My name is Sister Yvonne Mary, and I entered the Religious Sisters of Mercy 50 years ago this year. I don't know where the years went, but for sure they were very full and happy. I was born in Washington DC while my dad was going to school, and then we came to Saginaw, Michigan as a child where I spent my early years. I am the oldest of 11 brothers and sisters, and seven of us are girls! All seven girls shared one bedroom and our four brothers shared one bedroom.

I went to a Catholic school for 12 years, and when I first saw the Sisters I felt drawn to them. I was in awe of them even though I didn't know anything about them. Through high school, where I first met the Sisters of Mercy, I periodically thought about being a Sister myself, but I was also very involved in all aspects of high school life. I knew that I was being called by our Lord, but I also wanted so many other things. I decided to make a vocation retreat with the Sisters of Mercy at the end of my senior year, and it was there where I fell in love. I knew that I belonged and asked for entrance at that time. The following August I became a Postulant along with 15 other young girls and we began our journey together.

I had the privilege of being alive during the Vatican II Council, and witnessed the rapid change of everything familiar in the Church. Being young and pliable, the many changes were thrilling to me. I had no idea that some very serious losses were occurring, but came to understand that quickly when the very core of Religious Life was threatened. Even though I was only a Novice, many new practices were introduced that I found confusing and threatening. We no longer were required to wear a habit, or to live in Community, or to pray the common prayers of the Community, including daily Mass.

I found myself wondering how being a Sister is any different from not being a Sister. I had decided to not make vows and talked with my Novice directress about that. She listened to me with open heart and calmed my fears, assuring me that something very good was happening, and recommended that I should go ahead and make my first profession of vows. I trusted her and did that. The next few years were filled with tremendous turbulence and uncertainty in the entire community. I had been given permission to live in an experimental community in which our goal was to live according to the precepts of Perfectae Caritatis, a document from the Vatican that assisted religious institutes following the II Vatican Council. After some years of developing a new community and lots of prayer, the Religious Sisters of Mercy of Alma was established as a pontifical (under the Holy See) religious institute - new life for the Church!

Through the years, every assignment that I had was a privileged assignment in my eyes, but one outstanding one that touched my heart deeply was an assignment to spend 16 years in Rome working in the Secretariat of State. I had the honor of serving Pope St. John Paul II for the last 13 years of his life, and Pope Benedict at the beginning of his Pontificate. I saw and touched their holiness and realized that I too, had a responsibility to bring others to faith and love. When I came back to the United States I brought that fervor with me and it has never gone away. I know that I have a chance with each person that I meet, and want to say with St. John Paul, "Do not be afraid!" I say to anyone who thinks that they might be called to Religious Life "Do not be afraid!".