August 08, 2014

Day Three of the Young Mercy Leaders' Pilgrimage

Although the Young Mercy Leaders’ Pilgrimage only began on Tuesday, for those gathered at Baggot Street it feels as if we have known each other much longer! This time spent together at Catherine’s house, learning about Mercy, about Leadership and getting to know so many people in the Mercy Global family, has been a true gift!

         Therefore, at morning process when facilitator for the week Trish Walsh rsm reminded the participants that this morning marked the halfway point in the pilgrimage, there was an opportunity for the participants and delegation leaders to reflect on their journey so far, and to refocus for the second half of the pilgrimage.

This week we have been blessed with fine weather, which lifts everyone’s hearts! Day three of the Young Mercy Leaders’ Pilgrimage began with Morning Prayer, which focused on Catherine McAuley. The opening prayer asked that God “pour out your Mercy once again, as we gather in Mercy in the name of Catherine”. The hymn ‘Hiding Place’ by Fr Liam Lawton was sung beautifully by Julianne O’Leary from University College Cork, who was accompanied on violin by Ailish O’Brien rsm and on keyboard by Mícheal O’Sullivan, Mercy Associate.

A table in the middle of the chapel was then set with Catherine’s tea cup and saucer, which reminded all that Catherine is here among us and that her warmth and hospitality encompass us. The prayers of the faithful encouraged those present to ‘choose God every day, choose the life God gives you to live, choose to live it as Jesus lived it to the glory of God and in service to human needs’. Morning Prayer ended with a prayer that asked the Lord to ‘Bless this gathering in your name and let our joy overflow so that all who hunger and thirst for justice may know your Mercy through us for time and eternity’. A rousing rendition of the Suscipe of Catherine McAuley was then sung by all! 

During Morning Process, Sr Trish lead the group in mindfulness meditation, where the group took time to concentrate on their thoughts at that particular moment, acknowledging each thought without judgement and then letting it go. With so much information being shared, with so much activity going on, as well as being away from home and away from one’s comfort zone, it can be easy to let feelings build up. Time spent in reflection proved helpful and a welcome relief for those present. Sr Trish concluded the mindfulness session by posing a question to the group and asking them to reflect – ‘What is stirring in me as I begin the second half of my pilgrimage?’

Today’s keynote presentation was given by Mary Reynolds rsm, Executive Director of Mercy International Association. Sr Mary has worked in several ministries including education and congregational leadership. In her role as Executive Director, Sr Mary leads, integrates, develops and manages Mercy International Association. Sr Mary’s presentation was entitled ‘A Leader is a Dealer in Hope’, and it explored how Young Mercy Leaders can be agents of hope in the 21st century.

Sr Mary began by examining the concept of hope and leadership, stressing that everyone present at the Young Mercy Leaders’ Pilgrimage is already a leader.

Sr Mary said that in order to become a true leader, a mercy leader must start ask four questions – The Why, The Who, The How and The What. Drawing on the Jewish story of Tikkun Olam, which says that the light of God is within us all and we must find that light in one another, Sr Mary said that Catherine McAuley believed that Christ was to be found in every single person she met, regardless of their current situation. This in turn meant she believed that the people she interacted with would find Christ within her. As a result, when we as leaders do not feel up to the challenge, we must remember that Christ’s light is within us and we do have the power to change the world.

Sr Mary emphasized that it was Catherine’s desire to address the root causes of these problems and this is how she displayed leadership. As Sr Mary explained, Catherine’s definition of Mercy was rooted in connections. She connected the sick to the healthy, the rich to the poor and in doing so was able to become an agent for change.

Having spent the past number of days becoming acquainted with Catherine McAuley, the participants have become familiar with the ‘Who’ of leadership. Turning to the ‘How’ of leadership, Sr Mary drew on the story of the Good Samaritan to indicate that as leaders we must always be driven by compassion, and that when faced with a choice of what to do, it is compassion that must lead us.

‘The What’ was the final part of the leadership jigsaw, Sr Mary said. Leadership has often more to do with a small act that has a big effect on another person’s life, and that people can often be paralysed by the enormity of the problems of the world. However, Sr Mary showed that by looking at those around us and the ways we can help at the micro level, this is often how we show true leadership. Sr Mary finished by quoting Catherine McAuley’s advice to a young leader – ‘show kind affection every day’.

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The group broke for refreshments and to digest the presentation, and returned to the Liffey Room in the Catherine McAuley Centre, with thoughtful and perceptive questions to ask Sr Mary. These included asking how one should know when to lead, and when to follow; how to discourage ‘bystander-ship’; and how to deal with ineffective leaders. The insight and understanding that the pilgrims have shown throughout the past days demonstrate their ability to be true mercy leaders, both now and into the future.

Day three of the pilgrimage drew to a close with further workshops and tours of the house, after which the group gathered in the Baggot Street Dining Room for the evening social. This provided a fantastic opportunity for the pilgrims to relax, have some fun, and enjoy each other’s company ahead of the goodbye on Friday!

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Read Molly Onufer's experience as a Young Mercy Leader

The full text of Sr Mary's presentation can be downloaded here.

Read about the first day of the 2014 Young Mercy Leaders' Pilgrimage

Read about the second day of the 2014 Young Mercy Leaders' Pilgrimage

Messages to: Mary Kay Dobrovolny rsm

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