July 16, 2019

Fifth Biennial Pilgrimage for Young Mercy Leaders (Secondary) Now Wonderfully Underway

Editor: 95 Young Mercy Leaders, 23 Chaperones, 28 MIA staff, volunteers and presenters are gathering this week (Tuesday-Friday) at Baggot Street for the fifth biennial secondary school Young Mercy Leaders (YML) pilgrimage with its theme 'Mercy begins with me'. To our shared delight, Met Éireann, the Irish National Meteorological Service, has promised us good weather for all our planned outdoor activities.

The programme is being facilitated by Stephanie Langley, staff member of All Hallows' School, Brisbane, Australia and President of the Brisbane youth Mercy network "BAM" (Brisbane Actioning Mercy). 'I attended the YML pilgrimage last year and it deepened greatly my connection with Mercy', said Stephanie. 'The invitation to facilitate this year is an opportunity to gift other young people with this same wonderful Mercy experience'.

Added Sr Angela Fleming who is a Chaperone for the fifth year in succession: 'It renews and energises me to experience the network of Mercy life and the energy of Mercy youth from so many countries in this sacred place where Catherine's call is alive and vibrant'.

As is always the case, the programme is extensive and well-planned with presenters this year from Ireland, the United States, New Zealand and Australia. The student pilgrims are from 21 schools in Australia, Belize, England, Ireland and the United States. 

Tuesday's programme had a focus on orientation - with a welcome and prayer, an opening process, a tour of the House, a screening of the film on Catherine McAuley followed by a workshop, then a closing process and prayer to finish the day at 6pm. 

Between 9.45am and 10.15am Tuesday morning, students from eight Australian schools: Academy of Mary Immaculate Fitzroy, Catherine McAuley College Bendigo, Sacred Heart College Geelong, Emmanuel College Warrnambool, Our Lady of Mercy College Heidelberg, Sacred Heart College Kyneton,  St Aloysius College in Adelaide, South Australia and Mercedes College, Perth, Western Australia, joined students from Broughton Hall Catholic High School in England, St Catherine Academy Belize, five schools from the United States: Gwynedd Mercy Academy High School, Pennsylvania, Mercy High School Omaha, Mount St Mary Academy Arkansas, Our Lady of Mercy Academy, Syossett, New York, Our Lady of Mercy School for Young Women, Rochester, New York and six schools in Ireland: Mercy Secondary School, Tuam, Co. Galway, Mount Saint Michael's School, Rosscarbery, Co. Cork, Our Lady's Grammar School Newry, Co. Down, Sacred Heart School Westport, Co. Mayo, St Vincent's Secondary School, Dundalk, Co Louth and Thornhill College Derry, in the main corridor at MIC for registration and to collect their registration packs. 

Registration and Opening


Mary Reynolds rsm, CEO MIA, welcomed the pilgrims to Ireland and to Baggot Street, the First House of Mercy. She highlighted the significance of this year's pilgrimage taking place a week prior to the actual silver anniversary (23/7/1994) of the opening of the house as Mercy International Centre and in the newly completed Sacred Garden. How fitting it is, she said, that the first pilgrims to use the Sacred Garden are young people.

In speaking of the theme of the pilgrimage, Sr Mary unpacked the meaning of the word 'Mercy'. 'The first two letters make "Me" - a reminder to us of the power of one.'

'As this week unfolds', she continued, 'I hope you will grow in your appreciation of the fact that Mercy begins with you. Whoever you are, wherever you are, you are a Mercy Presence in our world today. But you are not alone. As the energy of Mercy in each one joins with that of other mercy people, we become a Mercy global presence.' She then drew everyone's attention to the other 3 letters in Mercy – 'rcy'. 'Change them around a little', she said 'and what do you get: CRY.'

Sr Mary then put forward the challenge, the forms of injustice MIA has committed to addressing: 'This week will also provide you with the opportunity to hear more deeply "the cry of the Earth and the cry of the Poor" calling out for a Mercy response.'

The Opening Prayer had as its theme 'Holy Ground'. David Haas' hymn set the tone: 'May your vision be our cause....May your calling lead the way...May we seek a wider view...'

The Universal prayer reminded us all that the first House of Mercy is 'holy ground'. Within that context, prayers were prayed for Pope Francis and all Church leaders, for our families and benefactors, for an appreciation of the learnings of this week, for peace and justice, for the ill and those who have asked for our prayers and for the deceased.

The Morning Prayer concluded with an Irish blessing read by Elizabeth McNamee rsm accompanied by the musicians playing 'A Thiarna dean trocaire' [Irish for "Lord have Mercy"] :

May the blessing of Light be upon you,
Light on the outside and light on the inside.
With God’s sunlight shining on you,
May your heart glow with warmth 
Like a turf fire that welcomes friends and strangers alike.
May the Light of the Lord shine from your eyes,
Like a candle in a window
Welcoming the weary traveller.
May the blessings of God’s soft rain be on you,
Falling gently on your head 
And refreshing your soul with the sweetness of flowers freshly blooming.
May the strength of the winds of heaven bless you, 
Carrying the rain to wash your spirit clean.  
May your spirit then sparkle in the sunlight of God’s love.
May the blessing of God’s beautiful earth be on you, 
And as you walk its roads,
May you always have a kind word for those you meet.
May you understand the strength and power of God in a thunderstorm in winter,
 in the calm of a summer sunset and in the quiet beauty of creation.
May you come to realize that, though you think you are insignificant  in this great universe,
You are an important part of God’s plan.
May our loving God walk with you 
And keep you from all harm.

While imparted as a blessing for the day, it serves as a blessing for the programme and beyond.


After lunch the students were split into two groups for alternating activities - the tour of the House and a viewing of the film 'In God Alone - The Story of Catherine McAuley'.

While on tour, the pilgrims visited six locations in the House where the tour 'guides' were stationed: the International Room (Anna Nicholls rsm), Catherine's room (Mary Reynolds rsm), the Doyle Room (Emma Horgan), the Chapel (Phil Murphy rsm), the Callaghan Room (Sior Cosgrove rsm) and the Heritage Room (Carita Irwin rsm) to learn key heritage aspects of the Mercy story.
An online tour of Catherine's house can be taken here. A booklet on the story of the House can be purchased online here

Touring Catherine's House & Film Screening

The Closing Process incorporated a review of the key events of this first day.

Following personal reflection, the students were invited to decorate their pilgrim bag, just as they had done in the Opening Process. Then they had created two circles with themselves at the centre surrounded by representations of their strengths. This time, however, they were to create a response to the day's programme. Over the course of the week, words and symbols will be added until they each have a bag designed with words and images to remind them of the experiences, the learnings and the takeaways of the weekweek.

Mary Wickham's poem 'Catherine's Room', from her Baggot Street Suite of poems was read to help recall the places in the House where the students had walked in the footsteps of Catherine and the first Mercy women.

Tuesday closed with the singing of 'Be God's Mercy', a pilgrimage favourite.

Closing Process

Reports on the activities for each remaining day of the pilgrimage will be posted on the Mercyworld.org website and appear in Mercy eNews on 24 July 2019

Messages to: Pilgrimage Communications Team

Report on Day Two
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