April 29, 2014

How are we to be together? Our Reflections on MIACOM

In this article Mary Conway rsm, Ethel Bignell rsm and Denise Fox rsm share their reflections on their experiences as part of MIACOM - Mercy International Association Communications.


Given our Mercy history of autonomous congregations, it was a great blessing that at the time that MIA came into existence there was an explosion of information technology that opened doors our founding members never dreamed of. The gifts, imagination and expertise of the MIA Communications group have given us new, simple and effective forms of communication so that we know one another better, and have a range of choices about how we can be together. Adele Howard and her Fraynework colleagues travelled the world to advise, encourage, and educate about IT stepping stones to local and global communication and social transformation.

-Ethel Bignell rsm

In 2001 I attended my first MIACOM meeting. I was very new to leadership having been elected to our congregational team the previous year. My experience in the area of communications had been garnered from my work in a community based counselling organisation where we endeavoured to find ways of telling our own good news story and build our public image with limited financial resources. But nothing would have prepared me for the mind expanding experience that MIACOM would become in the years that followed.

Communication platforms, digital story telling, World Wide Web, social capital - I was introduced to a new language, to a new world of communication possibilities and most importantly I was introduced to the wider Mercy Family. You will have heard it said that Mercy is the same all over the world and through my experience of MIACOM I know it to be true. In conversation with MIACOM members, Helen Marie, Denise, Adele, Ethel and others, I began to hear stories of Mercy Sisters all over the world, in places I'd only ever heard of as part of geography class, in a holiday brochure or news report. Now I heard stories of Mercy Sisters responding to the needs of people in far flung places such as Peru, Newfoundland, New Zealand and everywhere in between!


             l-r: Srs Denise Fox, Adele Howard, Ethel Bignell, Mary Conway, Helen Marie Burns (at computer) in the Doyle Room

Amid all the new language and the delight of making new friends was the core of our purpose in being together,
In what ways could 'communications' be at the service of Mercy wherever Sisters found themselves?
This question and concept constantly stretched the boundaries of my small mind and I remember many exciting conversations around that MIACOM table or on conference call, teasing out how we could engage with our Mercy Sisters in this endeavour. From conversations such as these Mercy E-news was born, the cd rom Mercy and Justice Shall Meet was envisaged and the MIA Website took on a whole new face.

Now on the 'eve' of celebrating the 20th anniversary of MIA I ponder on my days as a member of MIACOM. I will be forever grateful for that opportunity to work alongside such a pioneering and creative group of Mercy Sisters. The exposure to the possibilities of communications that I received back then has been invaluable and I draw on this experience in the present reality of our Northern Province.

My final words are a deep felt THANKS to Adele Howard rsm, Anne Walsh and the 'awesome' staff at Fraynework. As a worldwide Mercy Family we owe them so much, they taught us and continue to teach us about the wonderful world of communications.

-Mary Conway rsm
Congregation of Sisters of Mercy, Northern Province.

In 1998 a Communications Consultative Group was established to advise the MIA Board on how to enhance worldwide communication to foster the networks that were emerging and to enhance the mission of mercy. Among the early communications developed were Mercy E News, Mercy world website and the CD Rom resource, Mercy and Justice Shall Meet

The practice of the MIA board was to have a leader linked to each of the MIA projects. When I joined MIACOM (the name MIACOM was developed in 2001) as liaison between MIA and MIACOM, the members of the committee were Helen Marie Burns, Mary Conway, Adele Howard and Ethel Bignell (MIA Executive Officer).

Mercy Communications and MIACOM spanned much of the time of the rapid growth during the 90’s of the internet, email, and the World Wide Web. One of the pluses of MIACOM and not just for MIA itself, but for individual congregations and institutes, was the opportunity to be linked with other Mercy groups to explore communication potential, including website development. As congregations began to refine existing websites or develop new websites, links were made to the Mercyworld website enhancing the wider connections of Mercy. Key to much of the success of the work of MIACOM was the contract and partnership with Fraynework Multimedia who had a keen understanding of Mercy and the technical expertise to support the telling of the Mercy story.

One of the biggest challenges for MIA was to tell the story of MIA to as wide an audience as possible, to provide avenues for networking and to identify potential for new outreach. Mercy Enews, produced weekly by Anne Walsh - when at Fraynework and since - on behalf of MIA, was and continues to be a superb vehicle for promoting the MIA vision: providing avenues for learning about Mercy world, reaching out to others in crisis, and fostering the bonds of union and charity.

 l-r Adele Howard rsm demonstrating a flip camera to Denise Fox rsm
     l-r:Anne Walsh working with Helen Marie Burns rsm

As the networks grew, the idea of an interactive CD-Rom, Mercy and Justice Shall Meet  began to grow. From a bright idea at a MIACOM meeting, there followed a three day brainstorming workshop where Sisters and partners-in-ministry met to map out the dimensions of the project. Among those who participated in the workshop were Tina Geiger rsm (Americas), Katrina Fabish rsm (ANZ), Lorraine McArthur (ANZ), Barbara Jeffrey rsm (GB Institute) and Adele Howard rsm and Anne Walsh of Fraynework.

MAJSM features eight stories of Mercy people from around the world who have defied odds to make a difference. Each story is underpinned by a theological reflection process that users engage for reflection, critique and analysis, alone and with others. The depth of the layers of process and information, with links to the worldwide web, ensures the CD- Rom is a valuable ongoing resource.

Gratitude must be expressed to the individuals, institutes and congregations, and ministries who contributed funding, videos clips, interviews, writing, photos and creativity to MAJSM.

In 2003 MIACOM assisted the canonisation project with the development of images that could be used, and in developing a canonisation section on the Mercy world website.

The website, Mercy Enews and MAJSM have enabled the Mercy World to share the joys and sorrows, the business of our lives, with one another in a vital way.

-Denise Fox rsm

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