July 28, 2023

MGA Emerging Leaders Fellows Group Two Final Immersion Reflections

The final immersion of the second cohort of the Mercy Global Action Emerging Leaders Fellowship took place from 10 July to 17th July, 2023. 

MGA staff and the 18 women comprising Cohorts 1 & 2 of the Mercy Global Action Emerging Leaders Fellowship gathered at Mercy International Centre in Dublin for the final immersion and graduation of the second cohort of the fellowship program. Members of Cohort 1 were reunited after their virtual graduation in 2021, and together all were able to join in celebration in Catherine's House.

During the final immersion, Fellows presented their research, covering topics related to the Degradation of Earth and Displacement of Peoples, including access to tertiary education for forcibly-displaced students in Australia, food for education programs in Kenya, public branding of Church leaders in the Philippines, countering stigma around suicide, addressing mental health in humanitarian situations, looking at environmental degradation through the lens of big rivers, highlighting the leadership of women in responding to the climate crisis, examining the relationship between population growth and sustainable food systems, and entering into non-violent practice.

Other sessions helped to provide Fellows from Cohorts 1 and 2 with further tools for leadership, and planted seeds for future engagement beyond the end of the Fellowship. Margaret Endicott rsm from Australia conducted a three-day workshop on Mercy Facilitative Leadership, and Colleen Swain and Jemima Welsh presented the beginnings of a new Alumni Engagement strategy.

Reflection by Dominique Marendy 

Today was a profoundly transformative day for us, the MELF (Mercy Emerging Leaders Fellowship) fellows, as we gathered together at Catherine McAuley's house to practice the Circle Way by Ann Linnea and Christina Baldwin introduced to us yesterday by Angela Reed. Throughout the day, we delved into the concept of "a leader in every chair," a powerful idea that has reshaped our understanding of leadership and collaboration.

The Circle Way session opened our hearts and minds to the realization that leadership is not confined to a single individual or hierarchical structure. Instead, each one of us has the capacity to be a leader, to bring our unique perspectives, talents, and experiences to the table, and to contribute meaningfully to our collective vision. As we sat in the circle, we felt a sense of unity and empowerment, knowing that our voices were equally valued and that our ideas could ignite change in our communities and the world.

Revisiting our group mission statement, which we had initially written during our time in Cambodia back in August 2022, was an illuminating experience. It was heartening to see how much we had grown and evolved throughout this Mercy Emerging Leaders Fellowship program. The mission statement that once felt like a distant dream has now become a tangible reality, shaped by our shared experiences, challenges, and triumphs.

As we analyzed our mission statement, we found that its core values remained intact: compassion, equity, sustainability, and community-driven change. However, what truly amazed us was how much the depth of our commitment to these values had deepened over time. We realized that our original statement only scratched the surface, and now, with the wisdom gained through the program, we are ready to finalize it, making it a profound and authentic representation of our collective purpose.

The process of aligning our mission statement at the end of the program was not without its challenges. We engaged in open and respectful discussions, navigating diverse perspectives, and finding common ground amidst our differences. The Circle Way principles served as a guiding force, encouraging us to listen actively, speak from the heart, and practice genuine inquiry.

With every moment spent together, we strengthened our bonds as a fellowship. We celebrated our individual growth and supported each other through moments of vulnerability. We have become more than just a group; we are a tightly-knit community, united by the shared vision of creating positive change in the world.

As we finalize our mission statement, we are filled with excitement and pride, knowing that we are about to share this document with the Mercy world during our graduation ceremony. We understand the immense responsibility that comes with representing our values and the legacy of Catherine McAuley. But we are ready; we are confident in our capacity to make a difference.

Looking back on this day, we are filled with gratitude for the experiences and learnings that the MELF program has provided. We carry with us not only the knowledge and skills gained but also the friendships and connections forged. This journey has instilled in us a profound sense of purpose and ignited a flame within our hearts, urging us to step into the leaders we were always meant to be.

As we move towards our graduation, we know that our mission statement will serve as a guiding light for each of us as we embark on our unique paths. We may disperse across the globe, but the bond we share as MELF fellows will endure, and together, we will create ripples of positive change in the world, just as Catherine McAuley envisioned.


Reflection by Sarah Brown

Sharing with the fellows near Catherine in the garden for prayer was a special beginning to the day. We shared silence. We shared music. We shared affirmation. We shared laughter. I wouldn’t have it any other way or with any other women. 

These women are incredible Mercy leaders, and I was lucky and grateful to spend the rest of the day listening to each one present on her project. The presentations are a brilliant reflection of their research and their deep spirituality, innate talents, and open hearts for Earth and its people. 

In the afternoon, we gathered briefly to meet the first cohort. The room burst into joy and animated voices and hearts. At long last we were able to join together and begin to get to know the amazing group of women in the first cohort.

Being in Catherine’s home is rejuvenating. I am able to sense her spirit and leadership example just by being here. We have been on a journey for almost four years since we first applied and so this final immersion feels like it’s closing a much larger chapter of life, not only our fellowship time together. Being together in this special place and joining with cohort one, who have also waited years to be here, I know our personal journeys will have new beginnings and our friendships will continue.


Reflection by Michelle Gorman rsm, Gaby Kinsman and Stellah Mathe

Today was a very enriching and inspiring day for all of us Fellows in Cohort 2- the day for sharing our presentations with the world had finally arrived! The days and months of Google Classroom, Zoom webinars, and seemingly endless research had coalesced into this time where we had only twenty minutes each to share our passion for Justice, Mercy, and transformative Leadership as a gift to the global Mercy community.  We were indeed a little anxious. 

Thankfully, to our rescue came two wonderful Sisters of Mercy from Newry, County Armagh/Down! They were Sisters Anne and Paula, and since we had met them during our New York immersion, we knew we had nothing further to fear. After an hour of tai chi, prayer, and mindfulness exercises, we were ready to face the Zoom camera and our in-person audience which consisted of our invited guests and our Cohort 1 Fellows.  

Our MELF leaders- Angela Reed, RSM; Marietta Latonio; and Tylia Barnes- had skillfully arranged the order of our nine presentations to flow from challenges and concerns to hopeful solutions. Gaby, Stellah, and Derby illustrated the importance of education and advocacy from childhood through college and in church-related matters.  Magdalene and Rebecca both focused on mental health issues in these times of high suicide rates and humanitarian disasters.  Michelle and Paula reflected on the impacts of human-made climate crises on all life forms and ancient civilizations.  Dom and Sarah presented a measure of hope as they offered solutions for feeding a hungry world and an invitation for all of us to practice non-violence as we seek to implement the UN Sustainable Development Goals for the common good of all life.  

After each presentation, ten minutes were allowed for questions and conversation on the various topics.  Each of us gleaned new insights and were able to notice the intersectionality of all the issues facing our world today.  This MELF Fellowship was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to showcase our own topics of interest and to strengthen our commitment to global awareness and action within our Mercy World and beyond.  

At the end of the day, we all enjoyed a festive dinner at Searsons and prepared for the final days of our formal Fellowship- with gratitude in our hearts and changed in outlook and perspective.


Reflection by Dominique Marendy 

Today marked the beginning of a transformative journey for us, as we gathered together, Both Cohort 1 and Cohort 2, at Catherine McAuley's house for Day 1 of the Mercy facilitative leadership course facilitated by Margaret Endicott RSM. The excitement and anticipation in the air were palpable as we embarked on a three-day immersive experience focused on Participatory Facilitation techniques.

From the moment Margaret began, her passion for facilitation and the Mercy values was evident. She created a warm and welcoming space that allowed us to feel at ease, encouraging us to engage actively in the learning process. Throughout the day, we explored the principles and practices of participatory facilitation, and it quickly became clear that this approach aligned perfectly with the values we hold dear as Mercy fellows.

Participatory facilitation is not about imposing authority or directing others, but rather, it is centered around empowering individuals and groups to find their voices, make decisions collaboratively, and take ownership of the outcomes. This resonated deeply with us as we believe in the importance of inclusivity and collective wisdom.

As we delved into various facilitation techniques, we were reminded of the importance of active listening and creating a safe space for open dialogue. Margaret emphasized the significance of holding a non-judgmental stance and cultivating deep empathy towards one another. These principles deeply touched us, as they mirrored the values we have embraced throughout our time as MELF fellows.

Throughout the day, we actively participated in practical exercises, putting the facilitation techniques into action. We were split into small groups, each given the task of facilitating a discussion on a challenging topic. This hands-on experience allowed us to put theory into practice, honing our skills and gaining invaluable feedback from both Margaret and our peers.

One of the most significant takeaways from the day was realizing the power of facilitation in unlocking the collective intelligence of a group. By employing participatory techniques, we saw how diverse perspectives could merge and converge to reach creative and sustainable solutions. It was a beautiful reminder that the strength of a community lies in its ability to come together and leverage the wisdom present in each individual.

As the day drew to a close, we felt a renewed sense of purpose and confidence in our potential as facilitative leaders. The skills and insights we gained today have already begun to shift our perspectives on leadership, and we can't wait to continue exploring this approach throughout the remainder of the course.

We are incredibly grateful for the opportunity to learn from someone as experienced and passionate as Margaret Endicott. Her guidance and wisdom have already proven to be invaluable, and we eagerly anticipate what the next two days of the Mercy facilitative leadership course have in store for us.

As the sun sets on Day 1, we are filled with gratitude for the privilege of being part of this empowering and enlightening experience. Tomorrow, we will continue our journey towards becoming facilitative leaders, armed with new tools, insights, and the unwavering support of our fellow MELF fellows.


Reflection by Derby Mercado rsm 

On this day we continue our workshop on Mercy Facilitative Leadership by Sr. Margaret Endicott RSM. It is our 2nd day of this workshop and we continue to get to know but at this time we are sensing the group social style. It is surprising that no one in the group is a DRIVER and the AMIABLE style is remarkably numerous. As I reflect on it, I came to realize that maybe this group calls to be more of a relational type of leaders. We may have to challenge ourselves to acquire other styles to balance but I believe that this is also an important gift as a Mercy leader since we value more our relationship to each other and to our Earth. 

During the triad group sharing in the afternoon I shared about my dream 20 yrs ago, that was awakened during the session today. I received wonderful feedback from my peer group and it made me realize that the dream I had before reveals where I am now. It is the revelation of the challenge of how to enflesh the many insights, knowledge, and realization that this MELF program contributes. This program really gave a great impact in my journey and continues to challenge me to live out and share with others what I have gained here. And this is actually the Mercy Leadership Fellows has to be. My unending gratitude for this program.


Reflection by Michelle Gorman rsm, Gaby Kinsman and Stellah Mathe

Today, we concluded our three-day facilitative leadership workshop.  Having spent the first two days exploring the rational aims and the experiential aims of such a workshop, we were now ready to probe the practical results by completing an Action Plan to help us thrive as Mercy facilitative leaders. As with Days 1 and 2, Margaret Endicott, RSM presented us with a methodically thought-out process to lead us to a personal action plan for any topic. By the end we understood that having a shared vision, building trust and collaboration, empowering others, and managing conflicts must lead to action; otherwise, one’s planned outcomes may remain in concept only.  

On this last day of the workshop, we had the opportunity to identify a specific issue or challenge that we wanted to address in our community, and then outline the steps and strategies that we would use to achieve our goal. This comprised of considering the resources, stakeholders, risks, and indicators of success for our project. The action plan helped us to clarify our vision and purpose, as well as to plan realistically and systematically. 

Overall, the facilitative leadership training was designed to help us develop skills and abilities as Mercy emerging leaders with the ability to facilitate positive change in our communities and in our Mercy global reality. Applying the interactivity of such exercises as brainstorming, role-playing, and problem-solving helped us realize the value of working in community.

We are very grateful for the opportunity to complete this training, as it has given us valuable knowledge, practical skills, and confidence to continue to pursue our leadership aspirations. We feel better prepared and motivated to embrace opportunities for facilitation and make a positive impact in our communities. We look forward to implementing our action plans and continuing to grow and learn in our journey as Mercy facilitative leaders. We are most grateful to all those who used facilitative leadership to bring Cohort 2 together (and Cohort 1) as we collaborate and plan to extend the Mercy charism and Mercy Global Action to the far reaches of planet Earth for the common good of all. 

The immersion concluded with the graduation of Cohort 2. We were very honored that Azza Karam, Professor of Religion and Development at Vrij Universiteit Amsterdam, was the graduation speaker. She spoke on "Mercy as Faiths Working Together for the Common Good." You can read Professor Azza Karam's full graduation remarks here. Congratulations to all the Fellows! See photos and quotes from the immersion below:

Messages to: Marietta Latonio - Leadership and Advocacy Associate MIA-MGA

MELF Final Immersion

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