TESTIMONIALS

GUYANA SERVICE TRIP 2017
     
The "Circle of Mercy"
~Sr. Sheila Stevenson, RSM, '65

     "On a warm Thursday evening in Georgetown, Guyana our group of 8 found ourselves invited to dinner at Meadowbrook Convent, home to 7 sisters and 1 lay Mercy Associate.  We often speak of standing in the “Circle of Mercy” and how a Mercy Alumnae can go anywhere in the world and often find a connection to Mercy.  This night was evidence of that reality.  The dinner was superb and the house was alive with Mercy.  Gathered were senior sisters as well as two Mercy Candidates, young women beginning their journey of discerning a vocation to religious life and one sister preparing to profess her final vows within the next year. 
     Also gathered were four Mercy Volunteer Corps volunteers, recent college graduates, serving one or two years in the country while living together in community and deepening their spirituality, learning to live simply and discovering what it means to be about ministry to those who are poor.  The other group present were in the country to bring medical care to the orphanages and to the small communities in the remote jungle areas along the river.  Sister Karen Schneider, RSM, MD teaches at Johns Hopkins Medical Center in pediatric and tropical medicine. Several times a year she brings medical residents to countries lacking in medical care.  Barbara Giehl, RN from Rochester and a 1972 graduate from Mercy and a Mercy lay Associate was a part of Sister Karen’s medical team as well as Dolly, another woman from the mid-west who was serving on the team.  Both women have been on previous medical mission trips with Sr. Karen. 
     Singing the Mercy Alma Mater for the gathered group was a highlight of the evening.  Indeed, we were standing in the “Circle of Mercy” and it was a very wide and inclusive circle where we could find a “home” far from our home of origin."




Lessons Learned
~Micaela Deutsch, 10th grade

"Saying goodbye to the children and Guyana was the hardest thing I have ever had to do. Thinking back, the tears and pain were all worth it because I know that I was changed. Feeling heartbroken hurts and leads to many unexplainable emotions. The one beautiful thing about a broken heart is that it stems from love. It is hard to know how large or long lasting our impact will be, but I know that I have been changed forever. While the purpose of the trip was to help the people of Guyana, I believe they helped us too. Each place we visited had a different but equally important impact on all of us.
The convalescent home for children up to age three gave us our baby fix. We held babies and ran around with the toddlers who we instantly fell in love with. We noticed that the babies seemed to lack toys and the toddlers had a playground outside along with a few toy cars and one scooter. All the children craved our attention and I saw how feeling loved really changes a person’s mood.
Saint Ann’s orphanage for girls up to the age of twenty one allowed us to connect with other girls close to our ages. We taught each other hand games and found many were very similar. Many of the girls had strong personalities and so much potential to be leaders. The younger girls wanted us to chase them or swing with them while the older girls were happy to talk to us or sometimes braid our hair.
For most of us Saint John Bosco orphanage for boys was where the strongest connections were made. There are fifty boys in the orphanage from ages four to eighteen. We visited the boys’ orphanage everyday we were in Guyana, even if it was just for a few minutes. Before our first visit to the boys we were told that many boys were shy and usually didn’t interact with volunteers, especially the older ones.
We made it our mission to talk to all of the boys and create bonds with older boys. It wasn’t long before we found common interests and started teaching card games or playing futbol together. One of the most memorable times with the boys was during their movie night. When we arrived the younger boys were sitting by the tv and a few older boys were watching them. The younger boys got up to hug us and say hello when we walked in and the older boys smiled at us. We sat for a little while but gradually started to separate into another room to play cards with the older boys again.We really came together that night and bonded over music along with the card games. We played songs on Youtube, sang the boys’ favorite songs, and showed each other what dancing looks like where we are from. The atmosphere was fun and non-judgemental and everyone really opened up.
The day after movie night was the day we had to say goodbye to the boys. The girls and I all stayed up late to write letters to the boys that we really bonded with to let them know how much they mean to us and hopefully continue communication. In the morning we dreaded going to see the boys and say goodbye, but at the same time all we wanted was to be with them. Saying goodbye is always hard, but for these boys all they know is goodbye. They meet volunteers all the time and that is why so many keep their distance and don’t get attached. However, some of the older boys said that meeting us was special for them and that we were their favorite group to come.
As we were getting ready to get on the bus for the last time everyone began to cry, including some of the boys. It took a lot of convincing to finally get us to give our final hugs and get on the bus. The rest of that night was one of the saddest experiences I’ve had. The girls and I were feeding off of each other’s emotions, both happy and sad.
As difficult as that was to get through, I know that I really love all of those children. I got to know so many new people and discover their individual goals from becoming doctors to pilots to zookeepers and I believe they will all do great things with their lives one day. I hope I will get to return to Guyana and see where they all ended up.
This trip reminds me of the famous quote, “If you love something set it free.” Leaving Guyana and the children was hard but we both had to return to school. I now have a better understanding of how to help third world countries after spending a week in one. They need simple things like toys and shoes, but most of all love. Our bonds with the children were short but they will remain with us forever. I am grateful for each and every amazing person I met in Guyana and I hope to return to Guyana and my new friends soon."



The Lotus Flower Analogy
~Izzy Lafler, 12th grade
"When I first got to know the children at all the places, and witness their excitement and overall joy, I immediately was reminded of the lotus flowers that were on almost every street we drove on.  The Lotus flower, a populous plant in Guyana, is a Buddhist symbol for beauty and prosperity.  Lotus flowers grow in thick, rich mud, but grow to be tall and beautiful flowers.  These children started out in dark places, whether it was abuse, neglect, or both.  But now they are blossoming into the amazing human beings they are now.  Every single one of those special kids are beautiful inside and out, despite their murky and deceiving beginning."  
















Getting to Know one Happy & Grateful Alumna! 
(~A reflection by  10th graders, Bethlehem Terefe and Hannah Bauman.  They each visit with
Ms. Toni on many Wednesdays as part of Passport’s weekly visiting
and game playing with the Senior residents at The Legacy.)

Bethlehem Terefe, Katie Hobler, Ms. Toni Culross and Hannah Bauman
Ms. Toni Culross, previously known as Jeanette Margaret Thompson, a member of the second graduating class of Mercy, celebrates her one- hundred- and-first birthday on Thursday, March 24th.  She has been a part of the Mercy community for many years.  Ms. Toni has observed how Mercy has evolved throughout the years.  When she attended Mercy High School, almost every teacher was a sister of Mercy.  She loved every teacher she was taught by, but especially connected with Sister Mary Jan, Sister Adeline, and Sister Burkmines.  Her principal was Sister Mary Francesca, and at her time of attendance, tuition was only seventy dollars. Although this seems little to us now, at the time, it was still difficult for many families to come by.  Additionally, she remembers her uniform as a black dress with a white collar, very different from the current uniform. She recalls Mercy as a welcoming and happy environment where she enjoyed her time as a high school student.  In her own words, Ms. Toni Culross said, “I’m so glad I went to Mercy.” Ms. Toni’s favorite subject was always English.  Ever since she was a young girl, she has had a love of both reading and writing poetry.  When we recently visited Ms. Toni at the Legacy at Clover Blossom, just a short walk from Mercy, she shared with us some of the poetry that she had contributed to her graduating class’ book of poems.
            Ms. Toni repeatedly mentioned to us her love of dance.  Because Mercy did not host any dances or a prom, she often attended church dances instead. The alumnus met her husband at a dance and that was one of her favorite pastimes.  She also was an avid golfer and enjoyed the seasonal sports of ice-skating and cross-country skiing.
            Once Ms. Toni’s six children were old enough, she demonstrated her love of Mercy by returning to work as a tuition secretary for twenty years.  As a Mercy employee, she always made sure to have a candy drawer on her desk for the students that passed by.  Her kindness to everyone around her helped her to make friends with her fellow staff members and students.  Ms. Toni’s experiences as a Mercy employee deepened her love and appreciation for Our Lady of Mercy.
            At nearly one- hundred-and-one years old, Ms. Toni does not feel her age.  In fact, she says that seeing today’s generation of Mercy students makes her feel younger and as if she is back at Mercy once again.  It is extraordinary how Mercy spans generations and makes a lasting impact on the lives that encounter it.”

Reflection by 9th grader, Sabrina Dursunova:
"Passport gives the opportunity for students to come out of there daily routines and see life from a different perspective. It not only helps us see the problems that are happening in our world but helps to fix them. When volunteering you get to meet people with all different kinds of stories, soon noticing that these issues that people have went through are real and that all over the world people are going through a similar problem. During this journey you get to make friends where your love towards them and their love towards you will stay eternal. Passport is like a door, as soon as you have stepped inside your heart feels like it belongs there, because 
Passport is a world of love, hope, and friendship."  

Sabrina with Eternity, quickly became great friends at Bethany House.  

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