Bringing the Spirit of Mercy to Our Community

Sister Michelle Gorman, RSM, shares her story of service, compassion, and leadership as a Sister of Mercy

Fifty years ago, after a long journey traveling from her home in County Mayo, Ireland, Sister Michelle Gorman, RSM, arrived at Mercy Convent, Auburn at midnight. Brimming with hope and excitement and just 19 years old, she was ready and eager to continue her commitment to religious life, started one year earlier.

Feeling “awestruck at the adventure awaiting,” Sister Michelle’s life in Auburn became busy and active very quickly. Within a week she was juggling work as a teacher’s aide at Our Lady of Fatima School in St. Joseph’s Parish while also studying scripture, exploring life in community, and joyfully reflecting in prayer and contemplation. Within the year, she also began college classes, first at Sierra College, later at Dominican College in San Rafael, and eventually earned her Bachelor of Arts in Humanities and French, and a lifetime teaching credential from California State University, Sacramento.

Sister Michelle spent 15 years teaching, beginning at Holy Spirit Elementary School, and later serving at Bishop Manogue High School and Christian Brothers High School. When reflecting on her time in the classroom, she recalls it with great affection. “I really enjoyed it, and tried to inspire the students to embrace Mercy in our world. I keep up with many of them on Facebook and go to many of the reunions. That was a really important phase of my life—the students educated me on American culture, including the music of U2, Bruce Springsteen, Jackson Browne, and many more!”

Sister Michelle’s love of lifelong learning returned her to academia to earn a Master of Arts in English and American literature from Gonzaga University, in Spokane, Washington, after which she answered the call to begin as a Vocation Minister, a role in which she ably and enthusiastically served for nine years. She describes vocation ministry as, “helping other women discover where the Spirit of God is leading them.” She worked with women throughout Northern California, Washington, Oregon, Idaho, and Montana (which she calls her favorite place in all the world), and she says, “One of the things I enjoyed the most was serving with a group of sisters from Burlingame, Cedar Rapids, Chicago, Detroit, Omaha, St. Louis, and Cincinnati, and working together.”

With Sister Michelle’s natural and strong leadership skills, she was elected to the leadership teams of the Auburn Regional Community in 2004, and the newly merged West Midwest Community headquartered in Omaha, Nebraska, in 2008, where she spent five years. Though behind the scenes, this diligent and dedicated administrative work had a very clear goal that Sister Michelle describes as, “to support and help each of the Sisters of Mercy focus and serve her ministry, whether that was caring for the sick, the poor, or the uneducated.” During this time, Sister Michelle continued pursuing her own growth and learning, earning a diploma in spiritual direction at the Shalem Spiritual Guidance Program in Bethesda, Maryland, and studying Spanish at the Cultural Institute of Oaxaca, Mexico.

After returning to Sacramento in 2015, she began serving in both spiritual direction and retreat work at Mercy Center Auburn, as California State Senate Chaplain, and as a Corporate Member of Cristo Rey High School Sacramento and Mercy Foundation. Expressing her gratitude for Mercy Foundation donors, who partner in furthering the mission of the Sisters of Mercy, she says “The Sisters in Auburn and I pray daily for you with appreciation and love and we are honored indeed to work with you.”

Recently, Sister Michelle began her newest ministry, serving as one of fourteen Institute Ministers for the Sisters of Mercy of the Americas, which includes over 2,000 sisters in North, South and Central America, the Caribbean, Guam, and the Philippines. Her role sees her assisting with leadership and the spiritual guidance of the community, and creating increased unity and connection within the sisters striving to make a difference in the lives of those in need. She shares, “Zoom has really been a gift! I’ve been able to meet with sisters from all over that I didn’t know before, listen to them, hear what is happening throughout our community, and help guide how we move into the future.”

Looking back over her 50 years since arriving in the Sacramento area and what Mercy means to her, she says, “The motto that’s on my ring says ‘God’s mercy remains faithful from age to age.’ I think every Sister of Mercy has experienced that mercy of God and we want to pass that onto people who are in need of love and care. Mercy is compassion. Mercy is presence to those who are in need. Mercy is God’s overflowing love into the world.”

Thank you, Sister Michelle, for your dedication and commitment to our community. From that fateful midnight arrival in 1971, you began a life of incredible service, marked by an extraordinary breadth in ministries, travel, and educational achievement—all in dedication to the mission of the Sisters of Mercy.