By Liz Dossa
Associate Ramona Harris bubbles with enthusiasm when she talks about Mercy Sisters. She was led to Mercy through her best friend who was a Mercy Associate. “She would share about the Sisters. Although I was a cradle Catholic, I had no idea who Mercy sisters were,” said Ramona. She was soon to find out.
With Julie, Ramona studied for an M.A. in Pastoral Studies through Loyola University in New Orleans. The ministry extension course, given over four years through her local Diocese, kindled their friendship and Ramona’s interest in spiritual direction. She immediately wanted to be part of the spiritual direction training. The Sister leading the training pointed out to her she first had to have a spiritual director. That step was easily accomplished, and the practice of spiritual direction has since become a large part of Ramona’s life.
Ramona completed a month-long training for spiritual directors in 2005. “That was my real immersion into the Sisters of Mercy and what they do. It was just the best month-long experience I’ve ever had,” she says.
The program was expertly done and nourishing. “There was an aura that was so welcoming, so kind.”
The Sisters have become an essential part of her inspiration. “I thought I had died and gone to heaven when I went to Taizé. When I found out it was inspired by Sister Suzanne Toolan, I became like a groupie in my devotion. The Sisters are like rock stars to me,” Ramona says. “I have felt such camaraderie, peace, welcoming, and community each time I have visited. It has felt like I was home.”
Ramona made her Associate covenant in 2013, and spiritual direction became an important focus of her ministry in a busy life. She’s been a college counselor, has facilitated spiritual direction groups, and has played the organ at a local parish. “During my time in grad school, we were in a focus group focused on Christian mystics. I can’t let go of the mystics and I’ve done presentations on them. I read Sister Janet Ruffing’s writing on Mechtild. She writes about a mysticism that celebrates the body/mind/spirit unity, and it felt like a calling from God. I’ve even written a book, Awakening the Mystic In You”(2010).
She’s stepped back from her college counselor role and is now leading theological reflections for deacons and their wives for the Diocese. She prizes the meetings with Associates which have been on Zoom lately. She supports the Sisters and the Mercy Associates through her commitment to the Critical Concerns, prayer, and community.
These days her home has been a hub for her five grandchildren who live nearby and stop in on their way home from school. In a life full of interests and fueled by her talents, she’s trying to set personal boundaries. “Now I enjoy my alone time. I get nourishment from the Spirit.”
As an Associate, Ramona supports the Mercy charism. As the Sisters of Mercy have been stars for her, from rock stars to guiding stars, she supports them in a practical way too. “I’ll contribute to whatever the Sisters need,” she said.