In this year’s Lenten reflection series, seven sisters offer their personal stories and insights on each of the Corporal Works of Mercy and how acts of mercy can have a profound impact on the lives of our sisters and brothers. Accompanying these reflections are line drawings by Sister Mary Clare Agnew, a contemporary of Catherine McAuley, which illustrate the Sisters of Mercy in ministry in 1830s Ireland. The reflection series also includes reflections for Ash Wednesday, Palm Sunday, Holy Thursday and Easter.

By Sister Rose A. Palacio, Medical Director, Mercy Community Hospital, Inc., Iligan City, Mindanao, Philippines

When COVID-19 hit Iligan City in 2020, the local government hospital was not equipped to handle COVID patients. Mercy Community Hospital, Inc., opened its doors to these patients.

A COVID preparedness team was formed, composed of hospital staff and medical specialists. A hospital infrastructure was developed to accommodate patients, nurses and doctors. At the height of the pandemic, all beds were full and the waiting list was long.

We were challenged by the need for and the cost of purchasing specialized equipment, such as a high-flow breathing machine, ventilator and hyperfusion machine.

The hospital census, which is the total number of patients admitted to the facility within a determined timeframe, went down to 25%. This impacted cashflow that would have come from claims processed by Philhealth, the national health insurance.

But the biggest challenge was how to sustain paying the salaries of the 236 hospital employees who were very much dependent on us at this time of crisis.

A line drawing demonstrating the Work of Mercy, "Visit the Sick" as Sisters attend to patients.

With a disturbed mind and heart, I sat in front of the Blessed Sacrament hoping for help to unload my burden. My attention was caught by the light in the Blessed Sacrament. With tears in my eyes I asked the Lord to help me. I asked Him what He wanted me to do. I knew He would not abandon me, who hopes in Him, my God of Mercies who has chosen me in spite of who I am and irrespective of my infidelities.

We were not abandoned. With gratitude, we received bountiful blessings and were able to share more than enough with our employees, mobile patients and others in need, bringing joy and laughter to the many.

There is not a day that I don’t ask myself how do I live out my relationship with Christ. I ask if the people around me are happy. I have a long way to go. I believe that in reducing my selfishness, I will grow in happiness and holiness. I believe that the best time to share is now, not tomorrow. I will keep my needs and wants simple and few. Much is asked of me because much has been given me.

I praise the Lord, who is kind and merciful to me, now and forever. Amen.