December 13, 2011

Celebration of 180 years of the Sisters of Mercy

Mercy International Association hosted 85 people for a celebration of the 180th anniversary of the foundation of the Sisters of Mercy. The Eucharistic liturgy was held at the former Presentation Convent Chapel at George’s Hill, where Catherine McAuley, Anna Maria Doyle, and Elizabeth Harley professed their vows as the first Sisters of Mercy on 12th December 1831.

Those gathered for the celebrations on this Foundation Day of 2011 reflected the spread of Mercy throughout the world in the time since Catherine and her two companions professed vows. There were representatives from all seven provinces of the Congregation/Ireland (4 provinces based in Ireland and the provinces of Kenya, South Africa, and USA); and four of the remaining six Mercy congregational families: Aotearoa New Zealand, Australia/Papua New Guinea, Great Britain, and the Americas.

 Readings for the celebration all emphasized the Providence of God as seen in Hebrew scriptures, the New Testament, and the Mercy story. The first reading taken from Isaiah 55:1-11 includes Isaiah’s proclamation of the Providence of God:
All you who are thirsty, come to the water!
You who have no money, come, buy grain and eat;
Come, buy grain without money, wine and milk without cost!

The second reading, which was an excerpt of Mary Ann Doyle’s 1844 letter to Clare Augustine Moore, speaks of the joys and sufferings, challenges and supports for the three Mercy women who made their novitiate and professed their vows at Georges Hill. The Gospel passage of Luke 1:26-38 includes Mary’s all-encompassing trust in God as she utters: “Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord. May it be done to me according to your word.” (For the full text of the readings, click here).

Áine Barrins rsm (Congregation/Ireland) provided the reflections on the readings. As she spent time with the passage in Isaiah that tells us that the word that goes forth from God’s mouth will not return to God empty but rather will do what pleases God and achieve the end for which it was sent, she reflected on how both Catherine and Mary embodied the word of God in their lives. She then invited us to wonder together what difference it would make “if we were to truly believe that each one of us is indeed a word spoken by God into the world and that, in the ordinariness of our everyday lives we are somehow fulfilling that which we were sent to do.” (For the full text of Áine’s reflections, click here).

After the Word from scripture and Mercy tradition had been broken open, Mary Reynolds rsm (Mercy International Association) invited all present to renew their commitment to Mercy in either a renewal of vows for the vowed members or statement of re-commitment for Associates and friends of Mercy. Providing the context for this renewal of commitment, Mary reminded the congregation of Catherine’s words regarding the renewal of vows: “When we first make our vows, it is not surprising if we feel anxious, and pronounce them in a timid faltering voice, being as yet unacquainted with the full extent of His infinite goodness, to Whom we engage ourselves forever—but when we renew them, it ought to be with that tone of joy and confidence which the experience of His unceasing mercies must inspire.”

Prayers of the Faithful included special prayers for the Institute of the Sisters of Mercy of Australia and Papua New Guinea who were celebrating their first Foundation Day as a newly reconfigured entity that day, the peoples of the Americas as they celebrated the Feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe, and the Presentation community for their hospitality to Catherine and her companions in enabling the Sisters of Mercy to be founded and for their hospitality in our return to pray and celebrate in their chapel.

At the conclusion of the Eucharistic liturgy, celebrants retraced Catherine’s return trip to Baggot Street from George’s Hill to enjoy companionship, good food, and nice cups of tea in Catherine’s original House of Mercy that is now home to the whole Mercy world.

Messages to Mary Kay Dobrovolny rsm - Assistant Director Heritage & Spirituality

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