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Daughter of Denver gives everything to Christ as a new Sister of Life

Sister Mercy Marie will make her solemn profession this Saturday

Even amid great challenges to life in our world, eight women will give their lives in love to the Lord Jesus this Saturday. The eight Sisters of Life making final vows in the coming days will dedicate themselves in service and love to Jesus, his church and the sanctity of all human life. One such courageous sister is a daughter of the Archdiocese of Denver. 

“There’s a deep, deep joy,” shared Sister Mercy Marie, S.V. about her upcoming final vows. “I feel very humbled and a little amazed at his choice, but also joy that it is his choice.” 

Growing up, Sister Mercy, then known as Kate Sweeney, never considered religious life. A part of various parishes and schools in the archdiocese, Sister Mercy moved to Illinois as a child following her parents’ divorce, though she would often spend her summers back in the Denver metro. When it came time to settle down after college, Sister Mercy decided to return to Colorado, remembering “this particular grace all over Denver.” 

With her business degree and passion to “take over the world for Jesus through business,” and convicted of a calling to serve Jesus in a deep way with her life, Sister Mercy returned to Denver and took a job in the heart of downtown. As she settled back into Denver life, she found herself working hard and drained during the day while finding life, joy and purpose in her volunteer work with various groups at her parish, St. Thomas More. 

“The community and faith life that I became a part of as I entered into Denver life really fueled my heart and my prayer,” Sister Mercy told the Denver Catholic. “I started recognizing I had a different kind of fire in me in the evenings and the dryness in the days. So after working for a couple of years in corporate and making a lot more money and getting promotions, I just started to feel the emptiness of it, that my days just felt really dry.” 

Sister Mercy (Kate), second from right, next to college friend Sister Virginia Joy at a Denver Theology On Tap event before entering novitiate. (Photo provided)

It was that experience that began drawing Sister Mercy deeper and deeper into Jesus’ heart, where she would eventually find her vocation. From the corporate world, she transitioned into the nonprofit sector, beginning work with ENDOW. “It really was this perfect melding of what I was really passionate about: the gift of the human person, particularly the formation of women, and the dignity that God has given to each person. And then they needed the kind of business gifts that the Lord was preparing me with,” she shared. 

Her seven years with ENDOW were filled with many graces and blessings, like the deepening of her prayer life and the intensifying of her apostolic zeal. Even so, there was still a persistent restlessness and hunger. 

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So Sister Mercy found a spiritual director she knew from college at Franciscan University of Steubenville, Father John Ignatius of the Servants of Christ Jesus. When she reached out, Father Ignatius told her that he would only give her spiritual direction if she was committed to praying half an hour a day in a chapel.  

“I kind of laughed and asked myself, ‘When would I have time for that if I’m this apostolically engaged?’ And then he said, ‘Well then, I don’t think I have time to meet with you if you’re not going to be serious about prayer,’” Sister Mercy recalled, looking back on the exchange as a serious challenge, yet an incredible gift. “It was really, really hard at first. I used to take my iPad with me or write or do whatever. I was so perpetually active that it took time to grow in prayer at a deeper level. But that was such a tremendous gift,” she continued, recalling the various adoration chapels throughout Denver that she would visit to pray. 

In the quiet of adoration, Sister Mercy grew deeper in prayer and devotion, coming to know Jesus more personally. In getting to know him, she was primed to receive her vocation from him in the most contemporary of ways, through Facebook. 

Sister Mercy’s Renewal of Vows (Photo provided)

“I was scrolling, you know, as you do,” Sister Mary reminisced, “and I saw a picture of one of my favorite friends from college entering the Sisters of Life. It gripped me because she was so funny, one of my business major friends and was just really, really gifted. I just thought she was running a company somewhere, and then there she was. It really arrested my attention and broke into my heart in a way that religious life never had before.”  

It was her college friend’s witness that ultimately shocked Sister Mercy to attention, she said. “When I witnessed this exchange of my friend’s joy in this picture, surrounded by all these other nuns that looked really joyful, it broke open something in me. So I went to the website; I learned about what the Sisters of Life are about.”  

As she became familiar with the Sisters of Life and found herself traveling to the East Coast, she decided to reach out to her friend, who got permission to go to breakfast with her, Sister Mercy recalled.

“I took her out to a diner in the Bronx, and we were laughing so hard, like crying so hard. And then she was just sharing her real heart and we were crying again at one point. And it just kind of hit me over these greasy eggs in a diner. She was in love. I never really understood that really this life was a vocation to love, which is what I’d always wanted. That experience, especially through friendship that the Lord used to reveal to me something totally new about religious life that I hadn’t known. And it really broke in.” 

From there, discernment progressed and Jesus continued to call Sister Mercy through postulancy, novitiate and professed life. Years later, she looks back on that call fondly, especially as she prepares for her final vows.  

Photo provided

“I just keep thinking about the joy of the whole sacrifice,” Sister Mercy shared, looking back on the path that has led her to final vows. “I remember the joy of postulancy. I quit my job; I sold my car; and you just feel like you’ve given absolutely everything. And all of a sudden, you’re in the Bronx, in New York, and there’s a radical joy in it. Then there’s the deepening joy of novitiate, first vows where you become vowed to him, take the habit, receive a new name and enter much deeper into his heart. And there’s new strippings and new deaths that he asks. Then the joy of professed life and experiencing the way he sustains and loves and provides.” 

Indeed, religious life has been filled with its fair share of blessings and challenges, joys and difficult moments. Nevertheless, it is the joy of her entire sacrifice that Sister Mercy continues to reflect upon. 

“There’s really a particular joy in final vows,” Sister Mercy said. “We were laughing and remembering postulancy and you really do feel like you’ve given absolutely everything, like ‘what else is there to give?’ But today, there’s so much more he’s deserving of and I want to give him absolutely everything. So the joy of the whole sacrifice. I just keep thinking about the whole sacrifice of a life. The very deepest parts of us given over to him who is worthy and the gift of receiving him as spouse. It’s a mystery that I’ll spend the rest of my life unfolding, but it’s a reality that I’m living. And I know it’s true.” 

Sister Mercy, along with six other Sisters of Life, will be professing their final vows at St. Patrick’s Cathedral in New York City this Saturday, August 5. To tune in, visit St. Patrick’s Cathedral’s YouTube channel. The eighth member of their profession class will profess her vows in Canada, where she has been assigned. 

André Escaleira, Jr.
André Escaleira, Jr.
André Escaleira is the Interim Managing Editor of the Denver Catholic and El Pueblo Católico, as well as the Digital & Social Media Manager for the Archdiocese of Denver. Originally from Connecticut, André moved to Denver in 2018 to work as a missionary with Christ in the City, where he served for two years.
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