Sister of Mercy Catherine L. Solan noted she has exchanged taking trips to shopping malls for taking trips to the interior of her soul.
That’s because Sister Solan took her first vows as a Mercy religious on Sept. 18 at the Sisters of Mercy Motherhouse chapel in Brighton. One of the vows she took was one of poverty, she noted, which means she has to be more conscious of how she spends her personal funds than she was when she was not a sister. Spontaneous shopping sprees as a diversion have been replaced by such activities as spending time with friends and reading, she said.
“It’s a more intentional way of living,” she said, adding that the religious life embodies all that she wants to be.
“I believe that God and I have had this conversation, that life as a woman religious and all that it entails — a life of service, a life of community — is me. It’s what makes me breathe.”
In addition to taking the traditional vows of poverty, chastity and obedience, Sister Solan added that the Sisters of Mercy also take a vow of service to the poor, sick and uneducated. In three years, she is slated to take perpetual vows, although she noted that she feels as if she already has.
“In my heart, this is it,” Sister Solan said of committing to her first vows. “I feel that I’ve come home.”
Sister Solan, 50, grew up in Our Lady of Mercy Parish in Greece, attending the parish school, and is a 1973 graduate of the now-closed Cardinal Mooney High School. She is the daughter of the late Deacon Robert Solan, who was among the Diocese of Rochester’s first class of permanent deacons, ordained in 1982.
Sister Solan said the seeds of her vocation were planted by the example of the various Sisters of Mercy she met throughout the course of her life, as well as her own volunteer work for the church. She noted that when she was working as a volunteer in the Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults program at Our Lady of Mercy Parish from 1996-97, she had to talk to RCIA candidates about her own faith. Witnessing to people compelled Sister Solan to begin asking herself what she wanted for her own spiritual life, she said.
“I discovered … that I wanted something deeper than what I was experiencing with my volunteerism in the parish,” she said.
Sister Solan spent much of her adult life working in the business world as a secretary, and also worked from 1999-2002 at the diocesan Pastoral Center as a secretary in the chancellor’s office. She said working in a religious environment was a boon to her as she discerned her vocation, because she wasn’t “fighting against the materialist and secular world.” Whereas secular colleagues may have wondered why she would want to become a woman religious, her colleagues at the Pastoral Center supported her movement toward the religious life, she noted.
After leaving her position at the Pastoral Center, Sister Solan entered the Mercy sisters’ novitiate in July of 2002, and lived for 10 months in Laredo, Texas, where she spent time in “intense personal reflection” about the religious life, she said. After completing her canonical year in August 2003, she returned to Rochester for her apostolic year and spent a few months at a time in various forms of service. She worked as a parish visitor for St. Agnes Parish in Avon; in rural outreach ministry in Steuben County; as an office worker at St. Monica’s School in Rochester; and as a data-entry and computer-support worker for Mercy Center with the Aging in Brighton.
After Easter of this year, Sister Solan became pastoral ministry coordinator at St. Cecilia’s Parish in Irondequoit, an assignment she heartily welcomed.
“The people at St. Cecilia’s could not have been more loving and accepting of me,” she said.
She said her duties include visiting the homebound, and that she particularly enjoys one-on-one visitation with people.
“I think it’s the joy that it brings to someone to know that there is someone out there who cares for them and cares for their spiritual health,” she said.