Sr. Mary Veronica Fitch, wearing a crown of thorns, is pictured with two aspirants of her newly founded de facto association known as the Franciscan Congregation of Divine Mercy. Sr. Maria Luca of the Good Shepherd and Sr. Mary Francis of the Child Jesus received their names and habits on March 25, the same day Sr. Mary Veronica made her profession of vows as a member of the order. (Facebook photo: Sisters of the Franciscan Congregation of Divine Mercy)

Jenny Snarski
Catholic Herald Staff

On March 25, at the Merciful Heart of Jesus Farm near Marshfield, founder Sr. Mary Veronica Fitch made her vows as a sister of the newly approved Franciscan Congregation of Divine Mercy.

That same day – the Solemnity of the Annunciation – two aspirants received the habit and their new names.
The Catholic Herald’s May 1 edition reported on Sr. Mary Veronica’s endeavor to found an order dedicated to living mercy in daily life and helping people develop the spirituality and skills needed to put mercy into action.

The approval was Sr. Mary Veronica’s Christmas present, as the decree approving the congregation was dated Dec. 25. With it, Diocese of La Crosse Bishop William P. Callahan canonically approved the Franciscan Congregation of Divine Mercy as a private association of the Christian faithful with the intent of becoming a religious institute.

The document affirms the petition of the approval was carefully considered, that statutes were examined and it was determined the association would be useful to the clergy, religious and lay faithful of the Diocese of La Crosse and has been shown to have the means and resources to achieve their designated purposes and to provide for the care of souls.

The association’s charisms include spiritual teaching in various forms as well as animal partnership therapy. Her methods of positive reinforcement with the animals can be seen in her many videos on the Franciscan Congregation of Divine Mercy’s Facebook page.

In a post from Feb. 20, commenting about the progress of training a previously untouched Mustang, Collette, Sr. Mary Veronica explained what training a horse has to do with religion.

“It’s the methods used in training the animal which preach the Gospel,” she shared. “And you can see here that respecting the animal’s free will or free choice works.”

Explaining the posted videos of herself working with Collette, Fitch summarized the exercises used to help the horse to accept human touch: “The beauty of it is that the horse chooses to touch the human and the human does not impose that touch on the horse.”

The same goes for haltering – the halter is not imposed; rather, the horse chooses to be haltered.

Sr. Mary Veronica summarized, “These methods are very healing for humans and animals and are the basis for the animal therapy work of the Franciscan Congregation of Divine Mercy.”