Reflecting on the Unforgettable Mercy Leadership Program and Dublin Pilgrimage of 2023
I was privileged to be one of 28 Australian pilgrims, bought together from various Mercy Ministries and affiliated organisations, to complete the Mercy Ministry Companions sponsored pilgrimage program in 2023, impeccably hosted by Karon Donnellon RSM and Carmel Ross MMC Trustee Director. Comprising three distinctive modules spanning the year, this spiritual journey offered a deep exploration of the historical and social context of the Sisters of Mercy, fostered connections among kindred spirits, and engaged in meaningful ministry-related projects, which action Mercy within our local communities. This transformative journey equipped us all with the necessary tools and insights to embody the spirit of Mercy in our lives and ministries, with a view of creating a lasting impact inspired by Catherine McAuley’s legacy.
An Immersive Journey into the Legacy of Mercy
The Mercy Leadership Program, intricately intertwined with the Dublin Pilgrimage, provided a comprehensive experience of the remarkable work undertaken by Catherine McAuley and the pioneering women of Mercy. Beyond merely highlighting their values and visionary spirit, the participants artfully explored the timeless relevance of their legacy within the modern Mercy community worldwide.
Walking through the iconic red doors of Catherine’s House of Mercy in Lower Baggott Street, there was an instant feeling of welcome and a sense of Catherine’s warm affectionate embrace to others and now us. As we spent time here exploring the sacred halls a palpable sense of reverence and solidarity was evident among us all. Here, we also felt an undeniable connection to the women and children who sought help and sanctuary within these very walls. We developed a profound understanding of the arduous struggles and unwavering devotion to their divine mission through captivating lectures with insightful presenters, who imparted both knowledge and inspiration. We enjoyed moments of introspection, the poignant sharing of personal anecdotes and walking the staircase. Their commitment to social justice and the care of the vulnerable, left an indelible mark on us.
A Symbolic Gesture of Unity
Within the venerable walls of the House of Mercy, the MMC presented a symbolic gift, a message stick, to honour the traditional custodians of the lands from which the Australian partners in Mercy trace their ancestral heritage. Crafted by the skilled hands of Vicki Clark, a proud descendant of the Mutthi Mutthi tribe, the message stick symbolises a means of communication revered by Aboriginal nations and clans. This heartfelt gesture effectively underscored the universal message of Mercy and was graciously received by Sr Patricia O’Donovan RSM, the esteemed CEO of Mercy International Association.
A Profound Connection with Mercy’s Heritage
Our immersive experience into Catherine’s life included a showcase of heritage items belonging to Catherine herself. This comprised of Catherine’s personal ring and Crucifix, her Original Last Will and Testament, remarkable artwork created by Mary Claire Augustine Moore and a delicate Emu Egg Clock bought to Ireland by Sr Vincent Whitty in 1871 from Brisbane. These along with other items will be proudly displayed in a new heritage museum currently in development.
We embarked on a captivating walking tour of Catherine’s Dublin. This enlightening tour allowed us to witness firsthand important landmarks in Catherine’s life and included a visit to St Teresa’s on Clarendon St, where the sisters of Mercy walked to mass and thirteen Sisters of Mercy are buried in its crypt. Presentation Convent on Georges Hill was also very special. It was here Catherine began her novitiate in 1830 and was professed according to a special vow formula approved by the Archbishop. We all enjoyed an impromptu acapella version of Catherine’s Suscipe, beautifully led by current Mercy sisters and performed by pilgrim members, in honour of Catherine. The Walking tour served as an expressive reminder of the rich history that shaped Catherine McAuley’s remarkable journey and the lasting legacy.
We also visited Coolock house where Catherine resided with the Callahan’s from 1809 and from which her Mercy vision was able to materialise through its sale. Standing in the very place where she once lived, we gained a deeper appreciation for the humble beginnings of the mercy movement and the profound impact of Catherine’s enduring presence.
A Moment of Reflection and Consolidation
A highlight of this transformative pilgrimage was the enchanting day trip to Glendalough, a historic monastic settlement renowned for its spiritual feel and a revered destination of learning during early Christian Ireland. Amidst the serene beauty of this sacred enclave of the Wicklow Mountains, we found solace and engaged in moments of deep reflection, consolidating our newfound comprehensions. Here we experienced a Labyrinth, which is walked as a meditative practice. It is symbolic of a journey to the centre then out again in silence, which we understood to be a true gift to ourselves and a necessary one.
Embracing Diversity, Fostering Camaraderie
Integral to this Mercy Leadership Program was the fostered feeling of belonging within our group. This enabled us the comfort to enjoy the rich diversity represented in our individual offerings whilst uniting us as a collective. It sparked vibrant discussions and inspired innovative approaches towards upholding the cherished Mercy charism in our modern Mercy ministries. This profound sense of community and camaraderie that permeated our journey was truly representative of the transformative power of mercy in fostering meaningful connections and collaborative efforts.
A Renewed Commitment to Mercy
On return and completion of the Mercy Leadership Program and the Dublin Pilgrimage I carry with me a renewed sense of purpose, cherished connections and inspiration in Catherine’s faith. It serves as a catalyst for personal growth in our own faith journeys with messages such as “Our hearts can always be in the same place, centred on God.” May our collective pilgrimage be a testament to the enduring power of faith, unity, and a formative journey towards Christ in the culture of Mercy.
Daniel Jans, St Martin House Leader, Damascus College Ballarat