July 17, 2013

Day One of Mercy Leaders' Pilgrimage 2013

‘Fan in to flame the gift that is given’
Theme for the Young Mercy Leaders Pilgrimage 2013

Tuesday morning July 16th dawned somewhat cloudy here at Baggot St in Dublin.
However, with the early morning arrival of the first delegation of students from Belize, for the Young Mercy Leaders Pilgrimage (YMLP), the sun broke through and Mercy International Centre was swathed in light and heat for the reminder of the day.

For the past number of months, the YMLP planning committee has worked tirelessly and with great dedication and commitment to design and prepare an experience of Mercy which will remain in the minds and hearts of those who participate, for a long time to come. “Our hope is that Catherine McAuley will become a living presence in the lives of those who participate in this pilgrimage” says Breege Donohoe rsm, a member of the planning committee.

The last few days have been spent in final arrangements and keynote speakers and workshop leaders have arrived and are ready to share their unique talents and skills.

In our Foundress Catherine McAuley’s time, the building that is now Mercy International Centre, Baggot Street, Dublin, was a thriving centre of education and training and it is wonderful that for the next 4 days, the voices of young people from Mercy schools around the world, will once again echo through the corridors and rooms.

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The Opening Ritual was the first event of the Pilgrimage, which began once registration was complete. To commence the ritual, Mary Reynolds rsm, Executive Director of Mercy International Association, carried the candle from Catherine’s grave into the conference room where 140 young people and their leaders had assembled, and recalled that Sisters of Mercy went out from Ireland as missionaries to all the countries from which the Young Mercy Leaders have gathered. Candles denoting each country represented by delegations of young people were lit and carried in lanterns In procession to the garden, leading the whole group to the location of the next part of the Opening Ritual. The procession was accompanied by musicians playing traditional Irish music.

From the flames of the five candles, a fire-bowl was lit and Sr Mary lit the Pilgrimage candle. From this candle, each pilgrim present lit their individual candles and the procession continued on into the chapel of Mercy International Centre. The theme of the Pilgrimage is ‘Fan into Flame the gift that is given’ and so it is most appropriate that fire was part of the Opening Ritual.

Once in the chapel, each student was called forward and placed their candles in the centre of the chapel. A reading from Catherine McAuley was proclaimed and Marie Cox rsm sang the Suscipe of Catherine McAuley, which was followed by intercessory prayers.

The prayerful atmosphere in the chapel was palpable during the liturgy and every person present joined in the singing and praying. An Irish Blessing, read by Patricia O’Donovan rsm an Irish Sister of Mercy, ended with the words ‘May God watch over you and keep you from harm’. This prayer moved many of the pilgrims deeply. The Opening Liturgy concluded with the singing of ‘A Better Way’ (written by Liam Lawton) and everyone was invited to come to the dining room for a ‘comfortable cup of tea’.

Dee McKenna rsm, a Sister of Mercy from Ireland is the facilitator for the pilgrimage. She spent an hour with the assembled pilgrims in the early evening and together they established some ground rules for their group. The notion of ‘pilgrimage’ was explored so that everyone would share a common understanding of why there were here for these days. Sr. Dee concluded this session by leading the pilgrims in quiet reflection time and posed the following questions for consideration:

What does this pilgrimage mean to you personally?
What does it mean to your school that you are here?

Each pilgrim has a journal and was invited to record his or her private thoughts and feelings and reflections during the week.

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Aine Barrins rsm, an Irish Sister of Mercy committed to making Catherine McAuley widely known and loved, delivered the first keynote speech of the pilgrimage. She began by showing the DVD entitled ‘The Circle of Mercy’ which tells the story of Catherine’s life in a visually appealing and interesting way. It is important that all pilgrims are familiar with Catherine’s story so that they can get the most benefit from their time in Catherine’s House in Baggot Street.
Aine invited the pilgrims to reflect together on Catherine’s life and to ask themselves why is it important for us today to know about Catherine? She posed the following questions “Why would we spend our time in this way on this July evening at the beginning of our pilgrimage when there are many other options available to us? What relevance has Catherine for us in 2013? What relevance has she for you who are pupils in Mercy schools? Does she have anything to say to your age-group?”

Sr. Aine’s keynote speech can be downloaded here.

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