By Sister Betty Scanlon

There have been many doorways and thresholds in each of our lives. Some, I imagine, we have in common. Others have been entry points and leave-taking moments held uniquely and personally within each of us.  

In Mercy Ministry for more than 30 years, I have had the privilege to visit and minister with communities beyond the borders of the United States; among immigrant communities in Pennsylvania, North Carolina, Texas and New Jersey; and with those living with addiction in North Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. I have been welcomed through many doors, some just ajar and some wide open. Doors of culture, race, abundance, violence, inequities, prejudice, suffering, illness and joy.

This Mercy Day, we are invited to reflect on “Opening Doors: Creating Places of Welcome.” I hear in these words a call to be actively engaged in the opening, to be consciously present as love opens the creative places.  

Sometimes, it takes an unexpected meeting to become conscious of and engage in opening a door. Sometimes, it takes someone like Deborah.

Late one evening, long after closing time, as I was closing and locking the door to leave the Community Center at Visitation in North Philly for the night, I saw an unfamiliar woman in the middle of the street. As she got closer, it was clear she was crying; I asked if I could help. Deborah replied that she had been searching the streets of Kensington for hours looking for her daughter who had run away from home; Deborah was afraid she had come to our neighborhood to buy and use drugs. As she walked toward me, she held out a picture of Tiffany. For hours, she had been asking people all over the neighborhood if they had seen her beloved daughter. She was exhausted and frightened.

I invited her into the center, unlocking and reopening the door. Once over the threshold, she cried while telling me of the struggles within her family and the life they had in an affluent community outside of the city. I listened, cried a bit myself and made copies of the photo, promising to circulate it in the area. I had all her information and we promised to keep in touch. We did. For a long time, our community kept an eye out for Tiffany.  

Jesus’ words come to mind: “Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you.” Doorways give real-life meaning to these words from the Sermon on the Mount. They are mysterious passages, and just crossing over the threshold is a gift of Mercy.

This week, we celebrate the Feast of Our Lady of Mercy and a doorway that opened in Dublin in 1827, a doorway in Mercy, a doorway that we are called to open and create a place for all.