By Diane Fahrner, Mercy Associate
Once you have stepped into the “Circle of Mercy” and been touched by the charism of Mercy, there is no going back. One can choose to read about people who live the gospel values or choose to be one of those people who shows up to live the gospel. After participating in the Year of Solidarity with the sisters, I chose to show up.
I first entered the Circle of Mercy in 1959 as a student at Mercy High School in Burlingame, California.
I was drawn to the work of Catherine McAuley and spent two and a half years in the novitiate on the campus. I loved the prayer, the community and the works of the sisters, but I discerned that God had another way for me to live Mercy. I got married, had five children, served as an elementary educator for 33 years in the archdiocese of San Francisco, and became a Mercy Associate in 1999. After the death of my husband, Tom, in 2000 and retiring in 2017, I was in search of my next Mercy ministry.
In January 2017, the Trump administration issued the travel ban on seven majority Muslim countries. In response, Sister Marguerite Buchanan and her team planned the Year of Outreach and Solidarity with the local Muslim communities in Burlingame, California. In the spirit of Mercy hospitality, Sister Marguerite wanted her Muslim neighbors to feel safe and protected at Mercy Center. This year included an education session on Islam, an interfaith prayer service and several afternoons of conversations and relationship building. When Sister Marguerite invited me to help her team with communications, I felt this was a small way that I could “show up.”
I had no idea that showing up in 2017 would guide the next six years of my life. In 2018 after the Year of Outreach and Solidarity was complete, Sister Marguerite began searching for a way to build community with people of all faiths. She identified the Peninsula Multifaith Coalition as an organization that continues interfaith solidarity. Established in 2012, the Peninsula Multifaith Coalition is a coalition of 31 diverse faith houses. Their mission aligns with many of the Critical Concerns. In 2019, after discussion with the Sisters of Mercy Solidarity Team, Sister Marguerite and I became liaisons to the Peninsula Multifaith Coalition. We attended monthly meetings and shared information with our faith house, the Sisters of Mercy.
Mission Statement: The Peninsula Multifaith Coalition brings together our diverse faith communities to build bridges of understanding and respect. We stand together with humility to acknowledge our common values, learn from one another and serve our wider world.
As a Liaison for the Sisters of Mercy, I am joined with people representing 30 other diverse faith houses, “build bridges of respect and understanding.” I am most proud of our Martin Luther King Day of Service. For the last 11 years, we organized volunteers across multiple locations to do service benefitting the community. This year over 550 people participated. In 2020, I was invited to join the Board of Directors of the Peninsula Multifaith Coalition. In 2022, I assumed the role of president.
Although I am stepping out of the role of President on June 30, I will continue in leadership as vice president. Along with my prayer partners, the Sisters of Mercy, there are still many “bridges of respect and understanding to build.”