Mercy International Research Conference 2007

Photo taken by Genemarie Beegan rsm in the Burlingame Chapel

The Mercy International Research Conference was held at Mercy Center, Burlingame, California, on November 9-12, 2007.

The twenty-six invited researchers came from all over the Mercy world, including nearly all of the congregations of Sisters of Mercy whose leaders compose the Mercy International Association (MIA).

They engaged in a Theological Reflection Process. The theme of the conference was:

“‘Fire Cast on the Earth—Kindling’: Being Mercy in the Twenty-First Century.”

The words of Catherine McAuley in the theme are from her letter to Elizabeth Moore on 28 July 1840. She is commenting on the Christ-given zeal and mercifulness of the English postulants preparing for the foundation in Birmingham.

Social Analysis: A Canadian Perspective

Elizabeth M. Davis is Congregation Leader of the Sisters of Mercy of Newfoundland (Canada) and a doctoral student in Scripture at the University of Toronto. She has taught high school, has served as Chief Executive Officer of St. Clare’s Mercy Hospital and the Regional Health Authority in St. John’s, Newfoundland, and presently serves on several national health boards in Canada.

Africa: Urbanisation & Proliferation of Slums

Kenyan born, Anne Itotia first trained as a teacher and worked both in class and school administration for ten years. Currently, she is on sabbatical after six years of team Leadership at the Congregational level (2000-2006). She has also worked as the African Justice Desk coordinator in Pretoria, South Africa.

Global Human Trafficking: A Mercy Concern

Elizabeth McMillan teaches theology in San Pedro Sula, Honduras, and is engaged in community organizing with women and in religious vocation and formation ministry. In the past she has taught at the seminary of the Missionary Fraternity of Mary in Guatemala City (1992-1998), at Carlow College, Pittsburgh, and at Loyola University in Chicago. Betsy holds a Ph.D. in philosophy from Catholic University of Louvain in Belgium, and an M.A. from Marquette University.

The History and Experience of Latinos/Hispanics in the United States

Ana Maria Pineda, born in San Salvador and raised in the Latino sector of San Francisco, holds an S.T.D. in Pastoral Theology from the Universidad Pontificia de Salamanca, Spain. She is an Associate Professor in Religious Studies at Santa Clara University since 1997. Ana Maria has received the Yves Congar Award for Theological Excellence from Barry University, Florida, and an Honorary Doctorate in Theology from Saint Xavier University, Chicago, and is a founding member of the influential Hispanic Theological Initiative which provides scholarships and mentoring for Latino doctoral theological students.

Social Analysis: Pacific Islands Perspective

Senolita Vakata is a member of the Sisters of Mercy, Aotearoa New Zealand. She currently ministers on the islands of Tonga, South West Pacific, working with Caritas Tonga and coordinating the diocesan office for Justice and Development. Among many other endeavors, Senolita organizes workshops on Environmental Justice. She holds a degree in theology from Yarra Theological Union, Melbourne, Australia.

Catherine McAuley in the Nineteenth & 21st Centuries

Mary Sullivan taught Literature and Writing courses at the Rochester Institute of Technology for 35 years. She is now Professor Emerita and Dean Emerita of RIT. She is the author of Catherine McAuley and the Tradition of Mercy and editor of The Correspondence of Catherine McAuley, 1818-1841. She lectures on Catherine McAuley, directs Mercy retreats, and supports poor families in the neighborhood of her community.

History of The Sisters of Mercy of Ireland in Terms of the Ministry of Spirituality

Bonnie Brennan’s main ministry is Spiritual Direction, Supervision and Retreat Giving. She is also involved in promoting Mercy spirituality through retreats and talks on Catherine McAuley, and the publication of ‘It Commenced with Two ….’, and ‘According to Catherine.’ She is presently co-ordinator, for the Northern Province (Ireland), of the ‘Circle of Mercy,’ a form of association which involves Sisters of Mercy and lay women and men as equal members.

A U.S. Sister of Mercy Dialogues with Tradition

A member of the Northeast/Connecticut community, Dolores Liptak has authored five books on European immigration to the United States and three on American Catholic women since receiving her doctorate in American History from the University of Connecticut. Dolores is on the faculty of Holy Apostles Seminary, Cromwell, CT; continues to write and edit; and serves as mentor to those needing guidance with historical or archival projects. Her recent publication is A Testing Ground of Renewal: The Sisters of Mercy of the Union, Detroit Province: 1966-1973.

Mercy Fire Kindled in Guyana - April 1894, Still Burning - 2007

Mary Noel Menezes, Professor of History, has taught in Universities in the U.S.A., England, Holland, India and the Caribbean. She has authored books, monographs and articles on the Amerindians of Guyana and the Portuguese in Guyana and has been the recipient of national, regional and international honours and awards including Honorary Doctorates from College Misericordia, Dallas, Pa., and the University of the West Indies. For 35 years she also administered St. John Bosco Orphanage and currently works with the older boys at Mercy Boys’ Home.

Response to Social Analysis Papers from an Australian Perspective

Sophie McGrath is a member of the Congregation of the Sisters of Mercy, Parramatta, Australia. She has a special interest in religion, church and women's histories, and, in an effort to contribute to breaking the cycle of the loss of women's history, she co-founded the Golding Centre for Women’s History, Theology and Spirituality at the Australian Catholic University where she is currently a Research Fellow.

Mercy Embodied/Embodied Mercy as Justice, Wisdom and Holiness

Elaine Wainwright is a member of the Brisbane Congregation of the Australian Institute of the Sisters of Mercy. Her passion lies in enabling communities of faith to engage with their sacred story in the scriptures in ways that are transformative of their lives, and she does this through teaching, research and publication, workshops and preaching. Currently she is Professor of Theology and Head of the School of Theology at the University of Auckland, New Zealand.

Enkindling Mercy in a Multicultural Context: Focus on Jamaica

Theresa Lowe Ching is a member of the Sisters of Mercy in Jamaica (Americas). She holds an M.A. in theology from Notre Dame University, Indiana and a PhD. in Systemic Theology with a concentration in Latin American Liberation Theology from the University of St. Michael’s College, Toronto School of Theology. She is presently Director of St. Michael’s Theological College in Kingston, Jamaica.

Fire Cast on the Earth: Spiritual Implications for Mercy in the 21st Century

Janet Ruffing spent her first years in ministry teaching English and Religion in Mercy Secondary schools in California. After completing her PhD in Christian Spirituality at the Graduate Theological Union in Berkeley, she has spent the last 22 years chairing a concentration in spirituality and spiritual direction in the Graduate School of Religion and Religious Education at Fordham University in New York City. She has published widely in her field, has relished the opportunities she has had to present internationally, and is looking forward to this international gathering of Mercy scholars.

Lessons from the New Ecclesial Movements

Doris Gottemoeller is currently the Senior VP for Mission Integration at Catholic Healthcare Partners, a multi-state health system. She previously served as the first president of the Sisters of Mercy of the Americas. She earned a PhD in theology from Fordham University, with a focus on ecclesiology.

Forgiveness: A Work of Mercy Newly Relevant in the 21st Century

Margaret Farley is Gilbert L. Stark Professor Emerita of Christian Ethics at Yale University Divinity School. Her publications focus on issues in historical Christian ethics, Roman Catholic ethics, medical ethics, sexual ethics, and ethics and spirituality. She is Co-director of the All-Africa Conference: Sister to Sister, which addresses the mutual empowerment of women responding to the HIV and AIDS pandemic in sub-Saharan Africa. She is past president of both the Catholic Theological Society of America and the Society of Christian Ethics.

Women as the Image of God

Patricia Fox is from Adelaide, South Australia and has been involved in secondary, and tertiary education, and in formation, spiritual direction and retreat work. She has held leadership positions within the Mercy Institute and the Archdiocese of Adelaide. More recently Pat has completed doctoral studies in systematic theology with a focus on the Trinity and feminist theologies and is presently directing a ministry formation program within her local archdiocese.

M. Francis Anover (Philippines)

Conference Participants

M.Francis Anover, was born in Leyte, Philippines on May 3, 1953 and was baptized Nelinda Burgos Anover. She finished a Commerce course major in Accounting, and worked in a bank before entering the convent. Her Master course is in Pastoral Sociology. She is passionate about women's and children's issues, peace and human rights as well as environmental issues. She has been in the congregational leadership team as a council member twice.

Tui Cadigan (Waitaha, Ngati Mamoe, Poutini Ngai Tahu-Aotearoa New Zealand)

Conference Participants

Tui H.L.Cadigan is from Aotearoa New Zealand. She is one of two Sisters of Mercy of Maori descent and is the delegate for the Maori Religious on Te Runanga o Te Hahi Katorika ki Aotearoa (National Catholic Maori Council). She works primarily with Maori in the community and within government organisations. She affiliates to the three South Island Iwi (tribes) of Waitahi, Ngati Mamoe and Poutini Ngai Tahu.

Mary Kay Dobrovolny (Americas)

Conference Participants

Mary Kay Dobrovolny is a member of the Sisters of Mercy of the Americas. Her ministerial background is in housing and education, and she is currently teaching theology and directing the Campus Ministry programs at the College of Saint Mary in Omaha, Nebraska. She is in the final stages of the dissertation process and anticipates receiving a Ph.D. in New Testament and Early Christian Origins from Vanderbilt University in Nashville, Tennessee, in December 2007. Her dissertation is: "A Spirituality of Speaking Out in the Gospel of Mark."

Elizabeth Dowling (Australia)

Conference Participants

Elizabeth Dowling is a member of the Ballarat East Congregation (Australia). Liz completed her Doctor of Theology in 2005 and published a book entitled Taking away the Pound, Theology and the Parable of the Pounds in the Gospel of Luke in 2007. She lectures in Biblical Studies at Australian Catholic University. Her areas of research interest are New Testament (particularly the Gospels of Luke and John). and feminist biblical hermeneutics.

Janette Gray (Australia)

Conference Participants

Janette Gray lectures in systematic theology at the Jesuit College of Theology in the United Faculty of Theology, Melbourne (Australia). Her teaching areas are the theology of the human person, church, church-state relations, feminist theology, and Christian-Muslim relations.

Anne Hannon (Ireland)

Conference Participants

Anne Hannon has been Vice Postulator of the Cause of Canonization of Catherine McAuley since 2003. She is currently responsible for promoting the Cause in Europe and Africa. Anne taught primary school for many years, and earned her M.A. in Pastoral Studies from Seattle University and her M.A.C.C. from the University of Wales. She served on her diocesan congregational leadership team, and then for six years on the first Council of the South Central Province of the Congregation of the Sisters of Mercy (Ireland).

Mary Lyons (Ireland)

Conference Participants

Resident in Galway, Mary Lyons is a member of the Western Province of the Congregation of the Sisters of Mercy (Ireland). A former Secondary School teacher, she is now a practicing Canon Lawyer. Sher received her JCD degree and Ph.D. (Canon Law) from St. Paul University and the University of Ottawa, and is a member of the Mercy International Research Commission.

Kathleen Murphy (Scotland, Britain)

Conference Participants

Kathleen Murphy is the author of The Women of the Passion and a guest writer for "The Scottish Catholic Observer," Scotland's national Catholic paper. Her new book on The Women of the Early Church is due to be published for Pentecost Sunday next year. She is experienced in giving retreats and days of recollection and in lecturing in Women's Biblical Studies; for the last four years she has contributed quarterly prayer services for posting of the website.

Meta Reid (Ireland)

Conference Participants

Penny Roker (England, Britain)

Conference Participants

After graduating from Cambridge University, Penny Roker spent 22 years as a secondary school History teacher. Entering religious life at the age of 45, she worked as a prison chaplain for six years before making Final Profession 2006. Her book on Julian of Norwich called Homely Love was recently published by Canterbury Press. She is currently living in London and working as a school counselor.

Veronica Lawson (Australia)


Veronica Lawson is a Ballarat East Sister of Mercy who taught biblical studies at Australian Catholic University for twenty-six years before taking up her present position as a Congregation Leader. Her main research interest is in feminist interpretation of the Christian Scriptures, especially Luke's gospel and the Acts of the Apostles. She has conducted biblical workshops, especially on mercy, in various parts of Australia, the Pacific Islands, Papua New guinea, Pakistan, Kenya and Ireland.

Frances Repka (Americas)


Fran A Repka is a member of the emerging South Central Community of the Institute of the Sisters of Mercy of the Americas. She serves as Executive Director and Psychologist of Mercy Professional Services, a counseling and consultation Center for the uninsured and underserved as well as for Religious and Clergy. Besides her clinical work of over 30 years, Fran facilitates groups, supervises other professionals, consults for Religious Congregations and Leadership Teams, and has done workshops throughout the U.S. as well as in Latin America, South Africa, Papua New Guinea, Russia, Czechoslovakia, and Guam.

Shiela O'Dea (Ireland, New Foundland)


Sheila O'Dea, D.Min., from Newfoundland, is Director of Liturgy at All Hallows College, Dublin. Lecturing internationally, Sheila has researched and focused on the connection between liturgy, catechesis, and mission in the life of the community.

Adele Howard (Australia)

Media Specialist

Adele Howard is a member of the Institute of Sisters of Mercy Australia, Melbourne Congregation. She is the Director of Fraynework Multimedia, a Mercy ministry which assists organizations to communicate more effectively through digital storytelling. Adele is committed to supporting Indigenous Australians to communicate their culture through the Fraynework Indigital Centre. As convenor of MIACOM, Adele co-ordinates the on-line communications for Mercy International Association, including the website, the Mercy E-News and the interactive educational resource Mercy and Justice Shall Meet.

Ethel Bignell (MIA Adminstrator; New Zealand)

Managing Financial & Other Details

Ethel Bignell is a member of Nga Whaea Atawhai o Aotearoa Congregation of Sisters of Mercy New Zealand. For several years, she has served as the Administrator of the Mercy International Association, in the MIA's office in Dublin

Patricia Bell (Leader, Institute of Our Lady of Mercy, Britain)

Conference Attendee on behalf of the Members of the Mercy International Association

Patricia Bell is the Congregational Leader of the Institute of Our Lady of Mercy of Britain. She retains fond memories of and a deep love for the primary school children she once taught. Currently a member of the Mercy International Association, she serves as MIA's liaison to the MIA Archives Committee and the Mercy International Research Committee.