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Embracing Change: My Journey of Service and Faith in Savannah with the Sisters of Mercy

Picture this: it is a Monday morning at 10:00. You just landed in the city that you will live in for the next eleven months. The butterflies in your stomach are starting to feel like a knot, and there’s a voice in your head telling you that you need to find the nearest espresso machine to get some caffeine in your veins to make it through the rest of the day. Well, after reading that description, that was me when I first landed in Savannah, GA on August 13th, with my thoughts racing with questions of excitement and nerves. I started asking myself, what is the next year going to be like? Am I going to be a completely different person next July? Am I doing the right thing? How did I just take a flight from Charlotte, NC to Savannah, GA that lasted 40 minutes? Can I even cook a meal in 40 minutes? Okay, now we’re getting off track. Anyway, when I landed in Savannah, I did not know what exactly was ahead of me. I knew I was committed to a year as a volunteer where I wanted to step out of my comfort zone, humbly walk with and connect patients to basic healthcare needs that are so often denied, and form intentional relationships with both my community members and the Sisters of Mercy.

Over this past month, Sully and I (the second volunteer in Savannah) have had the honor of sharing dinner with a few of the Sisters of Mercy living here along with another Mercy Associate and got to participate in Mercy Day celebrations which included mass and dinner. If there is one statement that I could use to sum up our conversations and my experience in learning from these sincere, motivated, and aware individuals it is this idea of “faith in action.” Over dinner and spending time with these individuals, I have walked away from each experience with a sense of empowerment and gratitude that I decided to pursue this year and take part in my own mission of acting and becoming an advocate for those in the Savannah community. The sisters that I have connected with in this time have shown me the power of generosity and what may seem like small gesture can impact another individual’s life in ways that you will truly never know. Many of the sisters and MVC alumni speak of their past experiences in education, healthcare, and social work as those based in unity and equality with others no matter an individual’s background or past actions that may have led them to this vulnerable position. Without having action in our faith and becoming immersed in our communities, we will never see change and thus, will continue to live our lives on separate tracks fueling a gap between those that we may identify as “different or less worthy” than us. In Philippians 2:1-11, the Bible states “Do nothing out of selfishness or out of vainglory; rather, humbly regard others as more important than yourselves, each looking out not for his own interests, but also for those of others.” From the presence and guidance of the sisters during this time, getting to spend time with them chatting over dinner, talking on the phone to check in, or going for a brief visit has given me a new perspective and renewed my sense of purpose and the WHY for joining MVC this year which I believe connects to this compelling statement from Philippians 2:1-11. In my position, as a health coach in the emergency department, connecting patients to a doctor and encouraging them to take control of their health has allowed me to live out my own faith through action along with the support of the Sisters of Mercy who have inspired me to be there for and with others without judgment and demonstrate a conscious effort to make a change in our community.

Cat O’Kelly: Savannah, Georgia

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