Sister Elizabeth Ann DeMerchant, IHM

July 28, 2018

Four years ago, when Sister Elizabeth Ann DeMerchant heard God’s voice beckoning her: “Come work for me,” she began a quest to understand the deeper meaning of God’s words and where she might best bring those words to life. Her search finally led her to Scranton, Pennsylvania, and to our IHM Congregation where she discovered that her heart beats in synchrony with our IHM spirit of hospitality and service and resonates with our IHM charism, core values and mission.

Elizabeth Ann believes that religious, by their public profession of vows, are a sign of hope for people today. She herself is a hopeful person and has freely chosen a life of vowed commitment with IHM sisters because she wants to do “something lasting” and “something bigger” than she could accomplish by herself. In her own words, Elizabeth Ann asserts, “At the end of my days, if I have had less and a child has had an education or a chance for justice, and the earth is cleaner, then it will have been worth it.”

On Saturday, July 28, in the presence of her family, IHM Sisters and friends, Elizabeth Ann professed temporary vows of poverty, chastity and obedience as an IHM Sister and committed her life to God and to the Congregation of the Sisters, Servants of the Immaculate Heart of Mary.

Profession of vows liturgy:

Sister Ellen Maroney's Welcome

I am delighted to welcome Elizabeth’s sister, Mary, and brother, Storer, from Maine, and her many, many friends from just about all fifty states and beyond, you who have shared in Elizabeth’s journey to this day.  Welcome, too, to her parents, Sylvia and Storer, and all those who join us via livestream this morning, including a special welcome to our sisters at Our Lady of Peace Residence and in Peru and Mexico, and the sisters of the Congregations of the Servants of the Immaculate Heart of Mary, the Presentation of Mary, and the Maryknolls, each of whom helped to shape Elizabeth’s deepening awareness of God’s call in her life.

I want to give a special welcome and thank you to Monsignor Larry Tressler, our celebrant, and Father Cy Edwards, both long standing friends of the IHMs. 

Thank you also to the wonderful musicians and all who helped with the preparations for this liturgy and ceremony and the dinner afterward.

And I think I should also thank the inventor of Legos, too, whoever she/he is, because I am pretty certain that the creativity, ingenuity, and patience that inspired Elizabeth to use Legos with her students was a part of what also sustained her in her search along life’s winding path leading her ever deeper into Holy Mystery.

As we look around this chapel, we see a composite of Elizabeth’s life: family members, her many friends from before and after her coming to the IHMs, sisters, and associates, those who have shared community with her at “the house on Capouse,” St. Joseph’s Center, and Cathedral, friends who were part of the Intercommunity Formation program,  many here who have shared ministry with Elizabeth,  all of you who have been a part of her journey to this moment and whose support and encouragement have been a special blessing to her, and so today is a celebration of and with each you as well. 

Truly the “God of all grace has blessed us this day” and filled us with joy and music and gratitude for this wonderful woman and for our God who, through the amazing mystery of faith, planted the seed of religious vocation in Elizabeth, nurtured it through her family and friends and those she encountered along her life journey, and then waited patiently… patiently… patiently… as the invitation took root and sprouted forth.  That’s the incredible thing about our relationship with God:  the invitation is open and never expires.  It’s a lifetime pledge to always be there for us and with us, no matter what.   In God’s and Elizabeth’s time, her response to that call was proclaimed.  We are so very grateful to you, Elizabeth, for your trust in God when our world seems enveloped in uncertainty and darkness; for your commitment to join with your sisters and others to embrace a life of radical interdependence in order to help bring about God’s dream for this beautiful, yet wounded world; for your willingness to steep yourself in prayer and contemplation of the God who loves you and sustains you always.

Elizabeth, today, through your commitment to religious life, you witness, not to the hype of fame or fortune or to superficial relationships, but to an authentic, honest, and deep vision of love and service for the good of all, especially the most vulnerable in our world.  Your willingness to search for beauty, goodness, and truth and to gently help your students and others find their own inner, true selves is a clear sign of the depth of God’s grace working in and through you.  I am reminded again of your words in your letter to me requesting to join the IHMs:  “I only get one life.  I want my life to have made a difference in the world, to people, through education and love.”

As we gather at the table of the Lord today, we are filled with much gratitude for the mystery of faith and the awesome power of God’s promise at work within and among us.  We give thanks for your gift of self, Elizabeth, and for your witness to us of what we are all called to be for and with one another. Author James Conlon wrote the following words in his poem, “The Journey”:

Come with us on the journey
from stardust to wonder.
No need for baggage, everything is within.
Wisdom is your compass,
curiosity your spark!
Release your presumptions;
step into the dark of the void.
It’s a mystery, a sacred mystery.
Awaken to the universe.
Surrender to the story that’s unfolding for you . . .!

(The Sacred Impulse by James Conlon)

As you take the next steps in your unfolding journey, Elizabeth, know that we promise you our love and companionship today and always.  You have been inspired to take this step today, and in so doing, you inspire all of us to reignite our own call to fidelity, love, and service.  May you be blessed specially by the God who loves you and always waits for and with you.  And so let us begin our celebration!

Sister Mary Elaine Anderson's Affirmation of Readiness to Make Temporary Profession of Vows

Sister Elizabeth Ann describes herself as a “seeker” traveling the road of life. Four years ago, when she heard God’s voice beckoning her: “Come work for me,” Elizabeth Ann began her quest to understand the deeper meaning of God’s words and where she might best bring those words to life. Her organized internet research and planned visits to numerous religious congregations finally led her to Scranton, Pennsylvania, and to our IHM Congregation.

Elizabeth Ann’s heart beats in synchrony with our IHM spirit of hospitality and service, resonates with our IHM charism and burns with unconditional love. She embodies love in simple ways by showing compassion to her students, listening to concerned parents and coworkers and preparing meals for the sisters in her local community. During her years in initial formation, Elizabeth Ann’s understanding of unconditional love has been stretched by her experiences at Nativity-Miguel School, Friends of the Poor, St. Joseph’s Center, the McGlynn Center in Wilkes-Barre and by service in Guatemala and Peru. These experiences have deepened her understanding of IHM mission, have impacted her ministry as a teacher and have caused her to reflect on the unjust system that keeps people poor in not only our country but also the world.   

Elizabeth Ann is an analytical thinker and a doer who searches proactively for ways to change the unjust system. She identifies herself as an educator and believes that education is needed to foster justice in our world. Elizabeth Ann is dedicated to her students who have special needs and is determined to give them the opportunities necessary to reach their full potential. She is an active member of two IHM committees: EarthCARE and Justice, Peace and the Integrity of Creation.

Elizabeth Ann has been a consistent witness of the IHM core value—respect for diversity. She recognizes that connectedness is one of her strengths. Although she speaks very little Spanish, Elizabeth Ann was able to connect with Spanish speakers during her formative activity in Peru and Guatemala by using Legos to create a common ground with the children and technology to communicate with the youth and adults.

Elizabeth Ann truly has a great capacity to form interpersonal relationships. During her formation, she has had the opportunity to visit and bond with the Oblate Sisters of Providence in Baltimore, the Sisters of St. Casimir in Chicago, the Sisters of St. Cyril and Methodius in Danville and the IHM Sisters in Immaculata and Monroe. Elizabeth has formed deep friendships within the IHM congregation and also with peers from other congregations.

Although at times community life has been challenging, Elizabeth Ann says that she has witnessed how the sisters live the value of interdependence in their daily life together. Elizabeth Ann recognizes her personal gifts and the gifts of others, and she sees the importance of using them for the good of the community. Elizabeth Ann has participated in congregational meetings, committees and dialogue groups, including Imagining the Way Forward and Visioning Our Future, all of which has helped her to experience the WE and the shared energy of the IHM Congregation.

Elizabeth Ann works hard in her practice of the core value—wholeness. She is constantly readjusting her day and re-establishing goals to help her balance the different aspects of her life – prayer, community, ministry and leisure. Walking and playing with Legos help her “get lost in the mystery of faith and prayer” and also re-establish balance and wholeness in her day-to-day living. 

Elizabeth Ann believes that religious by their public profession of vows are a sign of “hope for people today.” She is a hopeful person and freely chooses a life of vowed commitment with IHM sisters because she wants to do “something lasting” and “something bigger” than she could accomplish by herself. In her own words, Elizabeth Ann asserts: “At the end of my days, if I have had less and a child has had an education or a chance for justice, and the earth is cleaner, then it will have been worth it.”

I believe that Sister Elizabeth Ann embodies the IHM charism, core values and mission.  She exhibits the personal freedom and the ability to live poverty, chastity and obedience as an IHM Sister. I attest to Sister Elizabeth Ann’s readiness to commit her life to God and to this community.

Sister Elizabeth DeMerchant’s Response

Today is a day of Thanksgiving. Life is often like the travelers on the Road to Emmaus. We don’t always recognize what is before us. As a seeker, I traveled across life, only to find myself back to where I started several times.  In God’s time, I am now able to see and recognize what was before me all the while. Because of the sisters’ invitation to “Stay with us,” I have come to embrace the culture and customs of the IHM Sisters of Scranton. In the sharing of meals and IHM hospitality, I have come to know the IHM heart. I have enjoyed laughter through the stories and learned the history of the congregation. Just like the two disciples returning to Jerusalem, like Fr. Gillet and Mother Theresa Maxis, my heart burns today in thanksgiving as I share the Good News of the Risen Christ.

From community, I ask love and support as I continue to grow into the IHM way of life. Of the God who called me, I ask: Make me, O God, according to Your heart, meek, humble, and zealous, so that all I do will be for Your honor and glory. Mold me into a woman of prayer and service. 

Sisters Donna Korba, Elizabeth DeMerchant, Ellen Maroney, and Kathryn Kurdziel

Elizabeth’s sister, Mary, and brother, Storer
Elizabeth’s sister, Mary, and brother, Storer

IHM Formation Team: Sisters Jean Louise Bachetti, Mary Elaine Anderson, Elizabeth DeMerchant, Mindy Welding, and Jane O'Neill

Intercommunity Formation Friends
Intercommunity Formation Friends: L-R, front: Elizabeth McGill, Sisters Diane Brown, IHM (Monroe), Elizabeth, JoAnn Squitieri, CSJ
L-R, rear: Father Peter Parson, Sister Jean McKeany, CSJ, and Giovana Fuentes Bendivez