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Deborah Troillett, RSM, who for six years served as councilor of the five-member Institute Leadership Team for the Sisters of Mercy of the Americas in Silver Spring, Md., is the executive director for the Arkansas House of Prayer. She remains on the board of directors for the new Mercy Education System of the Americas. Previously, she served 22 years as a Mount St. Mary Academy teacher and administrator, with the last 14 years as president, ending in 2011. The House of Prayer will also have an associate director, the Rev. Stephanie Fox, who recently graduated from seminary.
Deborah Troillett - Arkansas Catholic Entry
Arkansas House of Prayer - Arkansas House of Prayer
Arkansas Interfaith Center - The Interfaith Center
Love Thy Neighbor - Love Thy Neighbor Event Page
Rev. Susan Sims Smith - Rev. Susan Sims Smith | Up In Your Business
Sophia Said - Sophia Said | Up In Your Business
|Transcript Begins:EPISODE 226|
<p>[00:00:08] GM: Welcome to Up in Your Business with Kerry McCoy, a production of flagandbanner.com. Through storytelling and conversational interviews, this weekly biography show and podcast offers listeners an insider's view into the commonalities of successful people and the ups and downs of risk taking. And now, it's time for Kerry McCoy to get all up in your business.
<p>[00:00:29] KM: Thank you, son, Gray. After four decades of running a small business called Arkansas Flag and Banner, now simply flagandbanner.com, my team and I decided to create a platform for not just me, but other successful people to pay forward our experiential knowledge in a conversational way. If you are a Roman Catholic living well just about anywhere in the world, you may have met my guest today, Sister Deborah Troillett. Sister Deborah, well known for her 22-year career of excellence as the teacher, principal and president of Mount St. Mary's Academy, an all-girls high school in Little Rock, Arkansas, has been busy.
<p>After retirement, Sister Deborah took a leap of faith and moved to the state of Maryland. For six years, she served as counselor with the Sisters of Mercy of the Americas, an international community of women serving in North, South and Central America, the Caribbean, Guam and the Philippines. I told you, you could have met her anywhere in the world.
<p>Today, Sister has moved back to Little Rock and is using her connections and experienced communication and administrative skills to further the interfaith haven, known as the Arkansas House of Prayer on the campus of St. Margaret's Episcopal Church. The Arkansas House of Prayer is set in nature and dedicated to contemplative prayer, meditation and quiet for all peoples of all faith and of no faith at all. As Sister Deborah says, “It's the space that doesn't have an agenda. It is with awe and admiration that I welcome to the table, a woman with a glow, a presence, a peace that passes all understanding, and a knowing faith that many of us wish we could achieve, Sister Deborah Troillett.
<p>[00:02:20] GM: How’s that for an introduction?
<p>[00:02:21] DT: That’s quite a gift. But I appreciate it very much. And I'm really happy to be here. I know, we tried to do this once before, and it didn't work out. So, thanks for persevering to invite me again. And again, I just am so really impressed by all the work you do and how really what you do just builds the community. It just builds a community in a way that we so need these days. And I also loved what you said about listening, because that's really what the House of Prayer is all about. It's about silence and listening. It's about getting into a space where you can actually hear something different.
<p>[00:03:00] KM: That’s hard to do.
<p>[00:03:01] DT: It is, especially now.
<p>[00:03:02]: KM: Well, you know, I have to ask you the first and most obvious question, have you always known you wanted to be a nun?
<p>[00:03:09] DT: No.
<p>[00:03:11] KM: Really? I didn’t know that ever happened. Okay. Tell us your story.
<p>[00:03:16] DT: I grew up in Hillcrest. I went to school at Our Lady of Holy Souls and then went to Mount. And of course, my dad had his business in Hillcrest. So, Hillcrest was like the world for me. And you think, as going to Catholic schools all my life, you would think that, yes, at some point, that little thought does cross your mind.
<p>And in grade school, certainly, it was at a time when there were still a lot more sisters in the classrooms. So, we were confirmed in like the third grade, and the bishop would come and give us his little talk and then confirm us in the faith. But he said something that, for whatever reason, stayed with me. He just said, “Let your prayer every day be, “God help me know what you want me to be.” Just, God help me know what you want me to be. So, somehow that stayed with me. And I guess part of my deal was I had pretty strong stereotypes of sisters and nuns, which weren't always real positive. So, I don't know that I saw myself as one.
<p>[00:04:27] GM: Well, they were all your teachers and things at that point, right?
<p>[00:04:28] DT: Well, they were. But they were wonderful teachers. I will say that. And it wasn't so much the stereotypes about them. It was more how the world stereotyped nuns. That was like not appealing to me. I mean, that was the time of the flying nun and the singing nun and –
<p>[00:04:44] KM: I thought you were going to say mean nuns. When I think of stereotype, I think not flying nuns, but mean nuns.
<p>[00:04:48] DT: Well, the mean nuns and the ruler. Yeah, you’ve seen ruler and all that. Yeah, yeah. I've heard that most of my life. I got to Mount St. Mary, and the sisters there, they just seem different to me. They were very young, vibrant. They were strong. They were leaders. And again, it wasn't like immediately I started saying, “Hmm, I think I want to be a sister.” But it was just – I think there was definite impact there.
<p>[00:05:15] KM: There was no aha moment?
<p>[00:05:16] DT: There was an aha moment. But it came from outside of me. I was listening. You might – Well, I came from inside and outside. I was a student body president. And I’ve just been elected. And I had a theology teacher that junior year. And she just came into our first class one day and she just said something like, “Well, okay, do you want to know Jesus? Do you want to know Jesus?”
<p>And of course, it hit something in me funny. It was almost like there was this resistance that went up. And I was like, “What? I've been in catholic schools all my life. Of course, I not know Jesus. What is she – What is it?” But I think it was defensive, because she was getting at something that perhaps, in my faith journey, I had not really grappled with, a personal relationship. And so, that day, that question just didn't leave me.
<p>The first question, I guess, wasn't, “Do you want to be a sister? Or do you think you're going to be a sister? Are you called to be a sister?” It was, “Do you want to know Jesus? Do you want to have a deeper relationship with Jesus Christ?” So, that stayed with me that day, and I can't deny it. So, you might say that was one of the aha moments. So, the first question really wasn't about being a sister. It was about this relationship.
<p>So then, fast forward, I was student body president. And guess what? The sister that had that class became the sponsor.
<p>[00:06:44] KM: What does that mean?
<p>[00:06:45] DT: The sponsor of the student council. So, it's like I had to work with her. I always go through her for everything. And so, it was January of my senior year. Of course, everybody was making their college plans. And I had some plans. I wanted to go to University of Dallas. And that was my dream school. And I go to her classroom after school on a Friday, we were painting the faculty room for Christmas. It was a big old building. It needed painting. That was a student council project.
<p>And so, I go in, I have the paint chips, and I say, “Okay, which color do you think?” Blah-blah-blah. So, she picks one. And then she just looks at me and she says, “Have you ever thought about being a Sister of Mercy?” And it was like, “Oh, no!” Because I had.
<p>[00:07:40] GM: Are you trying to recruit me?
<p>[00:07:42] DT: Yeah. Well, because I had.
<p>[00:07:42] KM: Because you had? And she could see that?
<p>[00:07:45] DT: But I didn't tell a soul. I wouldn’t tell anybody. I wouldn't tell my best friend. Because, I mean, I was a typical senior. I mean, I was dating, and dancing, and partying. I mean, I was doing the senior stuff and always had been. And it was just like, “Oh, my God!” It's not just something that I'm making up. She saw it. And because it was almost like I went home, and it was a strange mix of fear and excitement.
<p>[00:08:14] KM: Yeah, you look like you're going to cry right now talking about it.
<p>[00:08:16] DT: Yeah, there was there was fear about it. But there was joy also. So, it was kind of a bit of a confirmation to at least take the next step. And then, that was January. And kind of went back and forth. Got back into senior stuff. Made the plans. The cost to go to University of Dallas at that time was beyond what my family could do. So, I was really disappointed because they were saying to me, “We know that's where you really want to go. But we better have a backup school.”
<p>Anyway, I had my backup school. Got accepted. And then lo and behold, April, I got a letter from University of Dallas, and I had everything. I had everything I needed to go. Part of why I wanted to go to the University of Dallas was because they had this amazing program that your sophomore year, you spent a semester in Rome. And I knew people who had gone there. So, that was all part of why I wanted to go. I wanted to travel. I wanted to see the world.
<p>So, I guess the way I interpreted it was I didn't – Because there was moments I thought, “Well, maybe I'm supposed to go now, because my school is not opening up and –
<p>[00:09:27] KM: You thought, “Maybe I’m supposed to go be a nun now.”
<p>[00:09:30] DT: Right now. Yeah, yeah.
<p>[00:09:30] KM: But what did you study in Dallas?
<p>[00:09:34] DT: I studied the regular freshman curriculum.
<p>[00:09:35] KM: Oh, you did?
<p>[00:09:37] DT: But I got down there. And of course, this I guess is how God works. It was just like kind of a song in my head. I couldn't get it out. It just kept coming. It kept coming back to me. So, finally, I decided it wasn't – You might say, “Oh my gosh!” I wasn't like this wholehearted. Yes, I'm going. It was more like, “I’ve got to go find out. I’ve got to go test this out.”
<p>But then I remember right before I was supposed to go to St. Louis, go into the Sisters of Mercy, you enter just as what they call a candidate. So, you're not really committed. You get to go and see. And so, it's a wise process. I mean, it actually takes a number of years. It takes a lot longer for that life commitment than most people spend preparing for marriage. I mean, I can tell you that. I mean, there's years and years.
<p>[00:10:28] KM: Well, I hope so, because you're married to –
<p>[00:10:30] DT: Well, you got a lot to sort out. You got a lot to grow into and figure out and say yes to, I guess. That's the bottom line, what you say yes to.
<p>[00:10:39] KM: How long did you go to –
<p>[00:10:41] DT: Well, I was there two years as a candidate. And then if you progress in some mutual decision, the community has to say, “Yes, we see this.” And you have to say, “Yes, I want to take another step.” Then you go to what is required by the church called a canonical year, a novice year. And it's really kind of the engagement period. I mean, and it's really a more intense study of theology and the vows.
<p>Of course, the Sisters of Mercy are very much an active order. There are different kinds of religious orders of women, and ours is very active called apostolic. So, we do a lot of works.
<p>[00:11:20] KM: What kind of work?
<p>[00:11:21] DT: Oh, teaching, education, health care, social work. Just about anything. Of course, other religious orders or contemplative, monastic. Like, the Benedictines are monastic order.
<p>[00:11:35] KM: They live on a monastery.
<p>[00:11:37] DT: Live in a monastery.
<p>[00:11:37] GM: <p>[inaudible 00:11:37].
<p>[00:11:39] DT: Yes, yes. And then in Little Rock, of course we have the Carmelite Sisters. Their whole life is dedicated to contemplative prayer.
<p>[00:11:47] KM: Is that at Mount St. Mary's?
<p>[00:11:49] DT: No. They’re over on West 32nd Street is where their monastery is. So, the Sisters of Mercy are of another form of religious life that started probably 17th, 18th century. And it was much more hands-on.
<p>[00:12:07] KM: So, you picked that order?
<p>[00:12:09] DT: Or it picked me.
<p>[00:12:11] KM: There we go. So, was the Sisters of Mercy in Oklahoma? Because you were there nine years. What's the nine years was about?
<p>[00:12:18] DT: It was at a high school that the sisters sponsor there.
<p>[00:12:22] KM: Is it a co-ed?
<p>[00:12:23] DT: Co-ed.
<p>[00:12:24] KM: But in 1989, you moved back to Mount St. Mary's. It's all-girls. Is it just because you graduated? Or was there an incident that precipitated that move? Or did you think I was going to stay in Oklahoma?
<p>[00:12:38] DT: the opportunity came to come back to Little Rock, come back to Mount St. Mary, be an administrative intern. And then the invitation came where you can come and be a part time teacher and really just have an internship here in administration. And that was appealing. And it was appealing to be closer to my family again and be back.
<p>So, I did that for two years. And then it was – Who knows? It certainly wasn't in the plan when I first said I was coming back. But then the current principal decided to leave her position. So, the position opened up. So, I was right there.
<p>[00:13:17] KM: For how many years?
<p>[00:13:18] DT: Actually only six.
<p>[00:13:20] KM: And then you became president?
<p>[00:13:21] DT: And then became president.
<p>[00:13:21] KM: What's the hardest thing about being principal? The parents?
<p>[00:13:28] DT: Parents, don't take this wrong.
<p>[00:13:28] KM: Obviously? Obviously?
<p>[00:13:29] DT: But we have one sister who always said, “My goal in my life is to be principal of an orphanage.”
<p>[00:13:39] KM: Oh, Sisters of Mercy are funny.
<p>[00:13:41] DT: They are funny. We’re, we try to be very real.
<p>[00:13:44] KM: You talked about a minute ago about the personal relationship with Jesus.
<p>[00:13:48] DT: Yeah. Mm-hmm.
<p>[00:13:49] KM: What does that mean?
<p>[00:13:50] DT: Well, of course, for me, the prayer part is a big part of that. And it's the gospel and what the teaching of the gospel is. And it's trying to live the gospel. And it's because I believe what Jesus came to bring this world, and why we need it so much. And so, I mean, my goodness, it's the relationship of trying to really follow his path and follow his way.
<p>And of course, believing he's the Son of God. Believing he's a savior. It's kind of like, of course, I have the necessary humility to know God's God and I'm not. But the personal part brings me into a kind of relationship that just makes it easy to talk to God, easy to talk to Jesus, easy to relate, easy to feel forgiven, easier to feel encouraged, easier to be challenged by what he said and did. And then to know that's the call. I mean, it just makes it not just what's in a book. It just makes it more day-to-day. Like walking in His presence. Yeah, but now it's not always felt presence, you know? It's not always feel good. That's a walk of faith.
<p>[00:15:08] GM: Like having a personal relationship with anyone.
<p>[00:15:10] DT: Absolutely. Absolutely.
<p>[00:15:14] GM: Not always sunshine and roses.
<p>[00:15:16] KM: And they’re not always present, but they're still in your mind all the time.
<p>[00:15:18] DT: But they’re with you in your heart. And it's like that's where you think – I mean, of course, the indwelling of the Holy Spirit. God dwells within. Of course, with contemplative prayer and the house of prayer and what we're about. We really encourage people.
<p>[00:15:30] KM: How much do you pray a day?
<p>[00:15:33] DT: Well, I mean, you might say, in some ways, I have a couple of periods a day where I pray in a more contemplative way. Quiet way, meditative way.
<p>[00:15:46] KM: Aha. All right, this is a great place to take a break. When we come back, we'll continue our conversation with Sister Deborah Troillett, past president of Mount St. Mary's Academy in Little Rock, Arkansas, and current Executive Director of The House of Prayer, an interfaith community dedicated to quiet meditation. We'll be right back.
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<p>[00:16:41] GM: All UIYB past and present interviews are available at Up in Your Business with Kerry’s McCoy's YouTube channel, Facebook page, the Arkansas Democrat Gazette’s digital version, flagandbanner.com’s website, or wherever you listen to podcasts. Just ask your smart speaker to play Up in Your Business with Kerry McCoy. And by subscribing to our YouTube channel or flagandbanner.com’s email list, you will receive prior notification of that day's guest. Back to you, Kerry.
<p>[00:17:08] KM: You are listening to Up in Your Business with me. I'm Kerry McCoy. And I'm speaking today with a nun. To me, they're like royalty. Sister Deborah Troillett is the current Ed, Executive Director, of The Arkansas House of Prayer, an interfaith community dedicated to contemplative meditation for all peoples of all faiths and of no faith at all. Together with Sophia Said from the Interfaith Center, they are hosting their annual Love Thy Neighbor event on the grounds of St. Mark's Episcopal Church in Little Rock, Arkansas. But before we talk about that, I want to talk about how you are so qualified to be doing what you're doing, because talk about God aligning you down the path to get to where you are. I feel like you have spent your whole life in training to end up where you are right now. Because in your early training and meditation and the understanding of interfaith, you traveled in 1985, I like to say as a starter nun. I don’t know what you call it.
<p>[00:18:12] GM: Fresh out the gate.
<p>[00:18:14] KM: A starter none. You turned the world for seven weeks to study religions in native lands. Talk about the impression that made it on you and how now interfaith. And I think before you even do that, you need to tell our listeners what interfaith means.
<p>[00:18:30] DT: Interfaith is truly the desire to interrelate to people of other faiths and totally respect the faith tradition that they are coming from, and understand it, and know the truths about it. There's a lot of misinformation as we know. There's wisdom in every major religion. And so, while it is true, interfaith dialogue can help you find common truths that you can share. There's never an attempt to kind of, let's just say, whitewash it or make it less than what it truly is so that you can feel comfortable about it. It just stretches you.
<p>[00:19:13] KM: It is hard to talk about. You even mentioned that you are have been trained. When I talked about being trained, you've been trained in how to do interfaith dialogue, which I think is very important in what you just kind of referring to. It's how you talk to each other. No, I don't think people realize that so many religions are so alike, have so much commonality.
<p>[00:19:36] DT: I guess that's the divine, that somehow, at the core, you find the divine and you find the truth about God as love, as compassion.
<p>[00:19:48] KM: I don’t think people realize that Muslims believe Jesus was a prophet.
<p>[00:19:53] DT: Right.
<p>[00:19:54] KM: I don’t think they know that Jesus is in that.
<p>[00:19:55] DT: And they have this respect for the prophet’s Mother Mary.
<p>[00:20:00] KM: Oh, I didn’t know that.
<p>[00:20:00] DT: Absolutely. Absolutely.
<p>[00:20:03] KM: Because I don't think people realize that.
<p>[00:20:04] DT: Yeah, there's a lot to cherish and each other's faiths. But unfortunately, that's not always how we receive information about each other's faiths. We see them more as threats than as opportunities to grow and deepen our own embrace of our own faith tradition, you might say. It's not like you're exploring what faith should I be? It's more like how do I embrace the truths of other religions and grow deeper in my own?
<p>[00:20:33] KM: Yes, I believe some believers are isolationist in all religions. And that's dangerous, because it creates –
<p>[00:20:43] DT: We, they.
<p>[00:20:44] KM: We, they. Well said. In 1985, as a starter nun, you traveled the world and studied religion in other lands. Talk about that impression that had on you.
<p>[00:20:59] DT: Well, it was life-changing. And I have a friend from first grade who always says, “Join the convent. See the world.” And it truly happened for me. But it was my roommate. I joined a group. There were 150 of us from all over the world. Not all. Not all US. But everyone could speak English. We met in New York. We had an orientation. We traveled from there to the sites of origin of every major world religion. Every major world religion was well-represented.
<p>[00:21:34] KM: How many are there about?
<p>[00:21:35] DT: Well, I mean, we studied, of course, Judaism, Christianity, Buddhism, Islam. And then, of course, Hinduism. And so, then we went to Korea. We studied Shinto. And so, there were – But in terms of – You might say, there's the Abrahamic religions, which is Judaism, Christianity, Islam, and then –
<p>[00:22:04] KM: And you call them Abrahamic because?
<p>[00:22:06] DT: The common Father of Faith, Abraham.
<p>[00:22:08] KM: Is Abraham. Because I don't think people know that either.
<p>[00:22:12] DT: Yeah, yeah. But this is important little piece to it. My roommate was a Buddhist nun from Nepal. Her name was Inotia. And she was beautiful. She wore these bright pink robes. She was beautiful. And course, I guess they put us together. We were the two nuns on the whole trip, Buddhist nun, Catholic nun.
<p>[00:22:34] GM: Oh, this wasn’t a group of nuns.
<p>[00:22:37] DT: No, no. These were mostly college-aged young people. And so, the schedule was grueling, but it was wonderful. Because where we were going, what were you seeing, who we were visiting. We were like ambassadors. We’d had incredible speakers, teachers. Huston Smith, who wrote the world religion, the classic on world religions, he was part of the faculty for this thing.
<p>But my point was the schedule. And of course, I would be like barely making it. Barely getting up in the morning. Barely getting my coffee. And I would look over the other bed, and there would be Inotia to be sitting up perfectly, having this peaceful, serene meditative state. I wouldn't be just like barely rolling out of bed. And I just remember, one day, I just looked at her and said, “Inotia, tell me what you do. Tell me what you're doing.”
<p>And so, I have to say, she probably taught me. She was the first teacher for me about meditation. And I thought, “Well, gosh! Surely, within Christianity, there is a meditative. There's a tradition about –” And sure enough, then I started finding it. So, that's when I started studying Christian meditation.
<p>[00:23:54] KM: What is Christian meditation?
<p>[00:23:57] DT: Well, certainly, it's rooted in our relationship with Christ.
<p>[00:24:01] KM: Is it not prayer?
<p>[00:24:02] DT: It is prayer. It's a form of silent prayer. It's a way of quieting your mind. It's a way of, you might say, using – Well, the first form that I studied was a Benedictine monk, John Main. And he used the mantra as a way to quiet your mind. You repeat a word or a phrase continuously. And that is your intention for prayer.
<p>[00:24:31] KM: How do you know what that should be?
<p>[00:24:35] DT: You just pray about it, and the Spirit will reveal you the word.
<p>[00:24:40] KM: So, everybody has a different one.
<p>[00:24:41] DT: Everybody can have a different one. And it's not so much what the word is. It's the intention behind the word. Your intention is to deepen your relationship and to be in the presence of the presence, you might say.
<p>And so, it is a process whereby you can quiet. Your mind quiets. But as you started your program with, I thought it’s so important, the skill of listening. It really is a gift that we need to cultivate. The capacity to listen to the Spirit within. Because, as Christians, we believe we have the indwelling of the Holy Spirit. So, of course, the spirit can speak to us a lot of ways outside of us. But so often, we don't trust what we're hearing, or we can't even hear what's inside of us. Or we don't trust it. Or there's so much noise.
<p>[00:25:31] KM: There's so much noise in my head. It drives me nuts.
<p>[00:25:33] DT: Exactly. How do you quiet that mind so you can listen more deeply?
<p>[00:25:41] KM: And that's a Christian meditation skill, or something you’re trying to learn.
<p>[00:25:45] DT: That's one form of Christian meditation. And then probably after I practiced that, and actually, you mentioned Subiaco, Jerome Kodell taught me more about Christian meditation. He used to go up there for retreats. And then in the late 90s, I became introduced to centering prayer as another form of Christian meditation, meditative prayer. I've been practicing centering prayer probably for about 20 years.
<p>[00:26:16] KM: Are all nuns like that?
<p>[00:26:18] DT: No.
<p>[00:26:18] KM: See? She's been in training for this job she's got –
<p>[00:26:22] DT: Well, all nuns – Let's just say this, in a way. And it's true. Technically, I'm a sister. Not a nun. And that could be another whole conversation.
<p>[00:26:32] KM: Oh, really?
<p>[00:26:33] DT: Yeah, it's a little different. But it's all history. It's all historical. Nuns, historically, were in a cloister. They were in a cloister, or a convent, or a monastery. And while we still use that term convent, we're more active.
<p>[00:26:50] KM: Like The Sound of Music.
<p>[00:26:52] DT: Yeah, yeah, yeah. There you go.
<p>[00:26:55] GM: How do you solve the problem like Maria?
<p>[00:26:58] DT: Like Maria. That’s the Sisters of Mercy. We’re like Marias.
<p>[00:26:59] GM: Yeah.
<p>[00:27:03] DT: But anyway, long story short. So, centering prayer became a prayer practice that I have embraced. And then I had the great, amazing pleasure to meet Father Thomas Keating who, really, he could see in the 70s why so many people were going to the east to learn meditative practices. And he just said people don't even know within Christianity, we have our own meditative practice. And so, he brought centering prayer, and he educated about it. He's really made it available to people in a way that just wasn't accessible so much before.
<p>[00:27:41] KM: Christian meditation, I'm going to have to start that. I may put that as my lent. That's my new different lent.
<p>[00:27:46] DT: Come to The House of Prayer.
<p>[00:27:48] KM: Right. We're going to talk about that. You’re going to teach me how. The eight-week Fulbright Seminar in India gave you the blessing meeting with Mother Teresa. Did it change you at all?
<p>[00:28:00] DT: Oh, well, yes. I mean, well, what happened was we were on the seventh – It was because of the first seminar in world religions. When I went to India, it was such a profound experience. I said to myself, I've got to come back here. I have got to come back to India. So, here it was five years later, and I got the opportunity to apply for a Fulbright. I was a teacher at that time. So that was a special eight-week program, Fulbright Seminar. Dynamics of Change. Just India. Amazing experience.
<p>Again, we were treated like ambassadors. We met with the Vice President of India. We traveled the whole country. But we made a special trip to Kolkata. And when we went to Kolkata, Mother Teresa started her ministry by literally finding the people who were dying on the streets, picking them up, bringing them to a safe place where they could die with dignity. That was her first ministry.
<p>We're on the bus, and we drive up to the House of the Dying and the tour director says, “You do not have to go in if you don't want. This can be very difficult.” I said, Okay, I got to go. I got to go.” A bunch of us went. And I have to say, the minute you walked in, there was nothing repulsive about it. Nothing. It was all love. There was nothing in you that wanted to run or leave.
<p>Right before we left, I was the only nun on that program. The tour guide said to me, “Sister, we can wait on the bus for a few more minutes. There's a little chapel here. Do you want to go into their little chapel? “I said, Oh, yeah, I would like that.” So, I went into their little chapel. Just sat there a few minutes, and then came out.
<p>The reason I'm telling that piece of the story is, the next day, we go to Mother Teresa's mother house. And there she has an orphanage for children. And so, we meet her. And with each special guest that we were blessed to be served by and taught by, they would pick someone from the group to present a gift on behalf of the group. They invited me to give the gift on behalf of our group. We gave a contribution of funds.
<p>And so, it was very simple. She came in. She said a few words. And then I handed her the envelope. And that was pretty much it. And so, we went and visited the children. And again, it was just the feeling in the place even though you look around you think, “Oh, my God! It's pitiful.” But all the love and all the care there just transcends all that.
<p>A again, right before we leave, he came up to me again. He said, “Truly –” There at the chapel. “I know where it is. You just go up the stairs. If you'd like to go to the chapel again, we'll wait for you. This is your time.” I said, “Yeah, I really would like to do that again.”
<p>So, I ran upstairs, and I'm in this kind of dark hallway, and I'm looking to where to go in. And all of a sudden, his little sister comes to me. And I'm just trying to say, “I'm just looking for the chapel. I'm a sister.” She didn't speak English. So, she just waves to me, “Sit down. Sit down.” I mean, it was all just, “Sit. Sit. Sit.” I thought, “Okay.” So, I sat down. And then lo and behold, the next thing I know, Mother Teresa herself is coming down the hallway toward me. I stood up, of course, and I was just speechless. And of course, she's speaks English beautifully. And so, she took my hands in her hands and she just kind of calmed me down. And before I could really say anything, she says, “I want you to come. I want you to come back tomorrow. Come from mass tomorrow.” She says, “You're welcome to come.” I said, “Okay.” So, the next day, my roommate, my dear roommate, she wasn't Catholic, but she was willing to go. So, we got our little rickshaw. I mean, of course, they have mass like at 5:30 or six in the morning. So, we were up way early, get our little rickshaw and go to the chapel.
<p>[00:32:25] KM: That speaks to the things in life that you cannot see. There is no reason that all of that should have happened.
<p>[00:32:34] DT: That's right.
<p>[00:32:36] KM: And just to have the House of Death to be so lovely. I mean, what?
<p>[00:32:40] DT: Yeah. How can you explain that, except there’s something –
<p>[00:32:44] KM: We are doing stuff wrong here. Here in America, we're doing something wrong. So, sister says, “There's spiritual poverty and loneliness in the developed worlds.” And you don't think about that. You think we've got everything.
<p>[00:32:59] DT: Materially? We do. That's another reality. I have to say, when I was serving at this institute level, and I went to Guyana, one of the poorest countries in the whole Western Hemisphere, we have our sisters there. Went to Peru. Went to Argentina, Panama, Jamaica. When you see the poverty there, it can be very, very repulsive in a way.
<p>[00:33:30] KM: Mm-hmm. I bet.
<p>[00:33:31] DT: But then, when you connect humanly with the people, it changes. Everything else kind of drops away. And it's that human connection with people who are humble, and loving, and caring, and have all their children, and they're just trying to do the best for them. And they share whatever they have with you, which is amazing. Whatever little thing they have, you got to have it. So, there's a lot about – We could learn about hospitality, I guess, and what really matters.
<p>[00:34:06] KM: You said in a recent interview, these experiences were real extraordinary gifts that hopefully I can draw on in this ministry for the sake of promoting the kind of prayer, meditation and respect for interfaith prayer programs. And are all of those experiences the reason that you wanted to teach world religion at Mount St. Mary's? Or had Mount St. Mary's always taught world religion?
<p>[00:34:29] DT: I don't know that they always did. I think there were different times in the theology curriculum when that was offered. When I was there, I taught a course called Adult Faith. And I tried to keep it in a wide venue, and I tried to let the students tell me what they wanted to study. And the premise was adult faith is not childlike faith and childhood faith. You got to open the questions. You got to be willing to engage the questions and find reliable sources, wisdom sources. So, world religions, they wanted it. They really wanted it.
<p>[00:35:13] KM: So, all religions believe in an afterlife?
<p>[00:35:18] DT: No, not necessarily.
<p>[00:35:19] KM: Do all religions believe in love thy neighbor?
<p>[00:35:23] DT: Love thy neighbor, you can find it articulated different ways. But, yes, yes. This opportunity that we have, and it's the 11th or 12th year, because they started it on the 10th anniversary of 9/11.
<p>[00:35:41] KM: Out of fear, kind of.
<p>[00:35:43] DT: It had to be kind of let's just do something counter to the fear. Let's do something that brings the community together.
<p>[00:35:48] KM: So, the Muslims are afraid. The Americans are afraid. Everybody's just kind of afraid of each other and lashing out in every way they can.
<p>[00:35:58] DT: And projecting a lot of our own stuff on others.
<p>[00:36:01] KM: And extreme Christians that bomb the Oklahoma City – Oklahoma City bombing that kind of seems like it was the beginning of all of this is an extreme Christian. And then you got the extreme Muslims. So, you can't –
<p>[00:36:14] DT: Let’s just call radicalism. When the religion gets radicalized, it’s not true. It's not true to itself.
<p>[00:36:23] KM: I see. So, in 2011, you've been at Mount St. Mary's Academy for girls for 22 years, and you decide to retire. Was there something that happened? Or do you just go did –
<p>[00:36:34] DT: No. Again, I'd say, this is how my life is. The things just happened. And I guess, I was at a chapter – The Sisters of Mercy have a – Well, it's kind of like our congress, but it only meets every six years. And we elect our leadership over the whole deal. Sisters of Mercy is one of the largest in the world. Our leaders for all central, all the Americas. And we set our direction, our priorities.
<p>I'm a delegate to the chapter. And the nominees had been through a grueling process for months, who are willing to be considered for election to the team. It's a president and four sisters. And part of the process is there's always a moment where you can nominate from the floor.
<p>[00:37:29] KM: No way. You could not say this.
<p>[00:37:34] DT: So, that's what happened. I was nominated from the floor. I didn't go expecting it. I didn't – I was actually on the committee that was planning the chapter.
<p>[00:37:44] KM: So, you're not even planning on retiring. You're not even planning to go be with the – What are they called? The Sisters of Mercy America?
<p>[00:37:53] DT: Of the America.
<p>[00:37:54] KM: Of the Americas. And someone just nominate you from the floor and you go, “Well, okay.” And then you get elected?
<p>[00:37:59] DT: And then I got elected.
<p>[00:38:01] KM: And then you have to go by and go, “Y'all, I didn't mean to do.”
<p>[00:38:04] DT: It was terrible – I mean, it really was. It was like, “Oh, my gosh!” Because it's true. But the Mount was strong. I mean, in one way, I knew –
<p>[00:38:14] KM: How long did it take you to leave?
<p>[00:38:17] DT: Two months.
<p>[00:38:16] KM: Oh, two months.
<p>[00:38:18] DT: Or not even two months. About six weeks. Eight weeks.
<p>[00:38:20] KM: That seems too quick to somebody like you.
<p>[00:38:23] DT: Well, God bless, I had a very strong principal at the time. And the school was in good shape. And I had strong leadership team there at the school.
<p>[00:38:37] KM: All right, we're going to go to a break. We come back, we'll continue our conversation with Sister Deborah Troillett, past president of Mount St. Mary's Academy, an all-girls school in Little Rock, Arkansas. If you're interested, come learn at next week's Love Thy Neighbor annual event. We'll be right back.
<p>[00:38:52] ANNOUNCER: The Arkansas House of Prayer and The Interfaith Center are hosting the 12th annual Love Thy Neighbor event. This year's theme is Sowing Seeds of Promise. And it's a celebration of peace featuring interfaith prayers, musical performances and speakers from several of the world's religions. Plan to join us on Thursday, September 8th at St. Mark's Episcopal Church, that's 1000 North Mississippi Street in Little Rock. Event starts at 6pm, and it'll also be live streamed on YouTube, youtube.com/user/theinterfaithcenter.
<p>The event is free and it's open to the public. There'll be no childcare provided, but kids are welcome at this event, and masks are encouraged. To learn more about the history of this wonderful event and the two organizations that sponsor it, please log on to either arkansashouseofprayer.org or the interfaithcenter.org. Remember, the event is Thursday, September 8th.
<p>[00:39:49] GM: You're listening to Up in Your Business with Kerry McCoy, a production of flagandbanner.com. Over 40 years ago, with only $400, Kerry founded Arkansas Flag and Banner. During the law four decades, the business has grown and changed, along with Kerry’s experience and leadership knowledge.
<p>In 1995, she embraced the internet and rebranded her company as simply flagandbanner.com. In 2004, she became an early blogger. Since then, she has founded the nonprofit Friends of Dreamland ballroom. Began publishing her magazine, Brave. And in 2016, branched out into this very radio show, YouTube channel and podcast.
<p>In 2020, Kerry McCoy Enterprises acquired ourcornermarket.com, an online company specializing in American-made plaques, signage and memorials for over 20 years. And more recently, opened a satellite office in Miami, Florida.
<p>Telling American-made stories, selling American-made flags, the flagandbanner.com. Back to you, Kerry.
<p>[00:40:50] KM: You're listening to Up in Your Business with me, Kerry McCoy. I'm speaking today with Sister Deborah Troillett, who is the current ED, Executive Director, of the Arkansas House of Prayer, a quiet place for meditation with no agenda or no religious affiliation. So, let's talk about this space. Let's describe it. It's on the campus of St. Margaret’s.
<p>[00:41:11] DT: St. Margaret's. It’s on like five acres of beautiful wooded area.
<p>[00:41:16] KM: And where do you park? And when can you go? And –
<p>[00:41:20] DT: Well, you can go Monday through Thursday, nine to three. And you just go to the church office, and they'll issue you a little temporary key fob. And then they’ll give you access if you're a first-time visitor. On the weekends, we have volunteers who help us. It's open from 12 to four. Again, you can just come. But if you really – We have so many people who just find it as exactly what it is, a spiritual haven. A place of healing. A place of peace. A place of nurturing. A place of just connecting quiet. But if you really find it appealing and just you feel attracted to this in terms of your own spiritual path, you can apply for a little key fob. So, it's 24/7 access then. And it's –
<p>[00:42:11] KM: So, I'm having, and I'm like, “I've got to find a place, a quiet place.” And so, it's Monday through Thursday, before three o'clock. It's my first time. And I pull up to St. Margaret's. I go in the office.
<p>[00:42:27] DT: You just say, “I'd like to visit the House of Prayer.”
<p>[00:42:30] KM: And she gives you –
<p>[00:42:31] DT: And she will give you a little key fob.
<p>[00:42:34] KM: And you go over there, and there could be somebody in there.
<p>[00:42:36] DT: Absolutely. That's why the only thing that happens in the House of Prayer, you might say, is silence. There're no worship services. There's no chanting. There're no rituals. There're no bells. It's just silence. But that silence, all I can say is the energy and the intentionality of everyone who comes in there, whether they're seeking or whether they're contributing to the silence out of their own spiritual fruit, the fruit of silence is all those things Mother Teresa's said, then you get it the minute you walk in. It's like surround silence.
<p>[00:43:10] KM: Surround silence. Is it round?
<p>[00:43:12] DT: Yes.
<p>[00:43:12] KM: It is round. And so, tips for meditating. How long should you meditate?
<p>[00:43:18] DT: You know, I think you can start with a couple of minutes of quiet.
<p>[00:43:23] KM: Yeah, good luck.
<p>[00:43:24] DT: Five minutes. You know? The biggest challenge sometimes is just sit down. Sit down. Close your eyes. Follow your breath. Take a few deep breaths. Inhale a little deeper each time. Exhale a little slower each time. You can start to feel the change. It is a practice. So, you take five minutes. You find a quiet time. You kind of start to develop your own appetite for silence. It's true, you can be afraid of silence. Because guess what? When we get quiet, lots of stuff does come, old memories, old hurts, old things. The commentaries go off. But we’re remembering this. We’re remembering that. Unresolved pains and suffering.
<p>And in some ways, we just want to flee that. We just want to – Let's just totally distract ourselves with anything we can do outside of ourselves. And, of course, some people say, “Well, this is more an introverts’ kind of prayer.” But not really. I think what – I always like to say, it's one helps the other. Let me just say this, too. There's a lot being written about mindfulness as a practice. Huge. I mean –
<p>[00:44:39] KM: Yes, Eckhart Tolle.
<p>[00:44:41] DT: Oh my gosh, mindfulness, you put that in Google and explosion. Mindfulness. Now, it can be just taught as a practice to quiet your mind.
<p>[00:44:52] KM: And be present.
<p>[00:44:52] DT: And be present, which is important. And people need it. So, I'm not making a lot of that. Just the distinction. For Christian meditation, it is about relationship. It is about a faith relationship. So, that's the big difference. That's the big difference.
<p>[00:45:11] KM: Now, you are completely combined and intertwined with the Interfaith Center. Sophia Said.
<p>[00:45:18] DT: They’re sister organizations. They're separate in terms of their 5013 (c) status, you know? But they're both outreach ministries of the Episcopal Diocese.
<p>[00:45:28] KM: And that is who you are working with to put on Love Thy Neighbor, which Sophia Said said she founded this event on the 10th anniversary of 9/11 for her Muslim community and for all other communities that are scared of Muslims.
<p>[00:45:47] DT: Exactly. Exactly.
<p>[00:45:49] KM: Let's talk about the event. It began as a peace-oriented service on the grounds of the Arkansas House of Prayer. But it has now moved to St. Mark's. It outgrew.
<p>[00:46:00] DT: St. Mark's. It outgrew St. Margaret's. And, of course, we're so happy that this year we're going to gather in person again. We had two years of virtual because of COVID. So, we're just thrilled to be back at St. Mark's. And we always had – Called the community meal after the – It's a wonderful combination of prayer, wisdom, music, wonderful music, just uplifting, and always a very special guest speaker. And then there was the meal, you know?
<p>So, this year, we're going to do that. But we're just going to be very careful. We're going to have boxed dinners, so people can just participate how they're comfortable. And we want to make sure we honor that.
<p>[00:46:40] KM: The Arkansas House of Prayer is just that, www.arkansashouseofprayer.org. And then the Interfaith Center is the same, theinterfaithcenter.org. And there's probably a link to – Do you need to apply in advance to let people know you're coming?
<p>[00:46:56] DT: It's helpful, of course. The Interfaith Center is a little more technologically sophisticated than we are at the House of Prayer. We're working on it. But you can go on their Facebook page, and there's a little RSV button. You can just click that. So, it gives us some idea.
<p>[00:47:11] KM: This Love Thy Neighbor's name is Sowing Seeds of Promise. And it says in the press release, a celebration of peace, featuring interfaith prayers, musical performances and speakers from several of the world's religions. How long does it go on?
<p>[00:47:31] DT: Oh, it’s not more than an hour.
<p>[00:47:32] KM: Oh! Bring your kids?
<p>[00:47:34] DT: Yes. Kids are wonderful.
<p>[00:47:36] KM: So, it's Thursday, September the 8th?
<p>[00:47:38] DT: Yes.
<p>[00:47:39] KM: St. Mark's Episcopal Church on Mississippi in Little Rock, Arkansas.
<p>[00:47:44] DT: 6pm.
<p>[00:47:45] KM: 6pm. Is it live streamed?
<p>[00:47:49] DT: Yes. So, we've learned in this – That's one of the things we learn with COVID, is that people can participate from anywhere. And they did those two years. We had people from different parts of the world joining us. So, we don't want to lose that.
<p>[00:48:02] KM: We'll put it on our website too. If our listeners can't remember, just go to flagandbanner.com and we'll have links to all this. Just click on radio show. But it's youtube.com/user/theinterfaithcenter. So, you can watch it if you want. It's open to the public. It's free. What can you do free? Masks are encouraged. I like wearing masks when I'm in a group.
<p>[00:48:32] DT: Yes. We totally respect that.
<p>[00:48:35] KM: Well, your mother 95. You need to –
<p>[00:48:37] DT: Exactly. So, I wear a mask.
<p>[00:48:41] KM: I know. You got a special guest speaker.
<p>[00:48:43] DT: Imam Khalid Latif.
<p>[00:48:47] KM: University Chaplain of New York University. Director of the Islamic Center in New York University. He's worked with New York police. Princeton University inspired him. He also was featured in Chelsea Clinton's documentary film called Of Many. So, he's a big dog.
<p>[00:49:06] DT: We're blessed to have him. And I attribute this to Sophia. She is an amazing –
<p>[00:49:13] KM: Sophia Said, y'all, is Pakistani. Her interview is absolutely fabulous. Before COVID, in 2019, she came on to talk about this Love They neighbor event she has. She talked about how 9/11 changed her life. She talked about Hijab dress wear. My favorite part of the interview was she talked about arranged marriages.
<p>[00:49:34] DT: Oh, that's right.
<p>[00:49:35] KM: And why it works. And if – Y'all, I'm all for arranged marriages.
<p>[00:49:41] GM: Yeah. She absolutely got my mother on board.
<p>[00:49:43] KM: I’m not kidding. It was so good. I was like, “Okay, we got to replay her interview,” or at least a snippet of that, because it's a really interesting cultural way that they arrange marriages.
<p>The Interfaith Food Festival will follow the service that you talked about. It’s a delicious vegetarian dish prepared and cooked as a boxed dinner. So, if you are kind, please go to the Facebook page and click that you’ll be becoming, so you can be sure and have a meal. You can stay on the St. Mark's grounds, or you can take it home.
<p>This year's event, Love Thy Neighbor: Sowing Seeds of Promise, a celebration of peace featuring interfaith prayers, musical performances and speakers from several of the world's religions. Thursday, September the 8th. St. Mark's Episcopal Church in Little Rock on Mississippi. It's live streamed on YouTube. It's free. It's open to the public. Bring your kids, although there will not be childcare. Marks are encouraged. And you get a boxed dinner to go. And we appreciate very much if you would go to the Facebook page and click that your attendings we’ll make sure and get you a box.
<p>Looking back at your life, give me one word to sum up your life.
<p>[00:50:56] DT: Blessed.
<p>[00:50:58] KM: Perfect. Sister, I never like missed opportunity to get a prayer or a blessing. Are you ready?
<p>[00:51:04] DT: Oh, sure.
<p>[00:51:04] KM: Okay.
<p>[00:51:05] DT: Most Gracious God, we thank you for this time that we've shared and the way that you have blessed the lives of all persons who have tuned in. The way you're present. The way you manifest in this world of ours that we call our common home. We certainly invite your grace upon each person. We ask for a deepening capacity to listen, to listen to the needs of our world, to listen to the needs of one another, to listen to your voice as you speak in so many diverse and beautiful ways through so many diverse and amazing persons of faith, and persons who are seeking faith or persons who are seeking. So, we know you are within it all. And we pray this blessing and in thanksgiving. Amen.
<p>[00:52:04] KM: Amen. Very nice. Thank you very much, Sister, for coming on. I've got a gift for you. It's a lot. So, here's your little vase.
<p>[00:52:13] DT: Oh, good. I get all these flags.
<p>[00:52:15] KM: You get all these desk sets. I’m not even sure what they are. That’s Italy, because you’ve been to Italy.
<p>[00:52:19] DT: Yes, I’ve been to Italy. That’s Turkey, I think.
<p>[00:52:22] KM: That's turkey, because you've been to Turkey. Well, she knows her flags better than I do. So, Sister Deborah, the US flag, or the Christian flag, in your case, goes in the center.
<p>[00:52:31] DT: Oh, okay. Okay.
<p>[00:52:31] KM: Yeah, you might want –
<p>[00:52:31] GM: Yeah, one or the other. Yeah.
<p>[00:52:33] KM: It depends on if you’re a nun or not. If you're military, you’d put the US flag there. But some Christians do prefer them. I mean, without God, you've got no country.
<p>[00:52:44] DT: They're all there. Yeah. Look at that. Beautiful.
<p>[00:52:47] KM: That is a nice brand
<p>[00:52:50] DT: It is. Thank you.
<p>[00:52:51] GM: You've been a few places.
<p>[00:52:52] KM: That’s not even all of them. In closing, I'd like to say to our listeners, thank you for spending time with us. We hope you've heard or learned something that's been inspiring or enlightening. And that it, whatever it is, will help you up your independence, your business, or your life. I'm Kerry McCoy and I'll see you next time on upping your business. Until then, be brave and keep it up.
<p>[00:53:12] GM: You've been listening to Up in Your Business with Kerry McCoy. For links to resources you heard discussed on today's show, go to flagandbanner.com, select radio show and choose today's guest. If you'd like to sponsor this show or any show, email me, Gray, at email@example.com.
All interviews are recorded and posted the following week. Stay informed of exciting upcoming guests by subscribing to our YouTube channel or podcast wherever you'd like to listen. Kerry's goal is simple, to help you live the American dream.