Even as early as 1905, the Australian Bishops urged congregations of common origin to unite so that their capacity for the vital work of Catholic education, as well for as other ministries would be strengthened. Although since the beginning there had been a number of movements towards unity for the various Mercy congregations in Australia, a most significant step in this direction happened with the creation of the Institute of the Sisters of Mercy of Australia (ISMA) on December 12, 1981. For thirty years, ISMA, which encompassed the 17 independent Australian Congregations of Sisters of Mercy and the Autonomous Region of Sisters of Mercy in Papua New Guinea (PNG), engaged fruitfully in God's mission. From 2005 the Sisters commenced formally searching for the best way to nurture our unity and to strengthen our capacity for engaging in God's mission of mercy.
The search involved much prayer, frequent theological reflection on the social needs of our time, careful study of the life and ministry of our founder, Catherine McAuley and her vision for religious life, and several comprehensive consultations in which all sisters were encouraged to participate. Eventually it led us to the point where 14 of the Congregations (Adelaide, Ballarat East, Bathurst, Cairns, Goulburn, Grafton, Gunnedah, Melbourne, Perth, Rockhampton, Singleton, Townsville, West Perth, Wilcannia Forbes) as well as the autonomous region of PNG, decided to ask the Holy See for permission to relinquish our independence and to come together as one new congregation. Rome granted this permission in July, 2011 to become effective at the commencement of the First Chapter of the new Congregation on December 12, the 180th anniversary of the founding of the Sisters of Mercy in Ireland. The new congregation is known as Institute of Sisters of Mercy of Australia and Papua New Guinea (ISMAPNG). Follow the journey here.
In forming the Institute, each of the 15 groups ceased to be a separate canonical and legal entity and its sisters are now members of the new Institute with all the rights and responsibilities of professed Sisters of Mercy.
Brisbane, North Sydney and Parramatta are independent Congregations.
The Sisters of Mercy, Brisbane, Sisters of Mercy, North Sydney, Sisters of Mercy, Parramatta and the Institute of Sisters of Mercy of Australia and Papua New Guinea, are united with each other through the enduring inspiration of Catherine McAuley, our shared history in Australia, our collaboration in works of mercy, the theological section of our constitutions and the many strong friendships among us.