In spring of 2000, when it was announced Trinity College in Burlington would close its doors for good, several the Vermont Sisters of Mercy gathered together to discuss the fate of some its vital programs. Losing the Women’s Small Business Program was a particular concern. A committee to investigate options was formed, and Sister Lindora Cabral was assigned the task of leading the charge as chairperson.
“We were asking ourselves, what can we do?” said Sr. Lindora, recalling that time. “We began to meet every week. We brought in many people from different businesses and organizations throughout Burlington. And in less than a year’s time, we made the decision that we needed to continue the work.”
Thus, Mercy Connections was born. Since its founding in 2001, the non-profit organization is deeply grounded in the social justice philosophies of the Sisters of Mercy. The mission is clear: to increase access to education, mentoring and resources so that women and other disenfranchised peoples reach personal goals in an inclusive, compassionate community.
At the organization’s annual celebration on June 7th, the Sisters of Mercy were honored for their service to Vermont, including teaching and administering in schools and parishes across the state, serving on boards and in leadership positions for state agencies and non-profit service organizations, and for the founding of Mercy Connections. Ten local Sisters gathered at Hula in Burlington, and were presented with an original work of art, titled “MERCY,” created by Maribeth Rose, one of the Mercy Connections’ participants. The inscription on the artwork reads: In honor of extraordinary service, leadership and vision for a more just and compassionate world, this recognition is presented to the Vermont Sisters of Mercy. June 7, 2022.
“We know that Vermont would be a very different state without the leadership of these smart, strategic and committed women,” said Marybeth Barritt, the first Board chairperson of Mercy Connections’ said in her remarks honoring the women. “The Sisters of Mercy championed social justice long before that word was part of the common lexicon.”
Sister Lindora Cabral, founding executive director of Mercy Connections and current Board member, accepted the honor and spoke on behalf of all the Sisters of Mercy of Vermont. “Aristotle said, ‘Educating the mind without educating the heart is no education at all.’ And I believe that Mercy Connections, in their hospitality of welcoming people into the family, educates the heart first,” Sister Lindora said. “And then, after the heart, people are ready to listen to the possibilities and the skills that they could gain. And they come and stay.”
Photographed at the Hula event center in Burlington on June 7th, 2022 are the Sisters of Mercy of Vermont. Pictured left to Vermont: Sr. Ann Duhaime, Sr. Jeannine Mercure, Sr. Aline Paris, Sr. Laura Della Santa, Sr. Lindora Cabral, Sr. Marianne Read, Sr. Mary Boiselle, Sr. Susan Fortier, Sr. Gertrude Myrick, and Sr. Jacqueline Marie Kieslich.
Mercy Connections is a multi-cultural community delivering well-established and growing programs using evidence-based, adult education and restorative social-justice practices. The organization plays a significant role to increase educational and economic opportunities for people who are marginalized and disenfranchised, including immigrants, refugees, women and men involved in the criminal justice system, and those seeking a better life through higher education, employment and business ownership.
Founded in 2001, Mercy Connections exists as a direct result of the 75-year history of Trinity College and the Sisters of Mercy, when they closed the college in 2000. Mercy Connections is an educational, values-driven social impact non-profit organization that empowers people to make significant life changes through education, mentoring, entrepreneurship training, and community.