February 27, 2021

MGA Emerging Leaders Fellows Group One Final Immersion Reflections

The final immersion of the inaugural group of the Mercy Global Action Emerging Leaders Fellowship took place from 12 the February to 20th February, 2021. During the final virtual immersion, Fellows presented their research, took a tour of Catherine’s House, participated in leadership workshops, fireside chats, art processing and other activities.

Day One -

Reflection by Anastasia Freeman and Anneke Kat

We began our first full two immersion modules with a joint opening reflection led by Ana and myself (Anneke). After listening to the needs and vulnerability of our cohort during our opening ritual, Ana offered a wonderful guided movement experience with peaceful music to assist us all in centering ourselves in our own bodies and deepening our presence to the immersion time together. I offered a follow up reflection asking everyone to think of a place in nature that has been meaningful to their pandemic experience and identify their gratitude for this place. Marietta re-oriented us to the practice of Ikigai, the practice of finding our life's meaning. Many of us were able to return to our journals from our Cambodia immersion and reflect on a similar guided reflection on Ikigai which Marietta offered to us back in 2019. Bolstered by meaningful prompts and guidance by Marietta, we spent some time personally journaling on uncovering what we love to do, what we are good at, and what the world needs from us now. For me, I was able to look back and see how the last year and a half with MELF has assisted me in making progress in my ikigai journey.

Elizabeth MacNeal led us through a wonderful virtual tour of the famous Baggot St, International House of Mercy. It was fascinating to hear stories of Catherine McAuley and about the lives of the very first Sisters of Mercy as told through their relation to various furniture and decorative objects on display in the house. The stories of these wonderful early women of Mercy fill us with inspiration and hope for making change against systems of patriarchy and injustice. In this tour we were reminded of the dedication and sacrifice needed for living a life of service, but also a sense of humour, comforting cups of tea and glorious sisterhood. In reflecting on the parallels between our lives as fellows and that of Catherine’s, I look at my fellow MELF sisters and see in every one of them the spirit of compassion and mercy still alive today. Catherine’s work continues.

Day Two -

Reflection by Amy Keller and Carmen Rosa Ccallomamani rsm

On Monday, we began with a prayer to honor the women who have important meaning in our lives.  We remembered those women that are not always recognized, but deserve it.  After this, we took a global view at what a Mercy statement/declaration means.  We were told that we would also be constructing one of our own, and it helped to see the examples given through the Mercy world.  To do this, we split into breakout groups on Zoom, and put our first words, feelings and desires of what our MELF community stands for.  This reflection was guided by the following questions:

  • Who are we as a group?
  • What are we committed to?
  • And what is our common call?

For the second session of the day, we had the opportunity to focus our thoughts more concretely.  We utilized a voting method to determine which were most indicative of our experiences.  This then allowed for our cohort to break off as a team and work to build this document as a full group.  It was so impressive to see the teamwork and collaboration that took place in such a short time.  It was a beautiful reminder of how our team has learned from each other over these past several months.  More time will be taken this week to finalize this piece, and we look forward to sharing it as a representation of our united group.

To end the day, we wished everyone well for the following sessions presentations, and went through the practical needs we will have as moderators and presenters.  We are fortunate to have such wonderful guiding voices that have helped us with this process to prepare for the next few days, and can't wait to show what we have been up to!

Day Three -

[Session 1 of Presentations - Sr Theresia ]

The morning began with moments of silent prayer for internet connectivity as Theresia Tina rsm was to be the first Fellow to present her research. To our delight, she was able to join and present to the various Sisters, Associates and partners in ministry that joined from around the world! Theresia’s presentation highlighted the degradation of the earth in Papua New Guinea. She focused on how unsystematic expansion of agriculture and housing for survival purposes contribute to the degradation of earth and its resources. While it is an issue for the whole country, her research focuses on one small village called Oamug in the Western Highlands Province as a case study and offers possible strategies to help overcome this issue for the future.

[Session 2 of Presentations - Jemima and Tylia]

Our afternoon session began with Jemima Welsh’s presentation as Mercy as Money. Her presentation explored the ways that money is, and can be, put to use in the spirit of Mercy. How do we, as the global Mercy community, use our capital to address some of the world’s biggest social and environmental injustices? How do we make sure that our capital isn’t aiding or abetting those activities that undermine human rights and those values we hold at the core of our Mercy tradition? And how do look beyond traditional capitalism to build a future that enables creativity, biodiversity and reciprocity to thrive? Her guide offers an introduction to the emerging ‘Impact Economy’, and puts forward a decision-making framework for members of the Mercy community to use when considering ways to invest, save and purchase intentionally within this new system.

Following Jemima’s presentation, Tylia Barnes presented on systemic racism in our communities. Racism is a societal ill that has been around for centuries. Tylia’s Talk took the audience on a journey through aspects of historical racism and personal experience. She challenged us to transition from a place of complicity to a position of coconspirator and described how becoming anti-racist is more than advocacy, it is a lifelong spiritual practice. She invited the Mercy and the wider community to cultivate consciousness through a lens of human rights and to become poised innovators of an anti racist culture within its community and institutions.

Day Four -

Reflection by Julia Morisi and Siobhán Golden

“Be sure you have a comfortable cup of tea”.

With all of the nerves and apprehension about research presentations, our day began by gathering virtually to enjoy a comfortable cup of tea. As we sat together, we took a moment to be truly present and mindful of the tea we were drinking. For our opening reflection, we focused on our breathing, taking a break from our busy thoughts and creating space. After a few minutes, we recalled the ‘Mercy Examen – Mercy Daily Review’ that Denise Coghlan rsm introduced us to when we were in Cambodia. It encourages us to reflect and give thanks to memories and encounters, and then calls us to forgiveness and Creation, as we move forward.

“God Grace me with your Mercy, Justice and Love”.

[Session 1 of presentations Amy, Siobhán, Anneke]:

Soon after our reflection, we were joined by sisters, associates, colleagues, friends, and family from around the world who gathered together to hear the presentations. Amy started the group off with her presentation titled What is Home, and How Do We Get There? Amy shared a bit of her own experience with Restoring Dignity, a non-profit in her hometown of Omaha which seeks to offer support to local refugees. Amy’s research prompt of “home is…” yielded varying and diverse responses, and left the audience with something to contemplate.

Siobhán was the next fellow to present. Siobhán explored a topic that does not usually receive enough attention. Her project is titled A Home is Dignity: A Collection of Voices and an Analysis of Women’s Mental and Emotional Experiences of Homelessness in Ireland. Siobhán gathered her research not only from her background expertise in psychology, but also through anonymous surveys from women who once experienced homelessness. Siobhán’s project allows the women’s individual voices to share their own stories of struggle as well as hope.

The session concluded with a presentation from Anneke, titled Displacement of the Heart: A Pocket Guide to Gentrification and Community Identity in Philadelphia, USA. In her presentation, Anneke offered an informative overview of the topic of gentrification as well as a deep-dive into this issue within her own neighborhood in West Philadelphia. The pocket guide, complete with original artwork, educational activities, and suggestions for reflection, offers a rich resource with community at its heart. 

[Session 2 of presentations - Ana, Julia]:

During our second session of MELF presentations, we heard from Anastasia Freeman and Julia Morisi. Again, we were graced with a wonderful group of attendees from all around the world.

Anastasia Freeman’s research project took us on a journey of planthropocentric thinking in the hopes of deepening our relationships with our ecosystems to think more critically about the climate emergency. Anastasia’s project is titled ‘Photosynthetic Visions’ and offers a seven day reflective process for readers to expand their land and plant literacy, and contemplate both the beauty and destruction of our living Earth. Anastasia’s love of nature and her background as an artist radiate through the creativity and very depth of her project. She left the audience with practical tips for slowing down our consumption patterns and fulfilling our ecological functions as humans.

Following this, Julia Morisi’s presentation gave us a compelling exploration of women’s leadership throughout faith traditions. Her project titled ‘In Search of our Stories: Retelling and Reclaiming Women’s Leadership in Religious Tradition’, compiles an anthology which reimagines the often undervalued, misrepresented, or misunderstood stories of women in religion. Women of all different religious and spiritual backgrounds contributed to her project through storytelling, visual artwork, poetry and prayer. Her own background in Theology and as an educator was reflected in her presentation, as she displayed and uplifted the incredible examples of female leadership in Mother Eve, Delilah, Mother Mary and many more. 

Our day ended full of pride, inspiration and joy for our fellow presenters and their diverse research contributions. On to a new day...

Day Five -

Our first session for the day began with a song and prayer given in the Jewish tradition led by Anneke Kat. Oseh Shalom by Debbie Friedman is a prayer for peace and wholeness.

The words are:

    Oseh shalom bimromav

    Hu ya’aseh shalom aleinu

    V’al kol V’al kol Yisrael

    V’imru, amen.

(Meaning: May he who makes peace in high places, make peace for us and for all Israel, and let us say, amen.)

[Final Presentation session - Sr Carmen Rosa]

Following our prayer, Carmen Rosa Ccallomamani rsm presented her research on roaming during COVID-19. Her research was a case study focusing on the testimony of five Peruvians, including herself, stranded in the United States during the COVID-19 Pandemic. Through their experience, the study highlights the many dangers faced, the action taken by the Peruvian State, and the roles that social media, NGOs and religious congregations played in their journey. She also described the 14 days they spent in quarantine back in Peru, sharing hotel rooms with strangers, and the forms of mutual support that emerged among them. She concluded with suggestions for best practices and policy.

Following our research presentations, we were joined by Berneice Loch rsm for our next session. This discussion was modeled as a “Fireside Chat” and allowed for an open conversation to explore our plans post graduating the Mercy Global Action Emerging Leaders Fellowship, hopes and dreams for advancing our advocacy in Mercy, Justice and Leadership, as well as ways in which we plan to stay connected in the future.

Day Six -

Our sessions for the day opened with an invitation to prayer and meditation using clay by Amy and Carmen Rosa. This prayer and process allowed for a smooth transition into our final sessions of the virtual immersion in which we were guided in the process of Art Journaling with Marianne Hieb rsm. Prior to the final immersion, we all were sent oil pastels and a sketchbook to delve into this process.

Marianne provided us the context that “we did not journey through the Fellowship in a vacuum, but within complex situations, and personal contexts. The Reflection and Integration Themes invite us to emerge our whole selves into our journaling meditations..”

She proposed three possible themes as starting places for reflection and integration in our art:

  1. What does my life ”look like” now? What are all of the elements that make up my life as it is today?
  2. Image places in my life that, during this experience, were touched by a sense of awe, delight, wonder-- perhaps something that , in the midst of it, or looking back, I realize was “beyond” me, a gift, mysterious, transcendent.
  3. Image places in my life most in need of healing, tending, resting, restoring (interiorly and/ or exteriorly). Gently notice aspects of my life wanting my merciful, creative attention.
  • Work with these prayerful, meditative journalings in the presence of the Holy.
  • Ask for and sense that accompaniment.
  • Respond to the theme non-verbally, with art materials
  • Gaze receptively, non-judgmentally, contemplatively
  • Do some written journaling to clarify and further the expression
  • Pay attention

Our art journaling sessions concluded with final steps moving forward as we approached the graduation.

Messages to: Colleen Swain - Leadership and Advocacy Associate MIA-MGA

The Fellows with their Certificates

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