April 17, 2013

A Day with Mary Sullivan rsm (Sisters of Mercy in Australia and Papua New Guinea)

The Congregations of Sisters of Mercy of Brisbane, North Sydney, Parramatta and the Institute of Sisters of Mercy of Australia and PNG sponsored two days of prayer, input, reflection, sharing and discussion, the third biennial Catherine McAuley Symposium, on 6 April in Perth and 13 April in Sydney.

Following are comments from some of the hundreds of participants


It was wonderful to meet with Mary again after many years.

What a wonderful day it was on Saturday, to meet so many Mercy sisters and companions and co workers.
Mary Sullivan who lives and breathes Catherine McAuley, was again at her best as she shared with us her insights on Catherine and her Enduring Work of Mercy.

The focal centres of the shoes and then the shawl were very meaningful.

The shawl embracing Catherine’s mercifulness and challenges me to be open in sharing God’s life with “outstretched arms”, as Mary said, “To share one’s shawl is to share with one another and to extend the love of God to others!”

The question that I left with is: “What would Catherine McAuley say about what we are doing today?”

Gabrielle Maree Owen rsm


A day with Mary Sullivan left me knowing that it is time "to get up again" only to dive into MERCY,
experience her creative energies at play and to respond through artistic images accordingly.
For MERCY sheds her tears, falling gently ,caressing, softening ,expanding, breaking open, setting free, providing nourishment and renewing the face and depths of the earth.

Margaret Broadbent rsm


I have read Mary Sullivan's books and when she spoke with us, it was like Catherine was in the room! Particularly when Catherine's boots and shawl were positioned within the Sacred Space on the stage. These items were powerful images of Catherine's practicality and the magnitude of her heart.

Mary's commentaries on Catherine's passion, commitment and vision to make God's care real, for those on the margins in 19th century Ireland, was insightful.

Working in a Mission role in a Mercy school with students, teachers, leaders and non-teaching staff, I am constantly reminded of how we are all invited in our respective roles, to keep the Gospel Teachings, the legacy of Catherine and the Sisters of Mercy alive.

This symposium was empowering and provided me with many questions and reflections to share with my school community in the coming year.

I would like to thank the organisers for the Symposium a beneficial and rich experience for Ministerial Partners in enabling the Mercy charism.

Claire Thomas - Director of Mission OLMC Parramatta


Mary Sullivan was inspirational in capturing the struggles of Catherine and her sisters. Pioneer sisters in Perth like the original foundation members, continued to focus on the needs of the poor. Today in Perth, Mercy Care conducts a special centre for autistic children to assist them to adjust to life and living.

Nance Cale rsm


I felt that Mary Sullivan had studied Catherine's life so deeply that she brought her spirit alive among us;
I could feel her presence there, it was so tangible.

As Mary spoke in detail of Catherine's experiences and those of her companions of the terrible suffering
and poverty of the people with whom they worked, I couldn't help but be challenged in my own daliy life;
her strong messages of laying down our lives and each day getting up again to keep on going.

The images of Catherine's shoes and her shawl I felt were very graphic reminders of how we are
to follow in her footsteps and extend to all around us the love of Christ who shares our lot and our burdens.

The day was so special. I felt very privileged and blessed to have had the opportunity of hearing Mary
talking so intimately about Catherine and am grateful to those who organized the day.

Maureen Lohrey rsm


Once again Mary Sullivan gave us a wonderful day of listening to the fruits of extensive research and reflection on the life of Catherin McAuley our Foundress. Using the images of worn out walking shoes and a shawl, Mary captured for us much of the essence of Catherine life and spirituality. The story of the burnt shoes has been well known, but for me the slant that Mary gave to “get up again” was so relevant. For many of us who are now ageing, that is an important phrase. I for one don’t always find it easy to keep on getting up and going again when it is tempting to say, ‘Well I’ve done enough and it is time to relax.‘ I’m so pleased to have been given this injection and inspiration to reflect on and continue even in some small way, to involve myself in the Works of Mercy.

Mary’s idea of the shawl carrying the symbol of Catherine’s all embracing inclusiveness and care for whoever she came in contact with is another wonderful gift for reflection. I thank those who arranged for this great day and pray that Mary Sullivan can continue to inspire by her reflections, words, and example of a humble follower of Catherine and Jesus.

Carole McDonald rsm


As the newly-appointed first lay Principal of St Aloysius College in Adelaide, a school led with strength and vision by the Sisters of Mercy for over 130 years, there couldn't have been a better time to be inspired by Mary Sullivan's stories of Catherine Macauley and the early sisters. The images of Catherine's shoes and her shawl will certainly travel with me -- reaching out side by side to extend God's tender mercy to others, constantly laying down their lives and, most importantly, getting up again. I also experienced the beautiful welcome that is Mercy hospitality from so many Sisters, most of whom I hadn't met before. Through them, I could feel Catherine's vision -- for a love that revives, invigorates and warms -- alive and well in the Mercy community today.

Paddy McEvoy SAC Adelaide


As a lay person working in mission with the Sisters of Mercy I found Mary's challenge to all of us to simplify our lives and reflect on the way we consume and live our lives especially inspiring. The event was a wonderful opportunity to reflect on the relevance of Catherine McAuleys teachings for us today.

Kate Anderson - Social Justice and Mission Educator Sisters of Mercy, North Sydney


'I found this day with Mary Sullivan inspiring, motivating and challenging. I loved the links that Mary made between the Gospel, the life of Catherine and the challenge to live Mercy today. The images of the boots and the shawl were earthy and something that identifies with the everyday. It was very clear to me that Mary's knowledge and understanding of Catherine is not solely academic - it is as though Mary has entered the heart of Catherine. How fortunate we are to learn from this woman. I came away from the day thinking that for all of us, it is time to make new starts, to get up once again and share the shawl of mercy.'

Anne Ferguson -  Mission Animator for the Sisters of Mercy Parramatta.


As I reflect on my experience of last Saturday’s Symposium the words of the 2011 ISMAPNG Chapter Statement echoed in my heart – “Mercy impels us to extravagant Hospitality…”. First of all I experienced the extravagance of the beautiful cloudless and sunny day; the extravagant energy that gets released when many people gather and friendships are renewed and begun, and the highlight of this hospitality was of course Mary Sullivan herself. Ain a very short space of time we were able to get but a glimpse of her scholarship, her research, her great love of Catherine and of course her very deep spirituality.

Mary so cleverly interlaced a Gospel story with the story of Catherine and her sisters The first gospel story was that of the shepherd who lays down his life for his sheep and then when he finds the lost sheep gets up again and keeps going. The symbol of Catherine’s boots visibly reminded us of how Catherine lay down at the end of the day and rose again each morning to put on her boots and to continue another day in the enduring works of Mercy – all of this of course so pertinent in this post-Easter season.

The second Gospel quote was that of sharing Christ’s Merciful Yoke of Solidarity. And aligned with that was the symbol of Catherine’s black shawl. Catherine’s outstretched shawl embraced the poor, sick, and needy, the dying and many others; how many people are today held in the shawl of the gentleness, humility and refreshing womb of the God of Mercy.

We were left with many challenges – What do Catherine’s worn out shoes symbolise for us today – what new insights into Catherine’s life do they reveal to us. Where might they be called to walk?
What does Catherine’s black shawl symbolise for us today. How might it encourage us to live and work as truly merciful people?
Thank- you Mary Sullivan!

Carmel Dwan rsm



 The Catherine McAuley Symposium Gathering which was held in Perth on Saturday 6th April 2013 was an experience which was refreshing, amazing and challenging.

It was refreshing to be reminded that Catherine’s way was the Gospel way – to bring the Good News to the poor. Sisters of Mercy, their co-workers and friends to this day have continued this way of Jesus and Catherine. It was amazing to be reminded about how Catherine and her sisters, as well as many of our own sisters and colleagues down the years have listened to and took heed of the words of Jesus ‘take my yolk…….learn from me’! Finally, it was challenging to hear the phrase many times throughout the presentation to ‘get up again in the name of the Gospel’! This included not giving up, not setting limits, and not shying away from hard work and inevitable crosses by following the example of Jesus, Catherine and the early sisters!

Breda O'Reilly rsm

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