A Day of Great Joy for the Institute
On what was a day of great rejoicing for the Institute, on Saturday 14 November at 11am AEDT, three fine Mercy women made their final profession.
Sisters took the final steps in answering their call from God to perpetually profess their lives as Sisters of Mercy.
In Kaugia Papua New Guinea, Meryline made her profession at a mass at the Holy Spirit Church. At the same time, Michelle and Mai took their final vows at a mass at the Ursula Frayne Memorial Chapel in Melbourne. While they were separated phyically by thousands of kilometres, they and all of those watching the livestream of the Melbourne ceremony, were joined together in a wonderful prayerful spirit.
The impact of closed borders due to COVID-19 meant that Institute Leader, Eveline Crotty RSM was unable to be physically present at either ceremony. Community Leader North- PNG Mariska Kua RSM and Community Leader, South C, Marie Ralph RSM received the vows from their respective sisters as Sr Eveline’s delegates.
Below are two accounts of this most wonderful day.
Though the road was rough and muddy, hundreds of people attended Meryline’s profession of final vows. Many priests and religious came from all around Wewak and some came from Madang, Hagen, Goroka, Aitape and Vanimo. Bishop Joseph was the main celebrant.
The profession was celebrated with lots of dancing, beating of traditional kudu drums and garamut as well as modern instruments. It was indeed a colourful and a lively celebration.
People were worried that it was going to rain on the day but please God it turned out a very fine weather and everyone enjoyed the day. The road was dry enough for the bus and trucks to pick up the people back to their destinations.
The local people and the sisters in Wewak worked very hard to prepare for the celebration. While the people in Kaugia parish took part in the liturgy, dancing in processions and brought gifts of food, animals, billums and other things. Some women made even Merylin’s Wasara billum dress with bush vines and strings from their place. They also made enough wasara bilums for all the invited guests which they were presented as they processed in to the church. It seems that they have prepared for the celebration for many months.
The sisters organised two trucks and a bus to take the people from Wewak to Kaugia which is about 3-4 hours drive. We were accommodated by teachers, nurses and the local community for the night.
The profession took place in Meryline’s parish church in Kaugia. The church holds about a hundred or so people but the rest of the crowds were sitting outside. It is customary in PNG that such occasions are celebrated by the whole diocese so people make their own choices to attend therefore we have large numbers of people in all our celebrations. The hosting parish has the responsibility to accommodate people from other parishes.
After the celebration the local people presented Meryline and the bishop with more gifts including a huge pig each.
Written by Theresia Tina RSM
Click on the arrow below to a watch a video of highlights from the ceremony
Michelle Goh and Mai Nguyen-Doan
Marie Ralph RSM, Community Leader of South C, began her welcome to a restricted number of people who physically gathered in the Ursula Frayne Memorial Chapel and the more than 650 people watching via livestream, with the words ‘This is a day of great rejoicing..’ and what a joyous day it was!
Mai’s mother, Anh Doan, and father, Tuyen Nguyen, her Aunt Oanh Bui and Uncle Son Nguyen were present in the Chapel, along with Michelle’s sister, Sue Lynn Goh. On the live-stream, Michelle’s mother, Dr Lai Yoong, and her father, Dr Swee Hock Goh participated from Malaysia, as well as other members of Michelle and Mai’s families and friends.
Marie Ralph said Michelle and Mai chose this Ursula Frayne Memorial Chapel as the venue for their ceremony, as it had been the place where Sisters belonging to the Fitzroy foundation had made their vows, as Michelle and Mai has done on this day.
“Ursula Frayne was a companion of our Foundress, Catherine McAuley, and the Sister chosen to lead the first foundation of Sisters of Mercy to Australia. She came first to Perth and then here to Nicholson Street, Fitzroy, where she established the Convent and College on these grounds. The Convent was the first Convent in Victoria. This Chapel was built in Ursula’s memory. Her body was exhumed from the Convent garden and buried here in this Chapel which was opened and blessed just four years after her death” Marie said.
One of the many highlights of the beautiful ceremony was the music which was led by Kate Mannes RSM and Loreto Lynch RSM.
In his homily, the celebrant Bishop Terry Curtin said the vows they were taking joined them to Catherine McAuley and her companions and their works of mercy, education, healing and justice which continue in the Church today.
“Mai and Michelle, you are now being grafted onto the vine who is Christ our Saviour, with all the life that brings. It matters, for you, for your fellow Sisters of Mercy, for your families, for those
you will serve in your professions, for our Church, for our world. To draw on the words of Thomas Merton, “I think today it’s more important for us to so let God live in us, that others may
feel God and come to believe in God, because they feel how God lives in us.” Perpetually professed, may that life of mercy flourish in you today and always”.
As part of the ceremony, Michelle and Mai recited the following words both verbally and in their hearts:
God of Mercy, you have called me. With the help of God, I have come to know in this religious community the joys and challenges of a life dedicated to God. I now ask to make perpetual vows in the Institute of Sisters of Mercy of Australia and Papua New Guinea for the glory of God and the service of the Church.
In response to their witness, those gathered and participating from afar, prayed that they “in the freedom of their hearts may free from care the hearts of others; in helping those who are suffering, may they bring them the comfort of Christ who suffers with them. May the gift they make of themselves today hasten the coming of your reign and make them one at last with you and with all who have gone before us in faith and love”.
In thanking those who attended, as well as the many Sisters who had assisted them on the journey, Michelle and Mai acknowledged that many had planned to be with them at the originally scheduled time in April and some Sisters had even booked flights to join them.
“Unexpectedly, the pandemic happened. We have rescheduled our Final Profession date a few times since, waiting and living in hope that the situation would get better and you would be able to join us. However, the pandemic just keeps going on, we have learnt that our lives are essentially ultimately unknown and we do not know where circumstances might take us. Therefore, we “selfishly” decided to go ahead and make our Final Profession today without everyone’s presence in person. Even though many of you are not here with us physically today, we are mindful that you are with us in spirit, that you have been thinking of us and that you are praying for us, not only during this year, but also throughout our formation journey of the last ten years. We are very grateful and privileged for your love, support and prayer which have certainly given us courage; strengthening and sustaining us in this Mercy journey and with our relationship with God. Thank you for being with us today either in person or via live stream, to give thanks to God for our gift of this Mercy journey and for the celebration of our commitment as Sisters of Mercy”.
The celebrations which followed after the ceremony included a celebration on the nature strip in the middle of the street outside. While this was obviously an unorthodox, yet necessary place due to COVID in which to celebrate, it in many ways matched the humble way in which Michelle and Mai have and will approach their lives as Sisters of Mercy.
Click on the arrow below to watch a video of the ceremony
Meryline Yasaku – firstname.lastname@example.org
Michelle Goh – email@example.com
Mai Nguyen-Doan – firstname.lastname@example.org