Marilyn Lacey

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Marilyn Lacey, R.S.M.
Born July 11, 1948
Occupation Executive Director, Mercy Beyond Borders
Nationality American
Notable works This Flowing Toward Me, Contributor to People in Upheaval
Notable awards "Unsung Hero of Compassion" Awarded by His Holiness, The Dalai Lama

Marilyn Lacey, R.S.M., is the founder and executive director of Mercy Beyond Borders, a non-profit organization which partners with displaced women and children overseas to alleviate their extreme poverty. Sr. Lacey is a California native, and has been a Sister of Mercy since 1966.

For twenty-five years Sr. Lacey has worked with refugees in the U.S., Africa, and Southeast Asia. She has dedicated her life to making the world a more welcoming place for persons forced to leave their homelands because of war or persecution.[1] For many years she directed programs for refugees and immigrants, including the resettlement of the Lost Boys of Sudan, at Catholic Charities in San Jose.

In 2001, Lacey was personally honored by the Dalai Lama as an "Unsung Hero of Compassion” and in Spring 2009 Ave Maria Press released her memoir This Flowing Toward Me: A Story of God Arriving in Strangers. She holds a master's degree in social work from the University of California, Berkeley.


Marilyn Lacey, R.S.M., was born on July 11, 1948, in San Francisco, California. After graduating from Mercy High School, Burlingame in 1966, she went on to receive a Bachelor of Arts degree (B.A.) from Russell College, Burlingame, CA.

In 1966, Lacey joined the Sisters of Mercy of Burlingame and became a high school math and theology teacher. In 1979, Sr. Marilyn volunteered at the San Francisco International Airport, helping refugees from Southeast Asia make their connecting flights to the small towns across America where they were being resettled. This initial encounter set in motion a career change for Sr. Marilyn, and thrust her into international refugee work, initially in the Lao-Thai border camps, and later in Africa.

In 1984, Lacey obtained a master's degree in social work (M.S.W.) from the University of California, Berkeley. While she was a graduate student at UC Berkeley, she wrote a paper discussing the shifts in U.S. refugee policies since WWII; it was later published as Chapter 1 in People in Upheaval (Staten Island, NY: Center for Migration Studies, 1987). Lacey also conducted a national study of AmerAsian refugee youth, "In Our Fathers’ Land," that was published (without an author listed) by the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops in 1986 and distributed to all refugee resettlement sites nationwide.

In 1985, she became Director of Refugee Services for Catholic Charities in San Jose, California. Catholic Charities provides refugee resettlement services, employment placement for newcomers, foster care for refugee minors, and legal assistance to immigrants. During her tenure, Catholic Charities vastly expanded its immigration programs to include services for language and financial literacy, naturalization, family visa petitions, political asylum, deportation defense and help to those who could not afford private legal counsel. Her office was involved in the 1986 amnesty program and also provided education and public awareness regarding Proposition 187.[2] She has also served as a member of the Board of Directors for Mercy Housing California and for Mercy Hospital, Bakersfield.

Lacey has spent time in some of the most war-ravaged places on earth, including the Lao-Thai border, Sudanese and Somali camps in Kenya, and with internally displaced persons in the Eastern Equatoria region of Sudan. She has also worked extensively with the Lost Boys of Sudan helping them to resettle safely in the United States. [2]

In 2001 she was honored by the Dalai Lama as an “Unsung Hero of Compassion,” for her life of service with refugees.[3]

After 21 years of working for Catholic Charities, Sr. Marilyn Lacey started Mercy Beyond Borders in 2008; its mission is to partner with displaced women and children overseas in ways that help them move up from extreme poverty.

Lacey is a frequent presenter to groups and schools throughout the U.S on refugee and migration issues. In 2009 Ave Maria Press published her memoir This Flowing Toward Me: A Story of God Arriving in Strangers.

In 2011, Sister Marilyn Lacey received an honorary doctorate of humane letters from Saint Joseph's College of Maine.


This Flowing Toward Me: A Story of God Arriving in Strangers(Ave Maria Press, 2009)

Articles of interest[edit]

Contributor, People in Upheaval[permanent dead link], eds. Scott Morgan and Elizabeth Colson, (Staten Island, NY: Center for Migration Studies, 1987); ISBN 0-934733-17-1


(1) “Sr. Marilyn Lacey, Founder of ‘Mercy Beyond Borders’ Scheduled to Speak” Mount Aloysius College, News Detail. Sept. 22, 2008.

(2) Ward, Roberta. (2006) “Sister Marilyn Lacey reflects on work with refugees, immigrants,” The Valley Catholic Newspaper. Vol. 24, no. 9

(3) Templeton, David. “Holy Thrill: The Dalai Lama turns the spotlight on a few dazzled, unsung local heroes,” Metro, Silicon Valley's Weekly Newspaper. May 24–30, 2001.

External links[edit]