-Sr. Eileen Morrisroe
As A Sister of the Good Shepherd I feel
privileged to be among those who visit and minister to the women whose
freedom has been taken away from them, through their own mistakes
or through circumstances. As a member of the Sunday worship liturgy,
and through the week as I visit the different Tier blocks, I have
witnessed true sorrow, a genuine gratitude, and humanity at its most
vulnerable. Sometimes it only takes a smile, the remembrance of their
name, a word to give counsel, a deeper look into a passage of the
Scripture, or a song to uplift their hearts. Whatever they
are sincerely grateful for the time we share together and this goes
two ways. I go to bring them new life, and come away so enlivened
myself, all I can say to the Lord is, Thank you for the gift
of my vocation.
At one of the Chaplains meetings we were encouraged to bring
in choirs during the Christmas season not a usual event, I
can assure you, for no one enters without a badge. Taking the sheriff
at his word, I invited our parish choir of African Americans to come
one Saturday for the women in the largest of the prisons I visit.
It would be their first time and it was plain to see that some were
nervous, others excited, and some with a pointed word to give through
song. As the director talked to the dozen choir members she reminded
them that the following Sunday the message from the Lord was, When
I was in prison you visited Me. And with that word
The Thursday before that memorable Saturday, I had asked the priest
to come and hear the confessions of those women who had asked for
the Sacrament. While this took place in a corner of the large, all
purpose room; I sat and talked quietly with the other women. Using
this time I told them about the choir coming and urges them to tell
everyone so that the women wouldnt miss it by sleeping, which
can happen because they rise early for breakfast. One of the women
asked if their choir could sing too. I gave a rather vague answer
to that question, because I didnt know they had a choir of their
own, and secondly I wasnt sure myself how much time the church
choir would have.
Donned in their choir robes the hours arrived and all were present.
Over a hundred of the women filed into the room and took their seats.
One of the choir members read a beautiful prayer lifting all hearts
to the Lord
and they began in their typical, jazzy fashion that
got the women clapping, stamping, and crying for joy in no time at
all. As song after song was sung, I think the whole neighborhood could
have heard the clapping, the vocal joy and excitement. After about
6 hymns, the choir director then invited everyone to sing with them
some Christmas Carols. During this, I told the director that when
they finished the carols, the women wanted to sing for them.
It was the womens turn the most unlikely woman stood
up, walked to the front with about 15 following her, making two semi-circles.
Without a piano or organ, or any other instrument, they began in three-part
harmony, a Spiritual that held all of us spellbound. When finished,
the applause was thunderous. Then a skinny little woman stepped forward
and sang in rippling fashion, up and down the scales, about Jeremiah.
She faded back into the group and the prisoners choir picked
it up again in three or four part harmony. It was magnificent. When
they finished their final song I knew we all had received a little
Christmas ahead of time.
Sr. Mary Hart
[Sr. Mary Hart is an apostolic
(active) Good Shepherd Sister in Roxbury, Massachusetts, and has been
serving in St. Francis/St. Philip Parish for 19 years. This is excerpt
from an article about Sr. Mary.]
Sr. Mary recalls, "I remember my father telling me when I was
a young girl, Mary because your name is Hart, many doors will
be opened to you. Its your responsibility to help open doors
for others who do not have the same responsibilities that you have
I never forgot that, and I have taken it to heart throughout
my religious life and now especially in my work at the parish"
Roxbury is an economically poor, urban neighborhood in Boston, but
gifted with a wealth of "soul". It is a community where
Jesus, the Good Shepherd would want to be present and is in fact present
in the lives of the people. Mary reflects, "In the city you have
to be very contemplative to know the plan of God. You come to know
the plan of God from listening to the voices of the people.
"In the beginning, much of my work in the parish was developing
the after work and summer camp program for the children in the parish
and the neighborhood community
Sr. Marys focus has turned to working with older
children, young adults and staff in developing their leadership abilities
and involvement with in the parish
. Sr. Mary says comments,
"I feel that I have been helped so much in my own life and vocation.
It came to me that my ministry is to be of any help that I can to
the staff, teenagers, and young adults in discovering and responding
to their own call. I truly believe in people, and that God calls each
of us to live life to the full. One of the ways that we do this is
by following our dreams, our deepest desires, and by developing our
gifts. And we all have gifts!"