has continued to this day with a pre-scheduled annual program from January to December.
Grief programs, coping with loss and moving through the grief process have been a part of support groups and prayer experiences leading to new life.
Tai Chi: Meditation in Motion started in the 1990’s with Suzanne Hanley. This ancient way of moving both physically and spiritually has continued and Tai Chi by the Sea with Dennis McCann is such a gift especially during the pandemic days offering an outdoor landscape.
“The second half of my life will be ice breaking up on the river, Rain soaking the fields, a hand held out, A fire, and smoke going upward always up.” —Excerpt from Crossroads by Joyce Sutpen.
Second Half of Life programs began ten years ago and quickly became a three-semester program as seekers join with other seekers on a journey toward a new vision of the Second Half of Life. Through mythology, story, scripture, poetry, literature, film, art and music, it explores how aging has been viewed across times, cultures and traditions and the wisdom practices that support and sustain growth into the fullness of life; engage current research in happiness, medicine, and the brain to inform revisioning of the Second Half of Life.
Centering Prayer programs and contemplative experiences extend back to programming with Yale intern Ron Farr in the 1970’s. Centering prayer extends the invitation to come to a place of interior quiet in which we focus on a simple, loving regard for God. Centering Prayer retreats and prayer groups are currently facilitated by Claire Rusowicz and Anne Simpkinson continue to invite us in contemplation to engage with the Sacred .
Themed retreats and programs for Women: Women often struggle to recognize, trust and claim their own voice and celebrate their gifts in contemporary society and church. Through retreat, prayer, discussion, books and shared experiences women celebrate and discover their own stories of hope.
Have you been touched by one of these threshold moments inviting you to see, hear, live more whole-ly and holy? Email Sister Genie Guterch with your reflections.
So, one hundred thousand thank yous to all the presenters and facilitators for one hundred thousand programs these fifty years! It is impossible to name you all and the many themes that have been part of the fabric of the programming. You are a part of something we have seen and known and touched in our lives. Thank you! Thank you! Thank You!
“Creativity and spirituality are intimately connected. We speak of God as creating or bringing being out of nothingness. Our creative endeavor is the search for the apt expression of being. The poets tell us that art, music and poetry have to do with what is real, with expressing what is. The artist has a drive to plumb reality, to wrestle with its expression, to find a way to touch and reveal the inner nature of things. In the creative process one is challenged to become vulnerable, to express one’s true self, and thus to know God’s invitation to that self. Spirituality also has to do with the real, with touching what is real in the depth of my being and in the being of my experience, expressing it in the presence of others and therefore touching, connecting with, relating to others. I believe in doing this, we also touch, connect with, relate to the Other who is Being, who is God. So by nudging us, pushing us, attracting us to what is real, in ourselves and in life, God allures us into the very life of God’s own Self. Creativity in any form has the potential to lead us more deeply into God.” — Sister Mary C. Daly, RSM
Janet Weber and Sister Mary Daly created and facilitated a great many programs in the “Shalom Creativity Series: On Spirituality and the Arts” that have inspired and continued nearly 20 years of Spirituality and the Arts programming offered to the present day by program presenters.
Do you have a memory of nurturing your creative spirit?
Do you have a memory of the creativity and art room or reflecting before an artist’s offering in the Mary C. Daly RSM Art Gallery?
Do you have memories of Following the Celtic Muse; Stones that Talk; The Quiet Light: The Art of Contemplation; praying with Artists, Poets and Musicians; Singing the Songs; Sacred Spaces; Spatter me a Picture; Catching Memories and Moods in Color; Playing with Paint; mandalas; reflecting with Rembrandt’s “Return of the Prodigal Son”; being drawn into the deep mystery of God’s love for us by the paintings of German artist Seiger Koder; nature journaling; weaving; mask-making; music; poetry; art journaling; Light and Dark: Landscapes of Contemplation?
A rose is arouse --- awake! The gate is open, always open, take a few steps, the rose awaits.
A rose is arrows---so many pointing, guiding us along the path, so many flying ahead, calling out to follow: this way! this way into the Mystery of the Rose.
A rose is arise---enter the center where the scent, the color, the delight is the beckoning of Spirit,, the innermost Divine Self, and very human self each of us is, the two at one, freely together in Gift each to the other.
As the Mystery--- like the Rose, unfolds we can see ourselves as we really are: becoming, the Mystery we behold. — REW