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home : opinion : perspectives

7/7/2016 9:00:00 AM
Circles of Mercy in Year of Mercy

(Editor's note: Mr. Zazycki is a Mercy Associate and executive director of Circles of Mercy, a ministry of the Sisters of Mercy serving people in need, located at 11 Washington St., Rensselaer. To volunteer or for information, call 518-462-0899.)

The Catholic Church's jubilee Year of Mercy has special meaning for someone like me, who has been entrusted with the care and operation of a sponsored ministry of the Sisters of Mercy. Many people around the world, including me, symbolically walked through the "doors of mercy" with Pope Francis after he declared 2016 a holy Year of Mercy.

For me, opening those doors symbolizes the many ways we are called to open our hearts to give and receive God's mercy. At Circles of Mercy, the doors of mercy swing open many times each day.

In this Year of Mercy, Pope Francis invites us to journey "with a heart open to the fringes of society, bringing consolation, mercy and solidarity to people who live in precarious situations." We are further reminded that "what moved Jesus was nothing other than mercy, with which He read the hearts of those He encountered and responded to their deepest need."

Trying to respond to the needs of the disenfranchised and marginalized has been our calling at Circles of Mercy for the past 18 years.

This year, as we seek to deepen our own commitment to mercy, I reflected on my work and thought that perhaps I am not so different: Our shared mission as Catholics is to spread God's mercy. At Circles, we act in the spirit and tradition of the Sisters of Mercy as their foundress, the Venerable Catherine McAuley, did in Dublin, Ireland.

"Clothe the naked" is the third Corporal Work of Mercy, and is one of many ways we serve people who are poor, sick and uneducated here at Circles of Mercy. It is my sincere belief that God and Catherine McAuley inspire me, which in turn inspires others who volunteer at Circles. Together, we serve those most in need and vulnerable: namely, women and children.

The Circles of Mercy logo reminds me of the never-ending circle of mercy and the support we offer as a group to those who enter our doors. Clients come in search of clothing, household items and other services like free income tax preparation (VITA), computer training, social services resources and referrals, and assistance with resume preparation and job searching.

We provide layettes, baby clothing and supplies; we also offer school supplies and sponsor holiday programs at Christmas and Eastertime.

Perhaps more importantly, we offer friendly faces, words of encouragement and sometimes a hug. As our motto states, we seek to provide "hope and hospitality" to all who enter our doors.

Unfortunately, there may be times when we fall short of our goal at being merciful in an attempt to meet someone's expectations. As the organization's servant leader, that's when I stop and ask myself, "What would Catherine do?"

I need to be a good steward of the resources we have, to ensure that there's been some improvement in a person's situation and to do it one person at a time -- making changes, as Mother McAuley taught us, "taking small careful steps, not great strides."

Recently, I heard a presentation by fellow Mercy Associate Kerry Weber-Lynch, who spoke at Siena College in Loudonville about her book, "Mercy in the City." She ends the book speaking of "looking forward to continuing our shared journey on the path of mercy, and to the works ahead, works for which none of us is ever quite prepared, but to which all of us are called."

At Circles of Mercy, we are called to make the Works of Mercy available to the marginalized and most helpless in our community. My hope is that we give more mercy to others than we receive. Our "Circle" of Mercy is never-ending and is always in need of friends.

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