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Sister’s compassion leads to international organization

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Sister Marilyn Lacey
Sister Marilyn Lacey speaks to students in an undated photo. Sister Marilyn founded Mercy Without Borders to lleviate poverty among displaced women and girls. (Courtesy Photo)

From the May 2013 print edition of The Catholic Telegraph

By Patricia McGeever
For The Catholic Telegraph

For more than two decades, Sister Marilyn Lacey worked with displaced people at refugee camps in the US and overseas as the Refugee and Immigration Director for Catholic Charities in San Jose, California. But after hearing a bishop from South Sudan speak about one million displaced people, extreme poverty and the never-ending civil war in his country, she wanted to learn more. The bishop invited her to come see the situation for herself. This was in 1991.

“When I went to South Sudan I was aghast at the situation. Just absolutely shaken,” she said of her first impression of the east central African country. “And I thought, someday, somehow I’m going to do something more for the women of South Sudan.”

That day came in 2008 when Sister Marilyn founded a nonprofit called Mercy Beyond Borders.

The organization works to alleviate poverty among displaced women and girls. Its first order of business was to stabilize a school for girls that had been started by the bishop Sister Marilyn heard speak those many years ago. Sister Marilyn was in Cincinnati recently to talk about her work to members of Immaculate Heart of Mary Parish in Anderson Township and to students at McAuley and Mother of Mercy High Schools. She emphasizes being more attentive to the needs of others and showing compassion.

Mercy Senior Kristen Brauer, 18 was impressed by Sister Marilyn’s ability to hop right into another culture and start helping.

“When we were reading the book I kept rereading that part. I was amazed,” she said.

The school started by the bishop is flourishing thanks to financial assistance from Sister Marilyn’s organization. Four hundred girls are enrolled. Most will graduate from the eighth grade which until recently was unheard of.

After the massive earthquake in Haiti in 2010, Sister Marilyn felt compelled to establish her mission in that country, too. Mercy Beyond Borders currently has two staff people in Haiti and two in South Sudan to carry out the work. She makes trips once or twice a year now to oversee the operations.

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