A PILGRIMAGE TO THE HEART
7 November 2016
A group of sixteen Mercy Associates from throughout the Institute were privileged to travel to Ireland to undertake a pilgrimage to the Mercy International Centre at 64A Baggot Street Dublin from 4-10 September 2016. Mercy Associate, Anne O’Connell, together with Karon Donnellon rsm, led the group.
The group was also privileged to have Mary Kay Dobrovolny rsm and Mary Trainer rsm as the facilitators and presenters of the Pilgrimage program, both of whom have a great passion for and a great love of Catherine and her companions and whose stories they love to share.
During the program, the pilgrims were invited to explore and ponder the life and times of Catherine McAuley – from her early childhood with the loss of her dear father to the times in her adult life where she was compelled to find a way of living as the family fortune diminished.
The pilgrims participated in a number of moving liturgies and the highlight for many was the liturgy which included a procession to the small burial chapel containing Catherine’s grave in the grounds of Mercy International Centre. Another such liturgy, the Renewal of Commitment, was celebrated at the now deconsecrated chapel of the Presentation Sisters at George’s Hill where the pilgrims were able to hold in their hands the actual ring which Catherine received on her profession into religious life in this chapel in 1831.
As well as spending time at Mercy International Centre, the group visited a number of sites around Dublin which were important in Catherine’s life. Notable among these was a visit to Coolock House where the Sisters there were most welcoming and delighted in sharing Catherine’s story. A walk around the older part of Dublin city which would have been familiar territory to Catherine and her family was of great interest.
It was a great privilege to spend much of the pilgrimage at 64A Baggot Street, the house which Catherine built to achieve her dream of assisting the underprivileged in her community – to pray in the chapel where Catherine prayed, to visit the room where she died and her grave, to ponder the essence of Catherine and the women and men behind the letter correspondence to and from Catherine, and to explore the rich Heritage Centre which contained informative displays, and documents and objects of significant historical interest. One item which caught the eye of many was the first register which was so beautifully illuminated by Sr Mary Clare Augustine Moore but whose slow artistic progress was a source of annoyance for Catherine.
One day, the pilgrims journeyed outside Dublin to Glendalough, County Wicklow, one of the most sacred sites in Ireland where St Kevin established a monastic settlement in the sixth century. Although the weather was unfavourable, nevertheless, it was a joy to wander in the peaceful valley and learn of the life of this great saint.
The group enjoyed the wonderful hospitality of Mary Reynolds rsm, Margaret Scroope rsm, Kathy Higgins rsm and the other members of the staff and volunteers of Mercy International Centre. They were made to feel very welcomed and the comfortable accommodation and shared meals were much appreciated.
As Mercy Associates, the pilgrims were encouraged to realise that they were members of a worldwide Mercy Network consisting of Sisters of Mercy, associates, partners and volunteers who continue the work of Mercy started by Catherine almost 200 years ago: I felt God desired me to do something lasting for the poor. (C McAuley)
At their closing ritual, the pilgrims were invited to consider the following reflection as they prepared to return to their homes, with joyful thanks for being able to have made such a wonderful, spiritually uplifting pilgrimage and one where beautiful bonds of camaraderie were formed:
Choose God every day.
Choose to live the life God gives you to give.
Choose to live it as Jesus lived it, to the glory of the Father, and in service to human needs.
Choose to give the Gift you have been given with love, tender courage and humble cheerfulness.
And choose it every day.
- Be a steward of God’s great gift of mercy
- The Gift that explodes Divine Love into history, into the universe, even to unseen galaxies.
- And into unimagined recesses of the human heart.
…EMBRACE GOD’S GIFT . . . RECEIVE IT . . . Dispense it freely, immediately, luxuriously.
- For the gift evaporates in storage, BUT becomes the measure of oil and meal . . . NEVER EMPTY
- When constantly served to a world of people hungering to be
WRAPPED IN MERCY . . . ACCEPTED . . . LOVED . . . FORGIVEN . . . CHERISHED.
Messages to: Mercy Associates