Sister Deirdre Mullan is a Sister of Mercy from Ireland. At the height of unrest in Northern Ireland, Mullan spent 25 years as a teacher and administrator in schools. With a doctoral degree in the feminization of poverty, she has long been active in promoting the education of girls. She served as the executive director of Mercy Global Concern at the United Nations for more than 10 years, later directing the Partnership for Global Justice, a network of over 125 small congregations at the U.N. Her present ministry is with UNICEF, the United Nations Children's Fund, seeking ways to partner with religious communities.
How does Jesus' promise of everlasting life resonate with you during this time of great individual and collective loss because of the pandemic? How do you keep your faith and bolster it in others?
"COVID-19 has revealed fundamental truths about what it is to be human and to share our lives with others. From pandemics to climate change and nuclear weapons — the world needs to find shared solutions to shared challenges." —Mary Robinson
As the stark reality of the global pandemic began to infiltrate our daily lives and as restrictions for the sake of the common good were put in place, life for each one of us took on a new rhythm.
I committed to doing what my Irish dad said so often: "Go out into nature, breathe, because creation is a soothing balm for anxious bodies." And so, every day since the pandemic began, I made the commitment to go out and look at and listen to God's artistry, which is all around us.
The motto I took when I made my profession has become very prominent for me during this time: "Be still and know that I am God" (Psalm 46:11), an invitation to delve deeper into the stillness around. As humans, we have a propensity to see and not see. The noisy worlds in which we coexist with nature too often drown out the sounds and music of nature.
Some days, I found myself sitting at a fishpond and marveling at the various breeds of fish — their colors and how they swish and splash, hide and emerge from behind magnificent water lilies. In this small space, I found evidence of God's masterpieces as the yellow, green, red, striped and black fish danced and waltzed in and out of the vegetation.
Within the grip of this dark winter in which we currently find ourselves, it can become impossible to imagine the spring. Irish poet John O'Donohue reminds us:
"Winter is the oldest season; it has some quality of the absolute. Yet beneath the surface of winter, the miracle of spring is already in preparation; the cold is relenting; seeds are wakening up. Colours are beginning to imagine how they will return. Then, imperceptibly, somewhere one bud opens and the symphony of renewal is no longer reversible. From the black heart of winter, a miraculous, breathing plenitude of colour emerges."
During this time, I place my congregational directory before me, and every day, I page through it and send a note with a picture from my ramblings to those who are bereaved, ill, or suffering from anxiety, despair, or longing, with the message: "Night never has the last word; the dawn is invincible."