Madeline Rockwell heeded God’s call, which has led her to be welcomed as a candidate of the Rochester Sisters of Mercy.
Rockwell was born and raised in Binghamton in a Catholic home and attended Catholic school. Her faith, which has led her to pursue ministry in the Sisters of Mercy, developed over a good portion of her life.
“I grew up in a strong faith-filled family, but I, at the time, had no call,” she said.
Giving her life fully to God was a decision she made only a few years ago. She felt called to a new direction after she raised three children — now ages 21, 23 and 24 — and her marriage was annulled.
She had lived for 28 years in Ithaca, where she was an active member of Immaculate Conception Church. Eventually, however, she said she began to feel called to a deeper level of service.
As God tugged at her heart, Rockwell followed. While attending a retreat she said she realized God wanted more of her life, so pursuing a stronger relationship with him became a priority.
Rockwell said she had come to know some Sisters of Mercy while she was living in Ithaca, and to appreciate more fully their commitment to service. “The more I get to know the Sisters of Mercy, the more I realize the commonality of our values and beliefs,” she said.
Convinced of God’s call to serve, she left her job at Ithaca’s Beverly J. Martin Elementary School and moved to the Our Lady of Lourdes Community in Rochester to pursue her candidacy. She was formally welcomed as a candidate during a ceremony at the Sisters of Mercy motherhouse in Brighton June 24.
Rockwell’s period of candidacy will last two years. With the help of Sister of Mercy Cynthia Serjak, an incorporation minister who will guide Rockwell through her candidacy and discernment, she will intensely reflect on her decision to become a Sister of Mercy and what such a decision implies.
“The candidacy is a time for mutual discernment between the Sisters of Mercy and the candidate herself,” said Mercy Sister Sheila Stevenson, the order’s former president. “It’s a time for her to study what she’s getting into in terms of who the Sisters of Mercy are, and to continue her spiritual growth and theological understanding.”
Twice a year, Rockwell, along with other Sisters of Mercy candidates from around the country, will attend Candidate Connection, a formal program that covers topics essential to understanding the Sisters of Mercy as a ministry of service to those in need.
After two years of candidacy, Rockwell will be formally received as a novice and for two years will live with fellow novices in Laredo, Texas. There she will study faith and theology, and the constitutions of the Sisters of Mercy. “It’s really an intense and depth-filled time,” Sister Stevenson said.
Upon completing her novitiate, Rockwell will make her profession of vows, and eventually profess her final vows proclaiming her commitment to the Sisters of Mercy.
“One of the things we look for in a candidate is a person committed to service, especially to the poor, sick and uneducated, and Madeline certainly fits well within that,” Sister Stevenson said.
Rockwell said becoming a Sister of Mercy will enable her to follow the Gospel through service and prayer, and develop a closer relationship with God. She noted that the next few years will prove to be a time of spiritual growth and maturity for her as she explores her faith and its purpose, and decides whether that purpose is to serve as a Mercy sister.
“I’m just waiting to see where I’m being led,” Rockwell said.