Editor’s Note: Anna Metzger is a Missioner in Formation who will be commissioned for the overseas portion of her mission journey in just a few weeks. In this blog, Anna reflects on integrating the spiritualities of two religious communities as embraces her call to lay mission.
Have you ever been asked the question, “what do you need to let go of?”
During every life transition, I have been asked this very question. Change is difficult, and transition is even more difficult. With transition comes new beginnings, but also goodbyes.
This question about letting go stayed looming over my head as I embraced this change of moving to DC and starting life with Franciscan Mission Service. Each time I reflected on the above question, the same answer came to mind: Mercy. The word “Mercy” probably means much more to me than the average person (check out my personal blog for further explanation https://annasaventuras.com/2019/09/24/once-a-jaguar-always-a-jaguar/) . In short, Mercy Academy is the high school in which I attended and where I taught for the last two years. Letting go of my past life with Mercy came with moving to DC and starting life with FMS. However, as I reflected further, I realized I don’t have to let it go completely. While I need to move on from being a teacher in the physical building of Mercy Academy, I do not have to let go of the values and mission of Mercy. When I came to this realization, I began to compare the charism of the Sisters of Mercy with Franciscan charism.
Here is what I came up with:
These lists fall short of fully encompassing the two charisms, but they give a glimpse of how I have experienced both charisms in my personal life so far. As I wrote the lists above, I began to see just how much overlap the two have. Journey with me as I consider how these two can be weaved together.
First and foremost, both Mercy Academy and Franciscan Mission Service are primarily run and led by women. Women have been such important mentors and role models for me in my life. I don’t have to let go of this sense of Women Empowerment and Strength just because I leave my all-girls school.
Secondly, the two put a big emphasis on Care for Creation. The Sisters of Mercy and Franciscans both recognize the Earth is a gift to us from the Lord, and it is our duty to care for it. Mercy taught me a foundation for this principle, and FMS is teaching me how to live in a way that is mindful of creation.
Thirdly, in each environment, I am encouraged to walk alongside people, whether that be me as a teacher walking alongside my students or me as an FMS missioner walking alongside the marginalized in a community
Fourthly, I find comfort in deep connections and community, and I find this comfort in both Mercy and Franciscan Mission Service. At Mercy, there is a community of present faculty, staff and students and all the alumnae who have gone before, not to mention the network of Mercy schools and institutions and communities of Mercy Sisters around the world. Mercy blood runs deep. With FMS, I also find community in the 13 others I live with at the Casa who are present with me each day. Additionally, there are missioners in each country now and past missioners and DC service corps members who remain in touch with each other. And even further, FMS extends this community to other Franciscan brothers and sisters who fall under this umbrella of Franciscan Orders. Turns out, I am not lacking in community at all!
Lastly and obviously, both charisms are rooted in the Catholic Church. While each one has slightly different takes on various topics, each is established in Catholic beliefs and practices. Mercy Academy shaped me as a young girl in high school–in the early stages of discovering my own Catholic Identity–and now FMS continues to shape my Catholic faith as a young adult.
So how does one embrace two different Catholic charisms at the same time? I don’t yet fully know, but I do know that I am slowly becoming a Franciscan Woman of Mercy. As I continue to go through formation and get geared up to serve overseas, I rely on this strong foundation laid before me by the Sisters of Mercy and grab onto this new Franciscan way of life. The previous five comparisons are only just a starting point to how I can live into this interwoven life of two realities and carry my past with me. While the question “What do you need to let go of?” will always remain, my answer will become how I can incorporate what I have left behind into what I am embracing in the now. I’ll close with two quotes that bring together the Mercy Sisters and Franciscans, and remind me not to hide the light of either charism.
“We should be shining lamps, giving light to all around us.” –Catherine McAuley, founder of the Sisters of Mercy
“All the darkness in the world cannot extinguish the light of a single candle.” –St. Francis of Assisi, founder of the Franciscan Order.
Reflection Question: What parts of my history and spiritual background can I integrate to become more spiritually whole?