Parramatta Congregation Celebrates 125 Years Weaving the Threads of Mercy
A day of celebration was declared on 8 December 2013 to mark 125th anniversary of a significant occasion in the history of the Sisters of Mercy Parramatta.
On that day in 1888, a small band of Sisters of Mercy newly arrived from Ireland, gathered around a simple altar and prayed for God’s blessing on their mission to Parramatta. Dr O'Haran celebrated this first Mass and blessed their Convent under the invocation of the Immaculate Conception.
125 years later about 400 people, including Sisters, past students, colleagues and friends gathered to celebrate and to reflect on the theme of ‘Weaving the Threads of Mercy’.
The first thread woven was an i-movie that told of Catherine McAuley who began the Sisters of Mercy; it traced the Parramatta founding story through to today. This segment was introduced by students from OLMC Burraneer singing Sub Tuum Praesidium (Under Your Protection).
We heard from an Eritrean refugee woman about her life, with her focus on the hope she holds rather than the atrocities she has suffered. She told of the Mercy she had experienced in her life and the commitment she has made to share that Mercy with others.
A thread that was woven all through the day was the announcement of 125 Women and Men of Mercy. These lay women and men, coming from a wide range of backgrounds, had been nominated for exemplifying the spirit of Catherine McAuley, foundress of the Sisters of Mercy, though their commitment to ‘Mercy in action’ and the living of Mercy values.
The thread of our young people was woven by students from OLMC Parramatta, Catherine McAuley Westmead, OLMC Burraneer and Our Lady of the Rosary School Kellyville. Through singing, chamber orchestra, dancing, works of art and sharing with the audience, they identified numerous examples of how Mercy is alive in their school communities. Their youthful enthusiasm and spirit of joy was inspirational.
Sisters Margaret Sheppard and Valda Dickinson shared their experiences of working with refugees and asylum seekers in detention centres. This justice thread led participants to reflect on the question: From what you have heard, how has your heart been stirred?
Over the years, close bonds have been established among Sisters and lay women and men who are committed to Mercy and want to have a deeper involvement. The Mercy Futures group comprises of Sisters and lay women who have been reflecting on ‘Where to from here for mercy?’ Recognising that the Congregation is aging, the group is motivated to work towards the keeping the flame of the mercy charism alive for another 125 years. All present were invited to be involved in taking Mercy forward. They were asked: How can we continue Catherine's mercy vision in the future?
The concept of a Mercy Place was formed. Mercy Place will empower people reach out to the world in action for mercy and justice. It provide peer support for those in Mercy ministries, skills formation for young leaders and mentoring for women in leadership.
Woven into Mercy Place will be threads representing the dedication and commitment of every Sister both present and past; and all who have worked and still work for the many ministries of Mercy. Those present were invited to respond as to how they might be involved in a Mercy Place.
The day concluded with a presentation to the Sisters of Mercy, a time of Prayer focussed on Threads of Mercy, followed by a Devonshire afternoon tea.
Messages to: Anne Ferguson - Coordinator, Office of Mission Animation, Sisters of Mercy Parramatta