By Sister Barbara Roman
(Pictured here: Dove ornaments with the name of each deceased sister in Albany were brought up as part of the offertory at special liturgy commemorating 150 years of the Sisters of Mercy in the Diocese of Albany.)
Each November, the sisters in Albany remember those who have died during the past year at a special Mass. This past November, the Convent of Mercy in Albany celebrated the lives of all 342 sisters who have died since 1863 to begin the commemoration of the 150-year anniversary of the Sisters of Mercy in the Albany diocese, when four sisters arrived in Rensselaer from New York City.
The remembrance liturgy, held November 4, 2012, was attended by over 140 sisters, associates and former Mercy members. The celebratory liturgy was planned by the 150th Prayer and Worship Committee which is headed by Sister Ellen Boyle. Ellen and all the committee members—Sisters Helen Charles, Elizabeth Dovidio, Eleanor Guerin, Joyce Ross and Julia Mary Werner—did an outstanding job capturing the commitment and dedication of the early women of Mercy.
Father John Bradley, pastor of Blessed Sacrament Parish in Albany, presided at the liturgy. Convent of Mercy chaplain, Father Anthony Gulley, also celebrated.
Sister Julia Mary prepared and gave the reflection reminding all that our deceased are always with us. "We are connected to our sisters who lived in the early years by way of the stories, the memories, written in the Community Annals. They offer us portraits of Mercy women who gave fully of themselves: heart, soul, mind and strength…We celebrate their faith and their determination and cherish memories of communal prayer and recreation. We consider ourselves blessed because we shared in the struggles that strengthened them…and inspired us."
The Prayer Committee arranged for the name of each deceased sister to be attached to a commemorative dove ornament and each person in the chapel received a dove, which was then given back in prayer at the offertory. Music director, Sister Elizabeth Dovidio, added to the celebration with her 20-member choir and instrumentalists.
Enhancing the chapel walls were created icon images of six deceased, who were remembered with a brief commentary on their lives. Shown on four monitors in the hallways and sitting rooms was a video which scrolled the names of all 342 women, as well as photos of nearly 200 of those sisters.
The day was both somber and joyous as those present had stories of the sisters with whom they lived and worked, or of the ones who taught them. It was an honor to hold these women in remembrance.