Student view:

Sister Mary Lisa Renfer: Respond in love

Sister Mary Lisa Renfer is in the Religious Sisters of Mercy and a student in the MSU College of Osteopathic Medicine.

There are some things that are universal to the human experience. We all long to love and to be loved, and we all experience suffering in some way. We realize how connected we are at various points in our lives, but often forget as we run around from place to place, with our plans, our dreams, our hopes and desires. Yet in the midst of this, each person has his or her own sufferings, on the surface or hidden away, and everyone is searching for love. These two often come together, since love often involves sacrifice, and some of the greatest suffering occurs because we love.

My life, as a Religious Sister of Mercy, is to become the meeting point between these two realities. What does that mean? Well, here is a bit of an answer. This means I have chosen to give my life to God through four vows, or promises: poverty, chastity, obedience, and service of the poor, sick and ignorant. I live my life as a bride of Christ, living in common with other Sisters of our community in a convent, with no possessions of my own, and I go where I am sent.

We pray together, eat together, and definitely laugh together as we each live out our vows uniquely yet in common. Our common mission is to be the convergence point between the mercy of God and the misery of mankind, reaching out with the love and mercy we have each received to situations of need.

This plays out practically in the way we interact with each other and in the service we give to our community. Our Sisters serve in many roles, particularly as educators, counselors, doctors and nurses, in places we are asked to come to respond to a need. It is a life of sacrifice but of great joy, and certainly of many adventures.

Our community recognizes that education is essential if we want to bring about change and elevate a situation of need. In my case, I was asked to pursue medicine, which led me to MSU College of Osteopathic Medicine. Osteopathic Medicine focuses on treating the whole person, body, mind and spirit and I have found in its philosophy a beautiful complement to the spirit of our religious community.

One of the great gifts of being at MSU is the freedom I have to be who I am as a religious sister. Administration, faculty and classmates are not only accepting of me but also not afraid to ask questions, and I have had the gift of many wonderful conversations with others from varied backgrounds. It is an enriching experience to realize our common joys and fears and to see how connected we all are. I think this is one of the great gifts of being at school here at MSU.

Before I became a Sister, I sought many ways to respond to suffering, from mission trips around the world to volunteering close to home. While these were wonderful experiences, I always knew there was a cry in me for a total gift of self. Now, I cannot begin to say how thankful I am for the gift of being able to live my life as a Religious Sister of Mercy. I have much to learn and grow in, both in living as a Sister and in working to become a physician, but that is where the adventure comes in. This summer we begin our work in the hospitals, the first step of putting our medical knowledge into practice. My hope is only that as I go through each day, I never forget to see each person before me and respond in love. We all experience suffering and see suffering every day, but our choice is in how we respond.