SR.MERCY (1876-1951)

Harriet Viegas was from British Cochin. Her parents were protestant and so was Harriet. When her mother died, her father married a Roman Catholic lady and she had two children who were baptized Roman Catholic. Thus in her home there were staunch protestants and staunch Catholics!

When she grew up, Harriet had a good job as the Headmistress of the Victoria Girls High School and Teachers” Training school at Trichur. In addition she was a great help to the local pastor of her Church, Rev. Ridsdale.  It so happened that the Rev. Ridsdale converted the Rajah’s son to Christianity. There was trouble and the pastor and his convent fled to England.

When Harriet went home she had her catholic step-sisters and brothers and perhaps there was some friction. One night Harriet had a dream   about Mary, the Mother of God. This made a great impression on her. She quit her job and sought to become a religious. She was received as a postulant and at her vestition; she was given the name Sr. Mercy of the Sacred Heart.

She continued her teaching career and was in charge of Std IV. She was an excellent teacher and a gifted story-teller. Her stories were made very interesting. When it came to an important part, she would lower her voice, pause and change her tone so dramatically that children would be enthralled. She held her listeners spellbound. Incidentally the moral of her story was driven home effectively.  She applied this approach to the teaching of catechism also.

She was an expert at making artificial flowers. In the early days, even as late as the fifties and sixties, artificial flowers were used for altar decorations and we had boxes of them in the vestry. They would of course; get old and faded so fresh ones would have to be made. Believe me, this job needs much time and expertise: the cutting, the pasting, making stamens, leaves and finally assembling the whole lot into a flower! Also, the altar was quite loaded with flowers, so you can imagine how much work it all meant. Sr. Mercy was the expert.  Who knows, some of the older flowers made by her may have been in our vestry when I was a novice. Sr. Mercy sought the help of the boarders and also taught them how to make her blooms.

Sr. Mercy was also an expert tailor, but her expertise was limited to sewing habits, toques veils and under garments of the nuns. Toques were particularly tough, I can assure you! The rest was nothing much, because everything was loose!

Sister suffered from heart trouble and so was exempted from going to church on Sundays because everyone had to go to the parish church that day. It so happened, on one such Sunday, when all the community was out that Sr. Mercy heard one of the infants cry. She stooped down to pick the child up and fell dead!  Sister died as she lived, ready to lend a helping hand.

Sunday, April 15, 2018