Tuesday, April 12, 2016

Blessed Are Those Who Give and Receive Mercy

By By Sister Theresa Peck, D.C.

I believe my vocation call began when visiting my aunt’s convent in Chicago to celebrate her Jubilee. I will always recall our dessert – fruit cocktail with a sugared rim. I must have been in sixth grade then, and was impressed with the convent quiet and the fruit cocktail.
In high school we were studying Shakespeare’s “The Merchant of Venice.’ I committed to memory the following lines of Portia: “The quality of Mercy is not strained; it dropeth like a gentle rain from heaven upon the place beneath. It is twice blessed: it blesses him who gives and him who receives.” I thought about that verse for a long time, and even today it resonates loudly in my memory. Over the years I continue to say that verse as it carries a message of substance for my life.  When the year of Mercy was announced those words came right up!
As high school students we were all thinking about our futures. I was attracted to nursing and in Spring I went to the open houses of three-year programs to find “my” school. I ended up enrolling at St. Mary’s School of Nursing in Milwaukee, a Daughter of Charity hospital. The three years flew by with many activities toward becoming a Registered Nurse, including visiting the poor with the Sisters.
I recall that on Tuesday evenings we had to go to Assembly and hear from our Director of the School. One time she showed the movie “Monsieur Vincent,” which told the story of how Vincent de Paul lived his life. It told of the many ministries which he founded to assist people stricken by illness; abandoned children; a poor girl asking to learn to read; and the formation and establishment of the Daughters of Charity. It lived in my heart; and in some way I knew my calling was to be a Sister nurse. I saw mercy and compassion lived out through the movie of Vincent’s life, which inspired me to enter the community.
The Lord always leads us along crooked paths to get us where we belong. For me it is as a Daughter of Charity – 60 years this coming August. I opened my heart to mercy and compassion and lived my life as a staff nurse, nursing director and then as an administrator and CEO at several of our hospitals (St. Mary’s and St. Vincent to name two) and also at Ascension Health as we worked toward becoming one system. I was in direct service of persons who were ill and dying for several years, and then got into administration. It was not direct service then, but I believe I made a difference through “personal influence.”  My dad gave me a pamphlet – “The Art of Personal Influence” – a long time ago, which helped me to reconcile direct and indirect service in my life. At the Health System we developed Policy X, Care of the Poor, which over time was edited to meet the many changes effecting healthcare, but it remains as a core document for our mission of healthcare; demonstrating that indirect service continues to work with those in need. Mercy and compassion is alive and well in living my life.
Through time I served on 33 Boards, chairing some, both health care and other related fields. In all of this activity the question of mercy and compassion drove my reflections, directions and decisions. As a member of the Church and as a member of the Daughters of Charity, and in this Jubilee year of Mercy, I continue to open my heart to the works of mercy toward those with whom I serve and with those whom I serve. The words of Micah resonate here: This is what the Lord God requires of you; to act justly, to love tenderly and to walk humbly with our God! God has blessed me and I am grateful.
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  1. Thanks for sharing this.Two questions - s the pamphlet still available? Is Policy X available?

  2. I am checking to see if the pamphlet is still available and if there are any copyright issues. Can you send me your email address so I can communicate with you if I can get it? My email address is
    Sr. Denise