Module 2 of the Mercy Leadership Program and Dublin Pilgrimage, sponsored by Mercy Ministry Companions, took place from 30 April – 6 May in Dublin. In August, the group will meet again in Melbourne for the third and final module of the leadership program.
We have collected a series of reflections from participants to share with you; those participants include Carmel Ross, Co-Facilitator and MMC Trustee Director; Gabrielle McMullen, MMC Trustee Director; John Sutherland, Director of MacKillop Family Services; Trent Dean, CEO Mercy Connect; Veronica Parker, Principal, St Brigid’s College, Lesmurdie, Western Australia and Marcelle Mogg; Director of Mercy Community Services Australia Ltd.
The Journey of a Lifetime
A group of 28 pilgrims from Mercy Ministries across Australia has just concluded a week in Dublin, with much of their program delivered at Catherine’s House in Baggot Street. As well as personnel from Mercy Ministry Companions, we were joined by Sisters from ISMAPNG, and personnel of Mercy Works, Damascus College, Ballarat and Our Lady Of Mercy College, Parramatta.
I was fortunate to work alongside Karon Donnellon RSM as co-facilitator of the program, which commenced at the end of March with a two day introductory program in Melbourne. I think we knew then that this was a wonderful group, whose enthusiasm for this program was apparent.
The weather in Dublin was kind to us. With some elements of the program taking place outdoors – first, a walking tour of the parts of Dublin Catherine and her Sisters ministered in. Then a day trip to Glendalough, a place of spectacular natural beauty and the location of the ruins of an ancient monastery founded by St Kevin – we were grateful for the prayers of Sr Peggy at Glendalough, as we had a delightful day of fine weather.
Pilgrimages are a graced, privileged time. Being so far from home and the routines of daily life provides the opportunity for both personal and professional reflection. The speakers at the House of Mercy gave engaging presentations on the life of Mary Anne Doyle, RSM, one of the founding Sisters, as well as Ursula Frayne and Vincent Whitty, two Sisters from Baggot Street who founded congregations in Australia. The challenges of responding to the needs of people and the planet were addressed, as well as the initiatives of Mercy Global Action.
Needless to say, there were ample opportunities for social time and a warm camaraderie developed among the group – supported by a welcome dinner on the opening day; drinks at the local Waterloo Hotel mid-week; and a farewell dinner on the final evening. A last-minute program addition proved to be a highlight of the week, when Patricia O’Donovan RSM, the new CEO of Mercy International Association, joined Cathy Jenkins from Mercy Health to provide a musical soiree in the Chapel. Both talented musicians, Cathy played the magnificent organ first, then joined Patricia to play and sing a number of items, combining their talents on guitar and keyboard.
As the week moved into its final days, participants began to identify a project they can undertake in their own ministry over the next few months. In August the group will gather again in Melbourne for a follow-up seminar and the presentation of the projects.
Feedback has yet to be analysed in detail, but without doubt the pilgrims enjoyed the week in Dublin and found it personally and professionally enriching. The fruit of an experience of this nature needs time to mature and ripen, but Karon and I are in no doubt that our pilgrims are richer for this experience and will take their new insights into their ministry roles.
Carmel Ross, Co-Facilitator and MMC Trustee Director
The Global Message of Mercy
I was privileged to participate in the first Mercy Ministry Companions (MMC) pilgrimage to Dublin and Catherine McAuley’s House of Mercy. The pilgrimage has three modules – the first took place in March this year when the pilgrims gathered in Melbourne for two days to deepen their understanding of pilgrimage and the historical and social context of the founding of the Sisters of Mercy, and to get to know one another. The second module was the pilgrimage itself and the third is the completion of a ministry-related project and a presentation about the latter at a gathering of the pilgrims in August. Other articles in this newsletter vividly recount aspects of the pilgrimage. My focus is on MMC’s presentation to the House of Mercy to mark the occasion of the first MMC pilgrimage.
On behalf of MMC, the Trustee Directors purchased a message stick to present to the House of Mercy. The message stick is the work of Vicki Clark, a descendant of the Mutthi Mutthi tribe of South West New South Wales, who is currently a Board Director of MMC’s MacKillop Family Services.
MMC provided the House of Mercy with an explanation of the message stick’s symbols and the associated ritual. In making the presentation, we indicated that message sticks were a form of communication between Aboriginal nations, clans and language groups and now, when we use this ritual, we honour the traditional owners of the lands from which the Australian partners in Mercy come. Sr Patricia O’Donovan RSM, new CEO of Mercy International Association, accepted the gift on behalf of the House of Mercy. The occasion highlighted the significance of the global message of Mercy.
Gabrielle McMullen, MMC Trustee Director
A Brilliant Program
It was a privilege to be a participant in the 2023 Mercy Leadership Program and Dublin Pilgrimage. The Program was very well structured and the facilitators played a pivotal role ensuring the Program flowed very well. All presenters were very interesting and informative.
The Program provided me with an excellent overview of the trail blazing work of the early women of Mercy under the inspiring leadership of Catherine McAuley. The Program also effectively outlined the values and vision that Catherine pursued and lived by and how these values and vision are still relevant and being followed by the Mercy group across the world today.
Another benefit and reward for me arising out of the Program was the opportunity to mix and interrelate with the other Mercy participants who had a wide and diversified range of experiences. A brilliant Program!
John Sutherland, Director of MacKillop Family Services
An Unforgettable Journey
As our group of 28 Australian pilgrims first walked through the iconic, red doors of 64A Lower Baggot Street, there was a collective sense of awe and reverence for the history and mission of this important institution. Walking throughout the halls and rooms of the House of Mercy each day, we felt a tangible connection to the women and children who had previously sheltered there, and a greater sense of solidarity with the Sisters of Mercy and their commitment to social justice and caring for those in need.
With each lecture, reflection, and reading thoughtfully offered, we gained a deeper understanding of the inexorable trials faced by Catherine McAuley, including her inner struggles with self-doubt and fear of failure. Importantly, we learned how Catherine remained committed to her mission of serving the poor and vulnerable, an incredible testament to the power of faith, compassion, and perseverance in the face of ongoing adversity.
For any Mercy leaders invited to undertake the Dublin Pilgrimage as part of the Mercy Leadership Program, I can affirm that it is a transformative experience that will deepen your personal connection to Catherine McAuley and the Sisters of Mercy, and hopefully rekindle your own resolve “…To be good today, but better tomorrow.”
Trent Dean, CEO of Mercy Connect
Custodians of the Charism
Our journey to the ‘well’ of Mercy presented a wonderful opportunity for me and 27 other pilgrims to contextually experience the many and varied aspects of the Mercy story at 64 Baggot Street, Dublin, Ireland. Catherine’s life of love, courage and selflessness unfolded in the stories that were shared during our 7-day pilgrimage. Whilst it was not my first visit to Baggot Street, it was imbued with an abundance of new learning, sharing and joy-filled experiences.
The week presented many highlights. On our arrival at Baggot street on day one, we gathered as pilgrims at the statue of Catherine McAuley, in front of the big red Georgian doors. Our prayer and reflection led to the formal entry into the house that was established almost 200 years ago by our Mercy foundress. It was a door that led into a space of welcome, in which all who entered experienced the love of God. It was a reminder of the vision of Catherine McAuley and the important part that we each play in continuing this rich legacy.
The stories of Catherine McAuley and the early sisters were inspiring, however so too were the stories of the 28 pilgrims I journeyed with. The ministries that were represented in our group enabled a rich and robust dialogue, enabling diverse thinking. In new and creative ways, the Mercy charism could flourish, honouring the past, yet embracing a new way of doing things for a new era.
The week included a day trip to Glendalough in the Wicklow Mountains National Park. Glendalough is a community located about 45 minutes from Dublin and is home to an early Medieval monastic settlement founded in the 6th century. It is also renowned for its beauty, a centre of learning in early Christian Ireland and its founder St Kevin. The day provided an opportunity to have space to consolidate learning and friendships. It also provided some time for prayer and reflection.
I am thankful to Mercy Ministry Companions for this opportunity to engage with other Mercy men and women in understanding the important work that we do in continuing the legacy of our Mercy sisters. It was a week in which our Mercy ministries shared alignment in the fulfillment of our goals and visions. It was a week of friendship and fellowship and I return home enriched from my pilgrim experience.
Veronica Parker, Principal, St Brigid’s College, Lesmurdie, Western Australia
Dublin Pilgrimage 2023
I thoroughly enjoyed the Dublin Pilgrimage and learnt many interesting things about the history of Catherine McAuley. It was great to meet other senior representatives of the Mercy family and reflect on our experiences in our respective Ministries.
I look forward to living the values in both a professional and personal context, and to further collaborating with other members of the Ministries in the future.
Matthew Posar, Chief Financial Officer, Mercy Health Australia
A Privileged Experience
The experience of pilgrimage, accompanied by leaders from across Mercy and associated ministries, was a privileged time. Time to be slow and to listen to the stories, questions and insights of other pilgrims and to listen to the story of Catherine and the first Sisters of Mercy.
It afforded each of us time to reflect on the work we do, the challenges and opportunities ahead, and how we might respond more fully to realise better outcomes for those we serve, in partnership with them.
At Glendalough, the site of an ancient Celtic monastery, we took time to connect with the sense of spirit that pervades the valley. There was something deeply comforting and affirming in knowing that we followed in the footsteps of thousands of others who had walked these paths before us.
Similarly, in the house built by Catherine McAuley, it is easy to see the lines of her faith and her hope writ large. Catherine’s love for those she served can be traced as a tangible line from her life, continuing through the lives and actions of those who succeeded her, to those of us privileged to share in her spirit and legacy today.
Pilgrimage is about following in the footsteps of those who walk in faith – the countless pilgrims who have gone before us, including Catherine – towards Christ. There is comfort too in knowing that as we walk the path, we keep the way open and accessible to those who will follow tomorrow.
Sincere thanks to Sr Karon Donnellon RSM, Carmel Ross and my pilgrim companions for the light, laughter and love shared in abundance. A time of mercy, blessing and grace.
Marcelle Mogg, CEO of Mental Health Victoria and Director of Mercy Community Services Australia Ltd