120-year anniversary of Parramatta foundation
“We came together with Sisters of Mercy from other congregations, brothers and sisters from other religious orders, board members and colleagues from our sponsored works, and friends, including those whose lives touched us before their journey took them outside the congregation.” Sister Marie Butcher RSM reports on a recent gathering to celebrate the 120-year anniversary of the foundation of the Parramatta Congregation.
Remembering the Past,
Celebrating the Present,
Moving Forward in Hope
Celebrating 120 years of the foundation of Sisters of Mercy, Parramatta
We came together with Sisters of Mercy from other congregations, brothers and sisters from other religious orders, board members and colleagues from our sponsored works, and friends, including those whose lives touched us before their journey took them outside the congregation.
The celebrations started with an acknowledgement to the Barramattagal people and to the North Sydney Sisters of Mercy who had worked in this area before our arrival. Parramatta Congregation Leader, Sister Ailsa Mackinnon (download address), then set the scene for the day introducing with the agenda that was based on one of the millennium goals: "women and poverty".
Our morning presenters were Sister Suzette Clark RSC, from the Australian Catholic Social Justice Council and Jennifer Burns, Director of the Anti-Slavery Project/University of Technology Sydney. In addressing the topic "Trafficking of women into Australia", Jennifer used a pastoral approach model drawing our attention to the experiences of women caught up in trafficking and analysis of such experiences. Suzette continued the theme, using biblical references as a basis for theological reflection, with Jennifer calling upon a response and action to be adopted around this issue.
Our lunch time speaker Father David Ranson (download address), spoke eloquently on “Being Mercy”, basing his presentation on a photo he had taken in Notre Dame Cathedral, Paris of the renowned Coustou brothers’ sculpture of the Pieta. David spoke of its spiritual poignancy, and throughout his presentation shared many deep images of the femininity of Mercy as ‘womb’, for example, “The mercy of God is passionate life-giving creativity”. A sentiment that touched many was “Mercy is born of grief and transformed into Hope”.
Whilst participants were chatting and partaking of coffee, tea and chocolates, the hall was re-set up for a final ritual, which highlighted our underlying values: The Spirit of Mercy, Human Dignity, Spirit of Service, Justice, and our Option for the Poor, through the mediums of music, movement, readings, prayer and audio-visual presentations.
The moving ritual spoke to the variety of ministries of the sisters over the past 120 years. It highlighted many aspects of our history, showing, for example, how music played a great part in our schools with the Our Lady of Mercy College, Parramatta and Holy Cross College, Woollahra orchestras regularly participating in the St Patrick’s Day Concerts at the Sydney Town Hall. The Sisters’ ministries in the orphanages at St Michael’s, Baulkham Hills for boys, and St Bridget’s, Ryde, for girls were also beautifully portrayed.
The journey from engagement in traditional ministries such as those of teaching in a large number of primary and secondary schools to the present, being part of many diverse ministries, was richly acknowledged in the audio visual presentations.
The following reflection which concluded the ritual still echo in our minds and hearts:
"We are woven of mercy.
The survival of our selves, our relationships,
and our planet depends on finally choosing
to live according to that weave.
Mercy is essential and deep.
Mercy recognises and accepts what is Truest:
that we are one weave,
that everything winding, twisting
and creating patterns in you
is also in me and in all
Mercy is the abiding, creating,
loving kindness of the Holy One
actively coming to be within
From C. Webber, Blessings: A WomanChrist Reflection on the Beatitudes, 1989
From: Sister Marie Butcher RSM (Local Communications Facilitator, Parramatta)