Foundation Day 2020
On Saturday 12 December we are invited to celebrate and reflect on Foundation Day. It marks the date on which Catherine McAuley and her companions, Anna Maria Doyle and Elizabeth Harley, returned to Baggot Street from the Presentation Convent at Georges Hill, having just professed their vows as the first Sisters of Mercy. And so began the story of the Congregation of the Sisters of Mercy and all who have joined them in their commitment to bringing God’s love and Mercy to the poor, the sick and the uneducated. In recent times these original works of Mercy have extended to care of our Common Home. Next year, in 2021, we will be entering the final decade of the Congregation’s second century.
Readers will have varying levels of engagement with this foundation story. Sisters and Associates might belong to or be associated with a Mercy Congregation or Institute founded very soon after 1831 or much later. Ministry partners might trace their Mercy story to a ministry of Mercy begun many years ago or quite recently. Just as we love to mark birthdays, most of us love to mark foundation days with opportunities to tell the stories, to renew the vision, to take heart and draw energy from those on whose shoulders we stand.
This foundation day I find myself looking around and looking forward as much as I am looking back to 1831. What might be even now in the process of being founded? Have we paid much attention to small beginnings of new Mercy life that are as yet only in their infancy but which might need our nurturing interest?
There are thousands of women and men across the world now associated with our Mercy tradition in some way. Many continue the traditional “Works of Mercy” and have embraced the call of Pope Francis to add “Care for our Common Home” as a special “Work of Mercy” for our times. For some it is a temporary association soon left behind as their lives take other roads. But for others it is a long-term or even life-long commitment. For those whose call is not to Mercy religious life there are limited avenues to give formal expression to what they believe is a true vocation, a call from God, to commit to Mercy in the footsteps of Catherine McAuley. Some are not in a situation which provides them with contact to even these limited avenues.
Perhaps what I am hearing is a call for Mercy International Association (MIA) to be a conduit through which people who have committed to some form of Mercy Life other than Religious Life can make known the Mercy pathway they have chosen. This might inspire still further expressions of such commitment by individuals directing their footsteps to these pathways to “brukim bus”, as my Papua New Guinean friends say, to create still further paths.
This year it has not been possible to offer you the opportunity to come to Baggot Street virtually or in person to celebrate Foundation Day. However, we can be together in spirit to read again the story, to share our own Mercy Foundation stories and perhaps ponder what might be the foundation day call for this time. With Catherine let us exclaim: “Hurrah for foundations! They make the old young and the young merry.”
I would be very interested in learning more about the alternative Mercy life pathways of which you are aware. If you are willing to share these foundation stories with me, would you email me at firstname.lastname@example.org ? I look forward to hearing from you.
Messages to: Berneice Loch rsm - CEO MIA