When I was growing up both my parents were involved in medicine. My father was a hospital administrator and my mother was an ER nurse. Both had served in the Army during WW II in hospitals in England. Additionally, my aunt who was a Sister of Mercy had established in the 1950’s the “new” pediatrics department at St. Peter’s Hospital in Albany. They were all highly regarded for their outreach to so many and I saw how each of them was able to help people cope with some of life’s most challenging moments. I admired that and thought I would like to imitate their good example. Growing up I wasn’t thinking of becoming a priest – I wanted to pursue medicine, perhaps even become a doctor.
That thought disappeared when my parents separated in 1960. The lives of everyone in my family changed – and as a family we had to face challenges we never anticipated. We moved from Long Island to Albany to live with my grandmother – a deeply faith-filled woman who was very involved in St. Teresa of Avila Church. Almost immediately upon arriving we were visited by the pastor, welcomed into the parish, enrolled in St. Teresa’s School and found ourselves participating in the social life of the parish. My mother began working at St. Peter’s Hospital (she would later transfer to the Albany VA Hospital). I would later find out that all of this happened due to the timely interventions of the pastor, Msgr. Hart. So many wonderful things happened to me in my high school years because of the priests and sisters at St. Teresa’s. They introduced me to so many good people, took me on many outings, gave me my first “job”, and made me feel very worthwhile. Oh yes, and they encouraged me to pray and have hope. One priest urged me to join the Sodality (a kind of early prayer group), a sister encouraged me to get involved in outreach by tutoring young children, and my aunt was volunteering me to serve mass anywhere and anytime she could. By no means was this extent of my social life – but it certainly formed the backbone of much of what my friends and I did. There still were the nights spent hanging out on the corner by the drugstore, or going to the high school canteens and games, movies, cards, and parties. All of us were trying to decide what we might like to do with our lives. Gradually I realized that I could still help people who faced challenging times in their lives and I could bring to it a spirit of hope – because that is what several priests and sisters had done for me and my family. During my later years in high school I began to think seriously about becoming a priest.
My family could not have been more supportive. In fact, as I think back on it, I was probably very spoiled by all of them for they would adjust their schedules to accommodate mine and make sure that my holidays and celebrations were made to be family occasions. No one really questioned my choice, although my grandfather once asked if I was prepared to deal with not having a family and children of my own. In hindsight I realize I was too young to understand the full import of his question - but over the years I have been blessed to have a huge family who have included me in every aspect of their activities. As I said, no one questioned my choice – members of my family already were nuns and priests – and they were happy. Everyone wanted me to pursue a way of life that would bring happiness and purpose as well.
And so in 1965, at the tender age of 17, when so many of my classmates were making life decisions about marriage, careers, college, and military service in Viet Nam, I chose to enter the minor seminary and begin studies for the priesthood. And like so many of them who found love, happiness and meaning in their lives - I have found it in priesthood. Like so many of them who faced challenges in their lives and were helped by people who reached out and encouraged them to grow - so in those early years I received great support from people and seminary classmates who encouraged me to face challenges and strive for growth that would bring love, happiness and meaning. I do not think that I’ve strayed too far from childhood goals of helping people – instead of becoming a medical physician I’ve chosen to follow Christ (who is called the divine physician) – the one who heals the brokenhearted. I hope to some extent my sharing in His ministry makes that happen. Fr. John Provost
Despite having gone to Catholic school all of my life I really didn’t think that entering the Convent was a great thing to do – I liked science and I wanted to be a physical therapist. There were no bells or whistles or special conversion that changed my mind. It just seemed like an idea that wouldn’t go away, an idea that I came to think might come from God even if I didn’t like it. And so I entered the Sisters of Mercy right after high school at a time when convents and seminaries enjoyed many applicants. Through the years, although many of my classmates and friends have left the Community, I have come to a deep belief that being a Sister is the best way for me to become the person God has called me to be, a person who helps others to see God’s love for them. And I’ve been able to use my love of science and math and my analytical skills in ways I never imagined as a senior in high school -- teaching Chemistry, leading nature programs for summer campers, writing grant proposals for Catholic Charities, serving on various Boards, and working on parish finances. I have also come to appreciate that we each serve God and his people both as members of a Community and as individuals, according to our own gifts and talents. I may not be the one operating a homeless shelter or ministering to hospice patients or walking the halls of Congress to lobby on behalf of justice issues but other Sisters of Mercy are and I support them in that. My place is here at St. Mary’s and Sacred Heart – and a wonderful places!When I told my father that I wanted to enter the Convent he was very supportive. My mother was not so pleased; she thought that it was a really bad idea. However, my mother’s attitude changed and by the time I was professed and teaching she became supportive and proud of her “daughter, the nun”, sometimes embarrassingly so. Through the years the Sisters became a second family to her, people she welcomed into her home and people among whom she spent her final years at McAuley Residence. Sister Peg Sullivan
“As for me, I grew up in a world very different from the world today, but in the end situations are similar. On the one hand, the situation of "Christianity" still existed, where it was normal to go to church and to accept the faith as the revelation of God, and to try to live in accordance with his revelation; on the other, there was the Nazi regime which loudly stated: "In the new Germany there will be no more priests, there will be no more consecrated life, we do not need these people; look for another career." However, it was precisely in hearing these "loud" voices, in facing the brutality of that system with an inhuman face, that I realized that there was instead a great need for priests. This contrast, the sight of that anti-human culture, confirmed my conviction that the Lord, the Gospel and the faith were pointing out the right path, and that we were bound to commit ourselves to ensuring that this path survives. In this situation, my vocation to the priesthood grew with me, almost naturally, without any dramatic events of conversion.” Pope Benedict XVI, Apr 6, 2006.