Photo: Courtesy of Edmay Mayers
Mercy, in a War-Torn Land
A Grandmother's Mission: Chaplets, Teddy Bears, and Peace
I will be afforded the opportunity to visit schools in the Nasiriyah area soon. It is so wonderful to visit with these children. They are adorable, precious, and very innocent. I am hoping to attend the ribbon cutting of the old Mud School in Diwaniyah that I had a hand in obtaining the money to build. It's a real school for these kids and will be named after one of our Iraqi associates who was murdered because he wanted a better life for his children and others. â€¦
— Shukran and Salam Aleikum (Thank you and Peace be with you)
So reads a recent e-mail to family and friends sent by Edmay Mayers, a grandmother and a Divine Mercy devotee who is serving in Iraq.
While sectarian violence in Iraq continues to grow, and while the war continues to divide Americans, Edmay serves as a stark reminder of the sacrifices being made by the men and women of the military who, day in and day out, put the fate of a war-torn land above their own lives.
Like many of her colleagues, Edmay volunteered for Iraqi service out of love for her country — indeed, out of love for all of humanity. An employee of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, she works as an administrative assistant in southern Iraq where the Corps has been busy building vital infrastructure.
But in her off hours, she performs works of mercy.
For instance, with the help of fellow Corps employees Barbara Warren and Nicholas Ash, she prepares rosary packets with prayer cards that contain the Chaplet of The Divine Mercy and rosary leaflets. She passes out the packets to fellow servicemen and women — and any Iraqi nationals who are interested.
"We now have many people here praying the Rosary and the Chaplet of The Divine Mercy who never prayed them before," she says.
Edmay has also seen to it that many Iraqi children get the proper school supplies. She's even given dozens of teddy bears away to younger children.
Influenced by the Queen of Peace
Edmay says she was influenced early on by Our Lady, the Queen of Peace. She recalls that as a child, her mother, Rita May Moore Petta, set up a small altar in her bedroom where she knelt down each evening and prayed the Rosary. Edmay and her two sisters would often kneel with her.
"Mom never made us pray with her, but she always invited us to," says Edmay. Edmay's mother did insist, however, that her daughters attend Our Lady of Perpetual Help Novena every Tuesday night at St. Francis of Assisi Church in New Orleans. That requirement, says Edmay, helped to instill in her a love for Our Lady.
That love has proven indispensable throughout Edmay's life — particularly so now, in Iraq, a land roiled by violence.
"There are so many innocent lives being taken for no reason at all," she says. "We just pray harder."
In Our Blessed Mother, Edmay not only finds a spiritual refuge, but also an example of faith, compassion, and strength to which she, too, can strive.
"Mary went through so much in her life, so much joy in being the Mother of Jesus and so much pain, tears, and sorrow throughout the end of His life here on earth," says Edmay. "The pain she must have carried knowing that her only child, Jesus, was going to die such a horrible, unthinkable, undeserving death. Her heart had to break many, many times.
"What power this wonderful lady has," says Edmay. "How beautiful she is. How precious she is to Jesus."
That's why Edmay's so determined to share her devotion with others.
Because the world needs Mary.
Divine Mercy 'really hit me'
Edmay, who says she prays to St. Faustina every evening, learned about the message of Divine Mercy and its apostle, St. Faustina, only two years ago, through her pastor in Louisiana.
"Then I started reading up on it, and, wow, it really hit me," says Edmay. "Then one morning, early, I had EWTN on while I was doing things around the house, and I heard The Divine Mercy Chaplet in song and fell on my knees and could not stop crying. It was so beautiful, and everyone in the chapel was so sincere. It was incredible.
"That is when I truly felt The Divine Mercy in my heart and just fell in love with Him," Edmay says.
Ever since, she's been answering the Divine Mercy call for love of God and neighbor.
Edmay volunteered for Iraqi deployment after she was evacuated from her native New Orleans following Hurricane Katrina in September 2005. Once in Iraq, she felt her heart open to the victims of war — especially the children.
Since she arrived in Iraq last November, she has been in contact with her friends and family back home to obtain donations of school supplies for Iraqi children. In Iraq, many children lack the bare necessities to learn — pencils, books, paper, and schoolbags. Edmay had the opportunity to personally hand some of those donations over to the Iraqi students as she visited three different schools.
"The girls were excited, and they were very friendly to me," Edmay says. "And if there is still doubt in some minds as to why we are here — my gosh, just look at these children and it is so easy to see just one of the reasons we are here. We are making a better future for the next generation of Iraqis."
Despite the emotional toll that conditions in Iraq take on her, Edmay says she finds her work extremely rewarding.
"We, the Corps, are either building or rebuilding schools for these children," she says. "They are sweet, innocent children who have done no harm to anybody."
During a trip to Diwaniyah, she handed teddy bears out to the Iraqi children.
"Al Diwaniyah kindergarten was amazing," Edmay says. "I did not have enough bears to give out that day. I only had 50, and they had 70 children. So when we returned to Camp Echo, I purchased 50 more bears, and Barry Stuard, a Corps employee who was working in Forat Area Office in Diwaniyah, gave them out to the children," she said.
Edmay just recently requested a six-month extension on her one-year tour of duty in Iraq. Her request was granted.
"Wish me luck, and keep us all in your prayers," she says.
We certainly will.