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My first connection with the world of the Sisters of Mercy was not until my adult years. Although I attended Catholic schools for all of my primary and secondary education, as it turned out none of them was in a location where the Sisters of Mercy were present.

The most significant connection I had in previous years with the Sisters involved the former Cairns Mercy congregation. I was Director of Catholic Education in Cairns from 2002-07, and during those years the Sisters and the Diocese of Cairns came to an agreement to transfer ownership of their boarding school at Herberton to the Diocese. This initiative was of immense importance to the Sisters because the motherhouse for the congregation was on the same site as the college. Over quite some time, I had the chance to meet and talk with every Sister in the Cairns congregation. I was struck by many of the qualities they each had and which characterised their ethos as a group of religious women: they welcomed me openly, they were attentive listeners, they knew and accepted the importance of doing what was best for the college, the students and the diocese, they trusted God and the CEO staff involved to handle the matter with the care it deserved.

Their faith was natural to them, simply part of who they were, and to this day I remain in contact with some of them though I now live on the other side of Australia – on a farm 90km north of Perth. They were an inspiration to me of what living faith looks like and feels like – women of prayer and action who improve the lives of others, and who could bring out the best in those they encountered because they were so humble yet impressive themselves.

In more recent years my work as an organisational consultant has involved working on initiatives for ISMAPNG. These have included projects on Rahamim in Bathurst, the Young Mercy Justice Network, the Catherine McAuley Award in WA, and earlier this year the Stand Up for Mercy proposal for young adult ministry.

The other major initiative I’ve been working on for a few years for ISMAPNG is Mercy Associates. During my last few years in Cairns the local Sisters invited me to become a Mercy Associate in the Cairns group, and despite now living in WA for eight years and having made a connection with the Perth group, I remain on their mailing list! At this personal level, I know how enriching the experience of being a Mercy Associate can be. When I was invited to conduct the consultation process for the draft Vision and Model drawn up by the working party during 2012-13, it was a great way to become more involved again and I knew what the potential of this initiative was.
Now, after a couple of years of research, discussion and discernment, the Mercy Associates movement is undergoing a renewal, with wonderful support and encouragement from the Institute. We are developing resources to support existing groups and will endeavour to establish new groups, with some interest already being shown in this possibility. It’s an important opportunity for lay women and men to work alongside the Sisters of Mercy with a focus on the Mercy charism as lay people can and do live it. I know how fortunate I am to be involved in this work and to continue to be associated with the Sisters of Mercy.

Messages to  Carmel Ross