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Sister of Mercy explores joy in poverty

| Wednesday, March 16, 2016

Just last week, Sr. Marilyn Lacey resided in a cave in South Sudan, where she works to transform the lives of women in poverty. But last night she spoke over 7,000 miles away at Saint Mary’s about the abundance of mercy and joy in all of God’s creation.

WEB Mercy lectureKathleen Donahue | The Observer

Sr. Marilyn Lacey, a Sister of Mercy, discusses her faith journey after serving in impoverished areas in Africa, Asia and the United States at a lecture in Vander Vennet Theatre on Tuesday night.

Lacey said God maintains connections with all His people, even those who feel as if their sins render them unworthy of His love.

“We somehow got the feeling as young people that we had to be ready to meet God,” Lacey said. “The funny thing is, God doesn’t wait for us to be ready. God’s goodness is always flowing. It doesn’t matter how distracted we are.”

Recognition of such constant support from God can help people interpret life’s challenges as blessings, according to Lacey.

“God is constantly giving his goodness, his mercy, his love, whether or not we are paying attention,” Lacey said. “We’re not often in touch with that, but when we are, it changes everything.”

Lacey said her extensive work with displaced populations in Africa, Asia and the United States taught her to seek hope in the least likely of places. She said she was recently strolling through South Sudan when a young man she did not recognize pulled over his car, picked her up and twirled her around, claiming that she helped him at a refugee camp in Kenya 12 years ago.

“He said, ‘Everywhere I go, I’m looking for you. I knew I would see you one more time,’” Lacey said.

This particular instance showed Lacey the importance of trusting God, for in accepting His mercy, she abandoned stress and worry.

“I was leading a very busy life, a distracted life,” Lacey said. “I had this insight that maybe there was a little part inside me, like a pilot light, that was always attentive to God. It’s so affirming. It’s so freeing.”

Lacey said people should strive to learn from their mistakes and recover, rather than dwelling on flaws.

“God wants mercy not perfection,” Lacey said. “When you can laugh at your mistakes and just enjoy the exuberance of God’s presence, your life changes. God’s own joy begins to take root in us.”

Lacey said she believes people should treat others with the same compassion God has bestowed upon them, which motivated her to found Mercy Beyond Borders, which assists oppressed women in South Sudan.

“South Sudan is at a critical point where it has never educated girls,” Lacey said. “We are forging ways for women and girls in extreme poverty to learn, connect and lead. … We are all kin, and that compels us to resist what is not of God. Separateness causes divisions in our world. Going out and doing justice is not a burden.”

Her desire to help the helpless stems from an admiration for God’s mercy, which grants her the agency to interact with and learn from others, Lacey said.

“Recognition of God’s mercy is humbling and freeing, and it connects us with others in the world,” she said. “It’s so constant and ever-present. Like the air, we don’t pay attention to it. We are absolutely immersed in mercy. God is busy trying to get us to pay attention to it and to believe it.”

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About Martha Reilly

Martha is a senior majoring in English literature and political science. She currently serves as Saint Mary's editor but still values the Oxford comma in everyday use.

Contact Martha