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What does apostolic service mean for Mercy sisters?

During the year, members of the Institute Justice Network have discussed and reflected on the centrality of apostolic service for Sisters of Mercy. Sally Bradley RSM (Melbourne), Anne McGuire RSM (Rockhampton) and Celestine Pooley RSM (North Sydney) share their understanding of apostolic service.

The ‘Catherine vow’ as seen through the lens of women and poverty – Sally Bradley RSM

Descriptions of Sisters of Mercy as the “walking nuns” and “damn it, do it Mercies” have always struck a chord in me. Catherine’s familiar words: “The poor need help today, not next week” have always been one of my favourite sayings. All express the centrality of the fourth vow, that of apostolic service to our way of life as Sisters of Mercy. A service that is borne of a compassionate, contemplative heart and lived out in a practical response to real need in the world around us. When this vow was named as the “Catherine Vow” (at our Institute Justice Network Meeting in February 2010), I felt my heart stir and deep in my bones I responded with an energetic “Yes! That’s what I’m called to. That’s when I’m my best self.” Download the text of Sally’s article. (PDF 374KB)

“To do some lasting good for the poor…” – Anne McGuire RSM

In describing the qualities necessary in a person seeking to become a Sister of Mercy, Catherine wrote that she must have “an ardent desire to be united to God and serve the poor…” Commitment to the poor was inherent in Catherine and central to the way she lived. What we now refer to as “the fourth vow” was a constitutive element of Catherine’s life and indeed in the lives of those who came with her and after her. Download the text of Anne’s article. (PDF 322KB)

Justice as service: “Our Hearts Centered in God” – Celestine Pooley RSM

While some Mercy groups did not take the fourth vow of apostolic service, I believe all of us are conscious that Catherine saw apostolic service to the most disadvantaged as an imperative call for all her daughters. It was the driving force behind her commitment to the service of God’s people. Catherine was a deeply spiritual woman with a highly developed sense of social justice, fuelled by the desperate poverty she saw around her. This was the impetus that led her to build the first “House of Mercy” as a school for the education of poor young girls and a residence for homeless girls and women. It would eventually lead her, after long deliberation, to establish the new religious Institute of the Sisters of Mercy, thus giving their way of life and their work in health, education and welfare, canonical standing and stability. She established new foundations all over the country and beyond, to ensure that the mercy of Jesus would continue to flow, through her sisters, to those in greatest need. Download the text of Celstine’s article. (PDF 332KB)