Mercy at a Glance

In a 1979 Chapter, some Sisters of Mercy in Ireland engaged in a communal theological reflection process and decided to send sisters to a developing country. Brazil was chosen, and in December 1982 four sisters moved to this country. They located their ministry in an urban area of the Northeastern state of Paraiba, in the barrio of “Liberdale”.

Over the next nine years, six other sisters from Ireland moved to Brazil. In these years, the sisters ministered through the local parish in the formation of seventeen Basic Christian communities. They were involved in catechesis, liturgical planning, biblical reflection, literacy promotion, political formation, and the pastoral care of children and youth. Responding to a diocesan policy of the Brazilian church that recommended a community should only remain about six or seven years in an area, the community moved from the urban setting to a rural area of the same large state of Paraiba.

In the semi-arid rural area, the sisters experienced alongside the people of the area the difficulties of living in a drought-stricken area. They continued to minister within parish structures, but also became involved in education and health programmes.

In 1996, there was a move away from Basic Christian communities in the Brazilian church to the centralization of the parish, and the church’s option for the poor became less evident. This shift impacted the community’s ministry decisions and they became less affiliated with parish structures and moved to more direct ministry with women.

Today, there are two Sisters of Mercy who minister in Paraiba, which is a state that continues to be poverty stricken. This state is the second poorest in the country with over 47% of its population living in misery. Over 25% of its 3.3 million residents have no income at all. The Sisters of Mercy live among the poorest of the poor and engage in spiritual direction and reflection with individuals and groups of women, skill development, health promotion and adult literacy programmes.