The following article was written by Amy Stewart, Communications Manager in the Office of Marketing & Communications at Emmanuel College, and was originally printed in The Pilot, Boston’s Catholic Newspaper.
Emmanuel College celebrated Founders’ Week from Sunday, January 31st, through Saturday, February 6th, with a series of event including the keynote Founders’ Week Address, opportunities for prayer and community service, and campus-wide discussions that reflect how Emmanuel continues to live out the SND mission. Founders’ Week commemorates the founding of the Sisters of Notre Dame de Namur (SND) by St. Julie Billiart on February 2, 1804, and the founding of Emmanuel College by the SNDs in 1919.
In recognition of the Holy Year of Mercy, the theme of this year’s Founders’ Week Address was “Cerebrating the Ministries of Mercy of the Sisters of Notre Dame de Namur.” Sister Ellen Dabrieo, SND, Support Coordinator for the East/West Province of the Sisters of Notre Dame de Namur, and Sister Maria Delaney, SND, Co-Director of the U.S. Office of SND Sponsored Ministries, each spoke on how they show or understand mercy, through corporal or spiritual works, in their own lives.
Sister Ellen spoke on the two ministries in which she is currently involved – her role as support coordinator for the SNDs and her work with Brazilian communities in cities and parishes north of Boston. She described the work as being “different, but alike,” because for all the dissimilarities between the populations she’s serving, the act of simply “being present” is of equal importance to both.
While the work is often difficult, Sister Ellen said she is sustained by the deep gratitude both ministries express even for the smallest things. She is also sustained by prayer, particularly for those who propagate fear or hatred toward immigrant populations due to the negative and often inaccurate messages perpetuated by the media and social media.
Sister Maria spent several years on the SND Congregational Leadership Team (a group of five Sisters responsible for the international governance of the order) in Rome. Of her work abroad, she noted that she has seen both abject poverty and the effects that war, often civil war, has on its people. But she has also seen mercy through the extraordinary efforts of countries to improve the quality of life for its citizens.
“We need to have the courage not to condemn,” she said, recognizing that it is easy to place blame on those who are suffering and to point fingers at those who may bring struggles upon themselves. “To show mercy is to walk alongside them anyway, non judgmentally.”
Two students who are involved with SND-affiliated organizations through the College’s Office of Mission and Ministry also offered reflections.
Psychology major Laurie Paul ’16 has been volunteering at the Notre Dame Education Center since February 2015, where she works as a tutor and a teacher’s assistant, using her language skills to help Haitian Americans and women who she said “remind me so much of my mom.” On campus, Paul also serves as a member of the President’s Commission on Diversity and Inclusivity, which address issues of discrimination on campus and in higher education.
Political science and sociology double major Margaret Patton ’17 began serving at Julie’s Family Learning Program in June 2015, where she works with young mothers as a tutor in academics, life skills and nutrition. In her remarks, she relayed a story about how the simple act of baking a birthday cake for one of the mothers who was having a hard day turned into an unexpected act of mercy when she found out it was the first cake this woman had been given in all of her 23 birthdays.
The program closed with a musical reflection lead by Greg Paré, a final prayer from Father John Spencer, S.J., and a performance of the alma mater by a cappella group For Good Measure.