Archivists’ Conference (2009)

The Third International Mercy Archivists’ Conference entitled 'Mercy Outreach: Past, Present, and Beyond' was held from 5 – 10 November 2009 at Mercy Center in Burlingame, California.

This conference brought together 53 archivists, communicators, congregational and provincial leaders, heritage personnel, and historians from Aotearoa New Zealand, Australia, Chile, Ireland, Kenya, Newfoundland, South Africa, United Kingdom, and United States.

Row 1 (L-R): Patricia Bell rsm (Great Britain Institute/MIA), Rosaline O’Connor rsm (Ireland/US), Maureen McGarrigle rsm (Americas/US), Peter Connell (Australia), Jean Olwen Maynard (Great Britain Union), Cait O’Dwyer rsm (Ireland), Mary Kay Dobrovolny rsm (Americas/MIA), Elizabeth O’Hara rsm (Americas/US).
Row 2 (L-R): Sheila Carney rsm (Americas/US), Mary Lyons rsm (Ireland [WP]), Theresa Rutty rsm (Americas/Chile), Patricia Moran rsm (Ireland/Kenya), Angela Bugler rsm (Ireland), Mary Jeremy Buckman rsm (Americas/US), Susan Nowalis rsm (Americas/US), Agnes Gleeson rsm (Australia), Ann Marie McQuaid rsm (Ireland).
Row 3 (L-R): Cecilia English rsm (Ireland), Miriam Grech rsm (Australia), Marianne Cosgrave (Ireland/MIA), Katherine Doyle rsm (Americas/US), Jennifer Kiuvu rsm (Ireland/Kenya), Stephanie Kitching rsm (New Zealand), Marilyn Gouailhardou rsm (Americas/US), Majella O’Keefe rsm (Ireland).
Row 4 (L-R): Mary Coyle rsm (Ireland), Margaret O’Sullivan (New Zealand), Madonna Gatherall rsm (Newfoundland), Mary Lyons rsm (Ireland [SP]), Ita Keane rsm (Great Britain Union), Barbara Jeffery rsm (Great Britain Institute), Eleanor Little rsm (Americas/US), Cathy Edge rsm (Great Britain Institute), Marion McCarthy rsm (Great Britain Institute), Angela Forde rsm (Ireland), Roberta Doelling (Americas/US), Brenda Phelan rsm (Newfoundland), Joan Freney rsm (Americas/US).
Row 5 (L-R): Kay Lane rsm (Australia), Jane McGee (Australia), Eithne Lowther rsm (Ireland/US), Judith Weiley rsm (Australia), Monica Sinclair rsm (Australia), Joanne Ng Murphy (Australia), Kate Lewis (Great Britain Institute), Elizabeth Fletcher rsm (Ireland/Kenya), Anne Hewitt rsm (Great Britain Institute), Maria Goretti Comerford rsm (Ireland), Jean Evans (Ireland/South Africa), Monte Kniffen (Americas/US). Not pictured: Annie Medley (Australia). 
Photo courtesy of Genemarie Beegan rsm (Americas/US).

The Director of Heritage and Spirituality, assisted by a part-time professional archivist provides oversight for MIA artefacts and archives currently held at Mercy International Centre, Baggot Street, and the Catherine McAuley Centre, Herbert Street, Dublin.

A number of subgroups (commissions) are in place to further the purposes of the worldwide association: one such grouping is the Archives Committee.


Mercy International Centre

Mercy International Centre holds a precious collection of artefacts associated with Catherine McAuley. These include a large collection of her letters, many items of personal memorabilia, and a number of gifts received by her from supportive friends and benefactors as well as furniture and other goods which she brought with her to Baggot Street in 1827.

A number of very special items are on permanent loan to the Mercy International Centre, including Catherine’s Profession Ring and her cincture.

Mercy International Centre also holds a collection of the art and calligraphy work of Sr. Clare Augustine, contemporary of Catherine McAuley as well as the drawings of Sr. Clare Agnew, who produced vivid depictions of the early works of Mercy.

The International Room of the centre has a collection of craft from many of the cultures with which Mercy inter-relates today.

The display boards of the heritage centre tell the stories of how the mercy mission spread throughout the world through daring women willing to bring the founding spirit of Catherine to all parts of the world to address whatever the most significant needs might be.

The Library

A Library is currently being fitted out in order to house a book collection held by MIA. The Library has three main sections:

  • Biographies of Catherine McAuley and some of the early founding sisters;
  • a selection of spiritual books from each decade since 1830;
  • a collection of books, written by or about Sisters of Mercy and Mercy Ministries.

It is hoped that this library will be a resource that nurtures and promotes interest and research on Mercy topics.

Click here to view the Mercy Bibliography
International Register

The development of the International Mercy Register is ongoing. This register is intended to hold the name and some information about every Mercy sister from Catherine McAuley to the present day. This entails enormous work and gratitude is due to all the Mercy archivists throughout the world who are working on this painstaking task.The Register holds close to 55,000 names.

Inventory of Primary Source Material

This computerized inventory aims at assembling all Primary Source Materials in Mercy Archives world wide. The first section of the inventory focusses on primary source materials generated by Catherine McAuley, her autograph letters, poems etc. The collection and logging of materials for this part of the inventory is complete.

The second section of the inventory, which refers to original writings of a sister who entered a Mercy Convent before or during 1850, in her own handwriting is in progress. Once again great gratitude is due to our Mercy archivists who are engaged in the gathering and registering of all these numerous writings, since this too requires extensive and painstaking work.

Worldwide Mercy Networks

To ensure that documentation of the Mercy story is protected, preserved and used in such a way that it is an inspiration for contemporary and future Mercy mission, MIA is keen to promote networking among Mercy archivists on a worldwide basis and to identify the character and location of the current archival holdings of the Members.Conservationist work for this valuable Mercy International Archive as well as the work of identifying, labelling and filing it is carried on by a professional archivist who is engaged by MIA on a part-time basis. A catalogue of the MIA archive collection has been compiled and apolicy governing access to the collection is in place.

Marion McCarthy rsm provided an update of the work of the Archives committee from November 2001 until April 2009.

Peter Connell described the planning and implementation processes for developing Mercy Heritage Center in Brisbane, Australia.

Barbara Jeffery rsm discussed the transformation of some of the buildings and grounds of St. Mary’s Convent in Handsworth, England, into a heritage centre.

Monica Sinclair rsm explained how the Singleton (Australia) Congregation fulfilled its Chapter decision to develop and open up its buildings and land to the wider community for the promotion of Mercy values of spirituality, service, hospitality, and culture.

Katherine Doyle rsm explored the challenges and opportunities presented by permanent displays, temporary displays, and museum exhibitions.

Angela Bugler rsm provided an introduction to oral archives, including their purpose, strengths, and limitations, as well as examples of oral archives from the Congregation of Sisters of Mercy (Ireland).

Anne Marie McQuaid rsm talked about the interview process that the Congregation of Sisters of Mercy (Ireland) uses in expanding their oral archives.

Marianne Cosgrave presented information about the preservation and storage of oral archives material, as well as ethical and legal issues to be considered.

Kate Lewis discussed the limitations of present archival indices and thesauruses for religious congregations and presented the need for a Mercy subject thesaurus.

Sheila Carney rsm, vice postulator for the Cause of Catherine McAuley’s Canonization, talked about the process for canonization, how Catherine’s Cause is proceeding, and some of the value that Catherine’s canonization would be to the Church.

Mary Lyons rsm is a canon lawyer. She discussed the responsibilities of leadership and the rights and responsibilities of archivists for the preservation and careful handling of archival material. She included an overview of what should be kept in personal files and the documents to be kept permanently, and the importance of familiarity with both civil and canon law pertinent to archives.