Archived News Item

Circle of Mercy reflects on embracing difference

The “Circle of Mercy”, the name given to the Mercy Associates linked to the Wilcannia-Forbes Congregation, recently met for their bi-monthly spiritual meeting. Thirty-four of the group gathered at Our Lady of Fatima Chapel in Caringbah (Sydney) on May 12 to hear Sister Karon Donnellon RSM speak on the topic “Embracing Difference”. Sister Nance Cale, the group’s mentor, reports.

On May 12 the Circle of Mercy, the name given to the Mercy Associates linked to the Wilcannia-Forbes Congregation, met for their bi-monthly spiritual meeting. Thirty-four of our group gathered at Our Lady of Fatima Chapel, Caringbah. For many years Sister Mary Mutlow RSM led or linked the group to our congregation, but I have replaced Mary in this role.

Sister Karon Donnellon RSM was the guest speaker who shared with us on the topic of “Embracing Difference”. The group began with a reflection on the reading from the Acts of the Apostles. Pentecost calls the whole Church into God’s mission. On that day the Spirit became tangible. As we reflected on the second reading, we are not only invited to be disciples in our world, but we are reminded that when the disciples spoke each person present heard them in their own language. It was an all inclusive Spirit who came into the world.

What does that mean for us today, this total embrace of difference? The challenge is to welcome the one who is not like myself. This was a challenging topic as we are so often embedded in our early life experiences and prejudices: these at times continuing to be part of our thinking and presumptions. Karon shared with us her own memory of family and many life experiences in ministry which was so refreshing and evoked much laughter!

In coming to “Embrace Difference” we are changed – becoming non-judgemental, compassionate and understanding of others. We begin to walk in their shoes.

In the group sharing of personal experience we became more aware that people who are “different” are judged on appearance. One of the group offered her experience of her dearly loved autistic grandson who was having a tantrum in a shop and a passer-by commented disparagingly of the child and his parenting without knowing this little boy’s particular circumstances. The child, however, was lucky enough to have a grandmother who was quick to defend and explained his disability to the passer-by, who apologised. BUT…

From there the group explored what it meant to live in a city like Sydney with its cultural diversity and the challenge this presented. The challenge to see the person, not the problems, the need not the demands, the embrace Pentecost calls for not the comfort isolation gives us.

This reflection concluded our time together with a quote from Patricia Smith, “Mercy Values Today: Ever Ancient, Ever New” which states:

“If we wish to sow the seeds of real hope in our world, I think Catherine McAuley would say: This is the way we must do it – one person at a time: one answering of the figurative doorbell, one opening of the figurative door, one embrace of the stranger, one welcoming of the other, one sharing of our bread and milk – one persons at a time.” (page 31, Morning and Evening Prayer of the Sisters of Mercy)

Bettye Da Rosa, one of our Circle of Mercy women offered her reflection on the day: “I enjoyed Karon’s presentation of ‘Embracing Difference’ because she was down to earth, with a good sense of humour, without losing the serious side of things. As far as the spiritual, it was a lot of fun! She somehow challenged us to think that it is always time for us to do something about reaching out to other people, especially those of other cultures. It is for us to embrace the different people in our lives. I thoroughly enjoyed the morning as we shared with each other. As we enjoyed our lunch together we felt liberated and nourished spiritually and bodily”.

We ended the sessions sharing lunch and a comfortable cup of tea.

From: Nance Cale RSM (Local Communications Facilitator, Wilcannia-Forbes)