The Call: A Farewell letter from Sister Ann McGovern as she departs from Mercy by the Sea, June, 2022

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The Call
If you could see
the journey whole
you might never
undertake it;
might never dare
the first step
that propels you
from the place
you have known
toward the place
you know not.

These words by Jan Richardson in a reflection entitled For Those Who Have Far to Travel speaks to me of the journey one takes in religious life. Our prayer and relationship with our God impel us forth from one ministerial experience to another when we are ready to hear the call.

For the last ten years, I have had the privilege of serving as the Director of Mission and Hospitality at Mercy by the Sea. I have crossed paths with countless individuals desiring to see God with new eyes, to experience inner peace, renewal and healing, all values that are hard to grasp a hold of in today’s world. I have benefited from participating in many programs over the years that have challenged and stretched my understanding, appreciation, and love for the embodiment of God who for me is Divine Nurturer. I am grateful to be passing this beloved ministerial position on to Barbara Giehl, RSM who I know will share her rendering of Mercy hospitality with all who enter the doors of Mercy by the Sea.

I am so appreciative for the retreat directors, retreatants, book group members, program participants, sabbaticals, spiritual directors, volunteers and day guests who have graced me with their presence and questions. I have had the opportunity to meet and work with some incredibly talented artists who have displayed their beautiful paintings in our Mary C. Daly RSM Art Gallery and with our guests.

I stand on the shoulders of Sisters of Mercy who served here previously and those who I collaborated with over these ten years. I am grateful for the faithful colleagues in Mercy with whom I’ve served. Thank you for your dedication to this ministry, this land and for creating an atmosphere where people can indeed nurture a relationship with the Sacred in self, others and creation and then take that experience to their families, friends and communities of which they are a part.

As I take leave for a sabbatical in Ireland, the home of my parents, I will have ample time to visit with numerous cousins and to participate in a sabbatical program designed to explore spirituality in the context of an evolving universe, an endangered earth, in the Christian tradition. I am grateful for the opportunity being afforded me by my community. I am confident that the countless sunrises from my Beloved which feed the deepest part of my being will broaden and deepen my heart’s desire for renewal and a new way to abandon myself into the Heart of Love so that I can continue to minister in the name of Mercy in the years to come.

I will continue to hold this precious place and ministry in my prayer, for it is so needed in today’s world. I will remember you all fondly in my prayers and I ask that you keep me in your prayers and heart. I trust our paths will cross again on these holy grounds, perhaps at an opening reception for an art exhibit or a program or retreat or watching a sunrise and singing an Alleluia on the beach. Let me close with the rest of Jan Richardson’s reflection on the call and journey which speaks to me of my upcoming pilgrimage and the ongoing discernment for a new way to serve upon my return.

Call it
one of the mercies
of the road:
that we see it
only by stages
as it opens before us,
as it comes into
our keeping step by single step.
There is nothing
for it but to go
and by our going
take the vows
the pilgrim takes:
to be faithful to the next step;
to rely on more than the map;
to heed the signposts 
of intuition and dream;
to follow the star
that only you
will recognize;
to keep an open eye
for the wonders that
attend the path;
to press on beyond distractions
beyond fatigue

beyond what would
tempt you from the way.
There are vows
that only you will know;
the secret promises
for your particular path
and the new ones
you will need to make
when the road is revealed
by turns you could not
have foreseen.
Keep them, break them,
make them again:
each promise becomes
part of the path;
each choice creates
the road
that will take you
to the place
where at last
you will kneel
to offer the gift
most needed—
the gift that only you
can give.

— Jan Richardson, For Those Who Have Far to Travel (edited)