TO MAKE GOD’S MERCY KNOWN
An important milestone was achieved on Saturday 11th June this year when a large group of Sisters of Mercy, Mercy Associates and supporters gathered at the Lewisham Institute Office, NSW to formally launch the new vision and model for Mercy Associates.
The ceremony included readings about the sharing of a religious charism with lay women and men, the gifts of Catherine McAuley, the history of Mercy Associates in Australia, and a healing miracle from John’s gospel. Prayers and the singing of Circle of Mercy added to the sacred nature of the gathering. The sense of joy was palpable at the realisation that a movement that has been important to a number of individual Mercy congregations over the years has been given new life and energy within the Institute through the efforts of committees and working parties in the last few years.
Sr Berneice Loch, Institute Leader, spoke about the importance of the Mercy Associates movement to ISMAPNG, leading to a commitment by the Institute to support the renewal of the movement.
We know that the Mercy of God is more fully expressed through our collaboration with others. While Mercy Associates respond to the call to Mercy in a way that is distinct from that of a religious vocation, there are many common elements. Side-by-side the two paths offer mutual support and practical assistance as we both work to make God’s Mercy known in our world. Just like a religious vocation, Associates live out their Mercy calling by utilising their unique talents.
Those attending included the Institute Leadership Team and a number of Sisters who have supported Mercy Associates groups over the years, as well as Sisters who have formation as part of their focus. Mercy Associates also attended, though the size of Australia meant that most were unable to be present. Among the gathering there were representatives from around Australia including Caringbah, Ballarat, Apollo Bay, Tuart Hill, Tighe’s Hill, Townsville, Cairns and Goulburn.
There are eighteen Mercy Associates groups at present, and a Mercy Friends movement is emerging in Papua New Guinea. Each group will be invited to hold the launch ceremony in their own location to convey their commitment to the renewal of the Mercy Associates movement. The first of these has already been held in Perth with the Tuart Hill Mercy Associates group holding their launch. Sisters Clare Rafferty and Elizabeth Nicholls give an account of this gathering:
Attendance at the Launch was not possible for any of the Associates from Perth. On Sunday 19th June, Carmel Ross, Mercy Associates Executive Officer, came to the monthly meeting of Mercy Associates at St Catherine’s House of Hospitality in Tuart Hill to meet with them and to lead the Associates through the Launch ceremony.
Our Associates appreciated hearing the Mercy Story again and recognising themselves as part of a wider Australian and World-wide group of people who aspire to follow in the footsteps of Catherine McAuley in bringing God’s Mercy to all the people whose lives they touch.
The group was enlivened and encouraged by the words of Isaiah – ‘Enlarge the place of your tent, stretch your tent curtains wide, do not hold back; lengthen your cords, strengthen your stakes.’(Isa 54:2).
1) Symbols used in the ritual
2) Berneice Loch (Institute Leader) and Les Stewart (Associate, Ballarat)
3) Perth Associates
4) Sydney Associates