April 07, 2020

An Update on the Work of Mercy Global Action

Church Center New York, location of MGA Office

It is often stated that critical junctures or interruptions create opportunities for organisations, communities and other configurations to look at things with new eyes. The COVID-19 has certainly provided an impetus for Mercy Global Action (MGA) to look at its work in new ways.  Located in New York City, where COVID-19 has caused the city to lockdown, the MGA office is closed,  since the building in which we are housed is no longer accessible. This does not mean however, that the work of MGA has ceased. Instead, we find ourselves called to adapt and adopt new ways of working and perhaps even new ways of seeing.

Whilst working from home, Colleen Swain continues to work in her capacity as the Leadership Development and Advocacy Associate, as does Sr Mandy Carrier in her internship. For personal reasons I needed to travel home to Australia and so find myself working now from Melbourne, until travel restrictions are lifted. This is not a scenario that our office had envisaged when planning for 2020, however like many organisations we are required to adapt. There are many dimensions of our work that have required creative thinking and adaptation, often with very little notice. Outlined below are some of the MGA offices activities and responses.

Mercy International Centre (Dublin)

MGA continues to be in dialogue with the team at the Mercy International Centre. Our office had hoped to welcome Sr Berneice Loch, MIA’s new Chief Executive Officer, to New York in March 2020. Unfortunately, due to  travel restrictions and the impact of COVID-19 in Ireland, Berneice was not able to come. However, communication with Baggot Street has continued through regular online meetings which have been fruitful, energizing and supportive.

Mandy Carrier rsm delivering an oral statement

UN Engagement

Another dimension of our MGA work is to engage with the United Nations.  As the Sisters of Mercy hold Consultative Status with the Economic and Social Council we try to engage in forums, commissions and processes where we can apply a ‘Mercy Lens’; recognising the inherent dignity of each person and affirming their human rights.

In February 2020, MIA, MGA was active in the Commission on Social Development.  The priority theme for this Commission was on homelessness. As Mercy has a long tradition of working with those experiencing homelessness, we were able to contribute to the NGO Working Group to End Homelessness. Significantly, Sr Mandy Carrier delivered an oral statement to the Commission and we co-sponsored several side events. Homelessness continues to be a priority area that our office will focus on.

The Commission on the Status of Women takes place annually at the UN in New York. It is the longest running Commission and the Sisters of Mercy have been involved in this Commission over many years through the contribution of written and oral statements and through sponsoring side and parallel events. This year we had hoped to host an event highlighting  women’s leadership by showcasing the MIA, Mercy Global Action Emerging Leaders Fellowship. The ten women who are part of the current fellowship program were going to share their various experiences of the program and speak to the Beijing +25 Agenda. Unfortunately, this Commission was cancelled, as the UN felt that bringing 12,000 women together in one forum  would not be sensible during this time.

We continue to be in dialogue with our NGO UN colleagues with whom we are communicating with online. We are also participating  in some other collaborative projects online. I would like to draw your attention to the UN Global Humanitarian Response Plan COVID -19 Appeal which speaks of the necessity for Global Cooperation.  In an open letter prepared by Caritas Internationalis, the UN are commended for this initiative and at the same time are reminded of the enormous contribution of civil society and faith leaders. Mercy International stands in solidarity with Caritas.

MELF Fellows 2019-2020
L-R: Siobhan Golden, Carmen Rosa Ccallomamani rsm, Marietta Latonio, Theresia Tina rsm, Nicole Christensen (Mentor), Colleen Cloonan Swain, Angela Reed rsm (MGA), Anneke Kat (back), Edith McLaren, Julia Morisi, Ty Barnes, Amy Thomas, Jemima Walsh
at Mindol Metta Karuna Reflection Centre in Siem Reap, Cambodia, 2019

MELF (MIA Mercy Global Action Emerging Leaders Fellowship)

Currently we have ten women participating in MELF. In early March, ten more women were awarded the 2020/21 fellowship. The current MELF group undertook their initial immersion in Cambodia last August and came to New York for further input and formation in March 2020.

Due to the ever changing circumstances across the world, and much to the disappointment of the participants, this time was cut short and fellows returned home.  Currently, they have been engaging in robust and creative online discussions with each other and the MGA office. 

The first group of fellows are due to travel to Dublin this July and the second group due to travel to Cambodia this August. However, in consultation with MIA Dublin, these arrangements are being constantly reviewed and alternate arrangements are on the agenda.

Messages to: Angela Reed rsm - Head of Mercy Global Action

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