Archived News Item

Significant Moment for the Institute

The recent gathering of Sisters of Mercy from many parts of Australia marked the beginning of an important time for the Institute of Sisters of Mercy of Australia and Papua New Guinea.

“The publication of this first edition of the approved Constitutions for the Institute of Sisters of Mercy of Australia and Papua New Guinea is a significant milestone in the establishment of the spirit and identity of this new band of Sisters of Mercy.”

These words, written by our Institute Leader, Berneice Loch RSM, introduce the Foreword of our revised and recently approved Constitutions and were used in the ritual for the first launch of the Constitutions and Directory held in Sydney on 7 September, 2013.

Photo: No 1 – Sr Carlene Allen receiving her copy of the Constitutions from Sister Annette Schneider, member of the Institute Leadership Team. No 2 – Srs Maureen McManus (L) and Mary Lynch after the Ceremony.

Following the Second Vatican Council, all religious congregations were required to revise their Constitutions or Rule of Life. In 1981 Sisters of Mercy in Australia and

Papua New Guinea received revised Constitutions which now had two parts – (1) an inspirational section, which all have come to particularly value and appreciate, and (2) a juridic section.

Prior to the first Chapter of the newly established Institute of Sisters of Mercy of Australia and Papua New Guinea in 2011, after much consultation and conversation, a refreshing of the inspirational section (Part 1) was undertaken in terms of contemporary theology and language and the juridic section (Part 2) was updated to describe much that is both new and different in the life of the new Institute. It is this new document which is now being launched around Australia and in Papua New Guinea.

The sisters who gathered for the Launch came from one of four Australian States or from Papua New Guinea, thus making tangible the Institute’s new identity as an international group of Sisters of Mercy. Given this geographic spread of sisters, it was an occasion for some to meet some others for the first time. In the coming months, as launches take place in ten different places throughout both Papua New Guinea and Australia, many other sisters will also have the opportunity to meet and experience our growing identity as a new Institute.

Photo: Sr Bernadette Franks (R) receivers her copy of the Constitutions from Sr Theresia Tina, member of the Institute Leadership Team.

In the context of a prayerful and reflective ritual which gave expression in word, song and action to the spirituality that is common to us as Sisters of Mercy, each Sister received her copy of the Constitutions and Directory from a member of our Institute Leadership team.

In the presence of the lighted candle of the 2011 Institute Chapter, our prayer recognised the two spirit-filled women of our tradition, namely Mary whom we name, as our special patron, Mother of Mercy, and Catherine McAuley, our foundress.

The words of Mary Sullivan in her book, “Catherine McAuley and the Tradition of Mercy” were very fitting for our reflection time, namely that:

“…the most important of Catherine McAuley’s writings is the original Rule and Constitutions of the Sisters of Mercy … it is the most comprehensive written expression of Catherine’s thought”.

The Word of God proclaimed in our ritual spoke of Mary as a merciful and just woman in her day. Our responses to these texts challenged us to “continue to give expression to the mercy and loving kindness of God in our world.” (from the Ritual)

As stated by Berneice in the Foreword, the Constitutions are “a special gift to the Institute, providing a firm foundation on which to base our directions and decisions”. This edition of the Constitutions can also be appreciated for its beautiful presentation in colour and images. An expression of deep gratitude is due to all those who have brought us to this moment – the receiving of the Constitutions for the Institute of Sisters of Mercy of Australia and Papua New Guinea.

Faith Jones rsm