Mercy Center



Sister Lorita Moffatt: A Life Focused on God


Sr Lorita Moffatt

Sister Lorita Moffatt begins every retreat and every program at Mercy Center with one earnest question:


Does what we do here have any impact on our world? 


“It’s a personal question,” she says with a smile. “It’s always stirring in me and woven into all our programs.”


A gentle, white-haired figure, Lorita delights in her work on this green and sheltered campus, nourishing people with the presence of God.

Since 1992, the core of her work has been Mercy Center’s pioneering programs in spiritual direction and the Ignatian Spiritual Exercises. Her trademark is her soft-sandaled walk down the Center’s hallways, appearing quietly without fanfare.

"She is an artist as a spiritual director and as a teacher and facilitator," says her colleague Liz Lawhead who creates and presents program with her. "She has learned to follow her intuition that guides her into where a person, where a group, where the teaching needs to be. She has a knack for letting the peripheral things fall away and bringing the gold forward in whatever she is doing."

Lorita entered the Mercy community in 1958 when floor length black habits and strict silence were the rule. She loved the silence. "Under those structures of early convent life was a great wisdom," she said. "Silence creates an environment where we can better listen to what God is saying."

Silence and listening are woven into all the programs she leads. In both the Ignatian Exercises and spiritual direction training, prayer and small circles of sharing allow people to listen to each other with an open-hearted spirit. "I see people's lives so touched by God's presence," she observes.

"My whole life has been focused on God," she says simply. She began her ministry as an elementary school teacher, then worked in high school campus ministry. She was director of the House of Prayer in Chatsworth, and next became a religion coordinator for an elementary school. During those years she also received her master's in English from Lone Mountain and in spirituality from the University of San Francisco.

She's a walking resource library with prayers, scripture, poetry, and writings all available in her head. It's as if she has had her personal Cloud operating system, even before it was invented technology. Her declaration "I have an idea" with a gleam in her eye is followed by downloading of an extremely good thought to guide a program or open a prayer , according to Liz. She also says, "The Holy Spirit is my secretary." She has an unerring calendar for her appointments in her head, with the help of the Holy Spirit, of course.

At the end of every program, she asks people how the sessions have affected them and listens closely to their answers. She has proof of Mercy Center's impact in their answers which express profound gratitude for the experience here.

"It helps me see that we go beyond the 40 acres. This spiritual home of hospitality and peace frees them to find who they really are in God."

Of course, exact results are impossible to measure, but she needn't worry about the influence of the Center and of these programs of prayer. "Everything we have done here has been replicated in many places," she says. "People who have come through the Mercy Center programs are doing work in spiritual direction, Centering Prayer and retreat work in many places throughout the world."