Every Life Cherished and Celebrated: Mercy’s Response to a Call

Members of Dignity are more aware than anyone of the perils of being gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgendered, or “queer,” and serving as a minister or colleague in a Catholic institution today.  Of course, this is especially true if the person is married to someone of the same sex, or otherwise outwardly identifiable.  Like many parishes, and like many religious orders or congregations, the Sisters of Mercy of the Americas have experienced pressure from bishops and/or other “concerned” members of the Catholic community, that people so identified be fired.  Using Canon law and Catholic Church “teaching” and backed by a threat of removal of official Catholic identification, leaders of these institutions have made decisions contrary to the espoused values of the Sisters of Mercy. 

The removal of a beloved and respected director of religious education at a Mercy sponsored school was one such decision that called for a response. Many in the wider Mercy community, including vowed members, associates, parents and colleagues challenged the Sisters of Mercy to act with integrity and align our words more closely with our deeds. This group, self-named DAWN (Diversity: All Are Welcome Now) provided a supportive environment for those harmed and an avenue to direct our anger and energy to redress this injustice.  

Our most focused aim was to raise the issue of LGBTQ discrimination at our Chapter meeting in June of 2017.  The Sisters of Mercy hold Chapter, the highest authority within the community, every six years. In it, elected delegates set direction for the mission of the whole of the Institute and elect leadership. A resolution rose and was approved by the Chapter body. It charged the Institute Leadership Team (ILT) to call the community to “education and engaged dialogue” on the realities of sexual orientation and gender identity.  One part of the mandate included creating safe spaces for members of the community who are gay or lesbian. 

So they did.  The ILT appointed five people (four Sisters of Mercy and our friend and ally Mary Hunt of WATER) to form a work group to carry out this task.  So we have, and this is what Karen and I will try to describe to you today.