Looking back at 50 Years with the Sisters of Charity New York:
God’s love is everlasting. Those words, like a melody, have underscored all the words of my life. During my 50 years of being a Sister of Charity of New York, God’s love has lit up my life in so many ways.
As a very young sister, while teaching junior high English at St. Margaret of Cortona in the Bronx, I had the opportunity of serving one evening a week as a chaplain in the Women’s House of Detention on Rikers Island. There I met women who needed to be reassured of the merciful love of God and in each reassurance I was able to give, I met again the face of God.
After studying for my Masters of Divinity, I moved one parish south, to Visitation. Working with the youth, with Adult Faith Formation, and with the Confraternity of Christian Doctrine program (CCD) filled my days with wonderful people. The most profound experiences there came during the door-to-door, apartment-to-apartment evangelization program which took place two evenings a week. Each door that opened contained another image of God and a story of life. The aged couple, the single mother, the struggling family, all demonstrated the God whose love is present in the messy middle of life, not just in glorious beginnings and happy endings.
Widening the scope of my service, from a parish to the whole of the Bronx as Regional Director of Catechesis for the Archdiocese of New York, enabled me to find the goodness and perseverance of people who had come as immigrants from many parts of the world and relied on their faith to keep them grounded. I saw the everlasting love of God in each and every catechist. During this time I began my ministry in Religious Formation as well. Women and men seeking to discern God’s will met one weekend a month to learn about religious life. The directors who accompanied them deepened their own commitments and formed friendships with the courageous men and women who were willing to walk with others into an unknown future. God’s fidelity lights my life today in the close friendships that remain from those days.
Full-time ministry in the Collaborative Novitiate, which brought together the novitiate programs of the Sisters of Charity of New York, Halifax, and Convent Station, New Jersey, renewed for me the variety of ways that God’s love endured in various congregations. The similarities and differences among the congregations awakened in me a real appreciation for diversity of expression in the midst of unity of charism. Those realizations were deepened years later when in my work with the Sisters of Charity Federation I was privileged to learn and appreciate each unique story and example of the enduring love of God.
My time in inner-city Newark and at Terrance Cardinal Cooke Healthcare Center put me in daily touch with those on the margins. Extreme poverty, HIV-AIDS, debilitating disease, the pain caused by racism, and drug abuse became the places in which I met the love of God. The strength and goodness of so many of the suffering touched my heart and opened my eyes. The devotion and generosity of staff and volunteers inspired me.
During my time as a member of the leadership team of the Sisters of Charity I have seen first-hand the resiliency, creativity, and dedication of our sisters. The concern that sisters have for those living in poverty and for each other has gladdened my heart. The wonderful opportunity I have had to get to know our missions in Guatemala has truly been a blessing of God’s everlasting love. With each trip, my eyes have opened wider to God’s sustaining and enduring presence in a culture so different from the United States.
Over these grace-filled years I have made mistakes, been less than what I was called to be, and missed opportunities to serve, but I have been surrounded by the everlasting love of God, which I have found in every ministry and mission I have been in. It is God’s love that has opened my eyes and heart and which I celebrate in this Jubilee year.
Story originally published in the Winter 2016 VISION. Happy National Catholic Sisters Week and Happy Golden Jubilee to Sister Mary Ann Daly!