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Gifts and strangers: Sisters of Mercy Parramatta

National Vocations Awareness Week: Sisters of Mercy Parramatta
By Sr Valda Dickinson RSM

I once visited a family in an African village with a religious brother. The Kenyan countryside was suffering from a severe drought and hunger was widespread.

We could be seen coming from a distance, as we had to cross several fields before reaching the compound. By the time we arrived the father of the family had already made arrangements for a cool drink and a meal to be prepared for us.

At the end of the meal one of the three wives took the bangle from her arm, walked over and offered it to me. I had learnt by this time, after some previous blunders, to accept always a gift from whoever offers it, no matter how poor the person and how unable I am to reciprocate.

Although the bangle does not fit me and there are beads missing, it is one of the few gifts from abroad that I have kept. It connects me with her, the women of Africa and women in general.

It reminds me that Africa is the cradle of humanity and that it was from the courage, generosity and wanderings of Africans that humankind spread throughout the world. It also reminds me that the earth is finely tuned and all species suffer from its desertification and devastation.

Moreover, at this time in my life, this memory motivates me to view my ministry as a Sister of Mercy as one of inviting “the stranger” to feel welcome.

I want those I meet in planned and unplanned ways to know that regardless of any social, cultural, religious and ethical differences we are all kin.

We are all part of a wider evolving universe and world that quivers with mercy to its deepest core and calls for healing, care, respect and gratitude.

For more information about the Sisters of Mercy Parramatta contact Sr Margaret Sheppard RSM 02 9683 2555,

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