Alma Mercy

This was originally published on my old blog, Rebel Catholic that recorded my adventures doing a nun run in 2013. I’m republishing it here in honour of the third anniversary since I returned home and the beginning of life in the married vocation I am called to.

Part 20: Alma Mercy

Originally Published: Sunday October 20th, 2013

I arrived in Alma on Monday afternoon at about 4pm, completely missing the motherhouse at first seeing as they are spread out up and down Michigan Ave. It was then grab a quick cup of tea before being thrown straight into the routine with Holy Hour.

I was then fully into the routine with morning prayer being at 4:45 am or 7 am (depending on the day).

It was days filled with lots of chapel time, chores, helping out with the seasonal chores, like processing millions of apples, raking leaves and mowing lawns, attending a couple of classes with the novices and postulants and alternating for dinner between the Postulant, Novice and Convent house. Half of Wednesday was spent at the multi-specialty medical clinic the sisters run.

The official retreat started on the Friday afternoon when the other three retreatants arrived with Sr Mary Hanah, the Vocations director of the Mercy Sisters. It was a really relaxing retreat over all and I felt truly at home with the sisters here. This post is just a quick of what I did when. I’ll be posting over the week about what was going on internally too.


It was up for 4:45 am morning prayer, meditation and Mass. It was also freezing cold but I made it to Our Lady of Grace before I turned into an icicle. Mass finished around twenty past seven, with the sun just rising and it was breakfast time before heading back to Our Lady of Grace to help with the apple harvest processing. Sorting and peeling and slicing lots of apples for apple sauce.
It was then their apostolic lunch with all the sisters and anyone else who wants to join. After helping the novices clean up I went back to St Joseph’s retreat house, relaxing and doing some reading. 5:10 pm was back to Our Lady of Grace for Holy Hour which is a really lovely way wrap up the day. It was then dinner at Novice house, about 2 blocks down from St Joseph’s.
There are 7 novices currently, including one Australian from Castle Hill and an Italian from Pisa! It was a whirl of names, made all the more confusing because they all had some form of Mary in their name, Sr Mary Rafka, Sr Mary Faustina, Sr Maylea, Sr Pia Marie, Sr Mary Josepha, Sr Mary Elisha, Sr Paul Mary, and their formator Sr Mary Nika. They are all in their first year canonical Novitiate which is spent at the motherhouse in pretty intense formation. We played Bananangrams after dinner (like scrabble but with out the board) and then it was bedtime for me.


It was a later start for me today! With morning prayer with the Postulants scheduled at 8 am in St Thomas Chapel followed by Mass at the clinic and two hours of Adoration in the chapel there. I had St Catherine of Siena’s Dialouges and reading the one on prayer. It’s not an easy read since it’s stream of conscious but she made a lot of sense in talking about the progression to contemplative and mental prayer.

It was a quick lunch in the break room at the clinic and then back to the postulant house. Sr Gabrielle Mary enlisted me in mowing the lawns. So I got the hand mower and did all the nooks and crannies over three hours of their huge block. Then it was holy hour and dinner with the Postulants. There are four of them, Sr Brandy, Sr Nealy, Sr Jennifer and Sr Maria. They have a year for Postulancy which is made up of classes, weekly spiritual formation, and learning about the life and rhythms of the Mercies.

It was then bed and another early start for Thursday!


It was an early start with morning prayer and mass. Today I had the morning to myself. It was an apostolic lunch back at Our Lady of Grace and after lunch it was a scripture class with the novices and postulants. One of the retired bishops whose name I have forgotten taught the class. He was an incredibly smart man but also even in his 80s clearly loved being a priest. During the break he pulled me aside for a chat and he was so lovely! It was one of my most special moments on the whole week!

It was dinner that night with the novices and we I got invited to hell! Not literally, but I tagged along for the last of a series they were watching on Dante’s Inferno, it was the Last Circle of hell that night so that was fun. It was then crash into bed for a merciful sleep in tomorrow.


Today was a late start with morning prayer at 8 am. The afternoon was taken up with confession and a ecclesiology lesson with the postulants. Then it was race back to St Joseph’s to greet the three new retreatants and Sr Mary Hanah. Sr Mary Hanah arrived fashionably late after Po Yee, Andrea and Kelly had arrived and we’d settled in for banana bread and tea. Sr Mary Hanah gave us a brief introduction to discernment. She gave us a really useful definition of prudence. It has three parts to it, the first is gathering information, the second is making a decision and the third is acting on that decision in good time. The third bit is the critical bit. People often fail to get to the las bit of acting on the decision made.
It was then off to holy hour and evening prayer followed by dinner with the novices. We got to hear some of the stories from the novices and Sr Mary Nika who is a canon lawyer told some great stories about being sent to Rome to study canon law in Italian not knowing a word of it. She also explained how religious life fits into the life of the Church. We then had a massive game of charades which had us all in stitches and then it was back to St Josephs for bed and a chat.


It was another sleep in on Saturday with an 8 am rise for morning prayer and mass and after that it was into work! Raking leaves and making applesauce. Kelly and I teamed up and did raking first. I found a garter snake and a little frog! Then it was to the apples with the novices. We filled about 4 slow cookers full of apples for apple sauce.

It was then lunch with the whole convent in the Postulant house. All the guest sisters were there, There was a carmelite a poor clare, two missionaries of charity, and two sisters of the holy spirit (They are cloistered order and their habits are pink!)

After lunch it was a tour of the clinic by Mother Mary Rebecca. They have a multi-specialty clinic, with  Mother Mary Rebecca as a general surgeon, Sr Marisha a psychiatrist, three more physicians and a physical therapist. It is an amazing project. Mother Mary Rebecca also begun a specialised wound clinic that specialised in chronic wounds. Another Sister in Knoxville has just put together a mobile clinic to go to the Appalachians. The sisters are also canon lawyers, theologians, and teachers.

It was then dinner at the convent with the fully professed sisters. We spent the dinner learning about the history and the charism of the Mercy sisters. Hearing their stories and was wonderful as was some of the work they were doing. It was then an early night for me and I crashed hard…


Sunday it was morning prayer and mass at 8 am followed by breakfast back at the house. It was then rest time and lunch with the Novices and I had a chat with Sr Mary Hanah about how I was going. It was holy hour in the late afternoon followed by dinner with the postulants and a good table time chat about how Postulancy works and hearing some of the stories of their vocation. It was then back to St Joseph’s for bed.


Monday morning it was time to pack up and head home. Sr Mary Hanah came and had breakfast with us after 5:45 am prayers and mass. We had a nice chat over eggs and toast. After sorting out the house, I said goodbye to everyone and got in the car heading off to Steubenville for a new adventure!




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