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D.C. MercyWalk

Deeply touched by the support of so many wonderful people and God’s Providential care in our Supreme Court case, we Little Sisters in Washington conceived the idea of a MercyWalk to celebrate the mercies of the Lord throughout our history in D.C.. A dozen of us, including four Little Sisters, two employees and some young discerners, joined us for the pilgrimage.

We began the day with Mass, during which we sang the popular song “10,000 Reasons.” One of our Resident priests celebrated Mass and gave a touching homily by reading Thomas Merton’s account of a visit to our home in Louisville, KY in 1960.

After Mass our first stop was the National Shrine of Saint John Paul II, where we venerated the blood relic of our neighbor-saint and read an excerpt from his homily for the beatification of Jeanne Jugan. From there we hiked across the CUA campus and took the Metro to our next stop, St. Patrick’s Church.

It was Rev. Ambrose Walter, pastor of St. Patrick’s Church on the corner of 10th and G Streets (NW), who petitioned the Congregation to come to Washington in 1871 in response to the influx of refugees in the nation’s Capital post Civil War. We visited the church and paused to read the account of the Sisters’ arrival in Washington. The founding Sisters found conditions at 924 G Street that were not at all typical of our early foundations…

“We could scarcely believe it; the two best rooms were furnished with carpets (those carpets were taken up, and the good parish priest, far from being angry, was edified); in the other was a good fireplace, with the fire already burning. We went up to the first floor. Ten beds were prepared and quite furnished; nothing was lacking. We were quite surprised, and our astonishment was the joy of the good parish priest. He led us to the kitchen; nothing was wanting there — stoves, kitchen utensils, vessels of all kinds; then in the back kitchen we found two barrels of flour, another of salt fish, a supply of sugar, coffee, tea, wood and coal, etc. In a hall was a large table with ten drawers, destined for the Sisters. The table was laid; nothing was wanting. Ladies prepared the dinner, taking it as an honor to serve us with the first meal.”

From St. Patrick’s we set off due east to reach our second home on H Street, walking around Union Station to get there. When we left this home in 1977, after over a hundred years in the neighborhood, the building was purchased by the Capital Children’s Museum. After the Museum moved out the home was vacant for several years, and then in 2004 it was redeveloped as luxury condominiums.

We had called ahead and so when we arrived the concierge was expecting us. She couldn’t have been kinder, allowing us to look around at will and permitting us to have our lunch in the Club Room, a cool respite on a balmy early summer day. Although we didn’t go into anyone’s condo, we wandered around in the “amenities building” — the old smokehouse — and explored the courtyard, where we tried to discern old from new in the architectural details.

After our air-conditioned lunch we headed south on 2nd Street, passing St. Joseph’s on Capitol Hill, then on to the Supreme Court, where we prayed the Divine Mercy chaplet, since this is the prayer that was prayed each day for a positive resolution to our case. Then sang a Magnificat in gratitude for the great things God has done for us.

Just for fun we took photos of some of our group descending the steps of the Supreme Court waving to an imaginary crowd, like we had done “for real” following our oral argument. We thought this would provide an amusing contrast to the photos from argument day, and a fun memory of this joyful day!

We then crossed the street to say the USCCB prayer for religious liberty in front of the Capitol, and concluded with a heartfelt God Bless America. We had planned to end our day with a rosary at the National Shrine, but since we were running more than an hour behind our presumed schedule, we decided to head for home after praying at the Capitol.

After our day in the sun and our pilgrimage through history we concluded our MercyWalk with the words of the song we had sung at our opening Mass: “You’re rich in love and you’re slow to anger. Your name is great and your heart is kind. For all your goodness we will keep on singing; ten thousand reasons for our hearts to find!”