November 09, 2008

Transition Times at Mercy International Centre

In an interview broadcast on November 11, 2008, Alice Walker, American author and Pulitzer Prize winner said: This is how change happens. It is a relay race, and we're very conscious of that, that our job really is to do our part of the race, and then we pass it on, and then someone picks it up, and it keeps going. And that is how it is.

baggot stThese days at MIC, one relay team is passing on the baton to another and while the words of Alice Walker are inspiring, it is the words of Catherine, 167 years earlier to the day, 11th November, 1841 that gives deeper meaning to our transitioning.   As the Sisters gathered around her, one asked if she would name her successor. Catherine refused to do so, leaving that to the direction of God’s Spirit and the wisdom of the group. In so doing, she was in effect saying that the work of Mercy is God’s work, not hers and not ours to control and that those whom God calls to it, bring Mercy forward from age to age. The house Catherine founded, affectionately known to many as Baggot Street, has always played a key role in the unfolding story of Mercy and this month, as the current MIC team say goodbye and the new MIA team assume responsibility for the centre, is a good time to recall that story.

The Story

In Catherine’s time, her response to need took the shape of the opening of the House of Mercy at Baggot Street on the boundary between those who were rich and poor in Dublin at that time. The Mercy mission spread throughout the world through daring women willing to respond to need in various countries. For 150 years, the call was to move the founding spirit of Catherine to all parts of the world to address whatever the most significant needs might be.

In the 1980s through the energizing work of God’s Spirit, another call was heard. This was a call to return to Catherine’s home and transform it to a place of renewal for Sisters of Mercy worldwide, a place of pilgrimage, heritage and hospitality, where the fire of the Mercy charism could be re-ignited, where Catherine could be met anew and through that encounter strength and courage could be found to return home to continue the works of Mercy.

In support of this new vision, the leaders of the Mercy congregations across the world came together at Baggot Street and established what became known as Mercy International Association. MIA’s initial purpose was to further this new initiative and steward the refurbishment of Catherine’s home which became Mercy International Centre.

Gradually new initiatives to respond to contemporary global needs were created: an international Mercy Justice network; Mercy Global Concern, representing Sisters of Mercy at the United Nations; a network of Mercy archivists; a global communications network and a series of international conferences, on such topics as formation and leadership.

As the 21st century began, MIA saw a need once again to re-focus its vision in light of changing realities in member congregations and in the world and so it set about a visioning process that addressed the following question: “If you were to see Mercy International Centre as the well spring of MIA, how would you re-vision MIA into the future?” Emerging from this process came a vision that called us to a recentering of ourselves in the God of Mercy, a renewed enthusiasm in living the founding spirit of Catherine and a recommitment to the mission of Mercy in response to issues of global poverty.

MIC, now incorporating the Catherine McAuley centre will play a key role in the realisation of this vision – a vision that challenges us to discern how God is drawing us in these times to use our rich resources of heritage, spirituality, culture, and ministry and communications networks to respond to the cries of the poor across the globe.

For all that has been – THANKS

This is an appropriate time to say thanks to all who have been weavers of this story:

  • To the Visionaries who first dreamed a new story for Catherine’s house on Baggot Street and to those who continued to dream new possibilities for it over the years
  • To the Mercy leaderships around the world, who then and since have nurtured  and resourced the dream
  • To the people  who  courageously attended to the reconstruction of the old into a beautifully refurbished MIC
  • To the thousands who have attended programmes and other MIC events and supported the centre in various ways

 A very special word of thanks to all who staffed MIC.  They have come to Baggot Street from all corners of the Mercy world to minister as Directors, Team Members, Volunteers and support staff. They have been the welcoming presence in Catherine’s home, the hospitable hosts to pilgrims and visitors. the nurturers of heritage and charism for all who came seeking renewal and a deeper understanding of Catherine and the Mercy charism. We wish a special blessing on Caitlin Conneely, rsm the current Director and her team Anne Reid, Colette Baldwin, rsm; Rosemary Revell, rsm; Lee Guirreri, rsm; Rose Schoolcraft, rsm and Mary McEnearney, rsm. who are ensuring that the ministry so lovingly tended by them and their predecessors is passed on to the new MIA team with the greatest of care and attention.

For all that will be- YES

Mary Kay Dobrovolny, rsm and Sylvia Williams, rsm have arrived at Baggot St. and together with Mary Reynolds will be working over the coming weeks on bringing the new MIA Vision and Strategic Plan into action. Adele Howard will provide Communications consultancy to the team and personnel from some of the MIA projects will also join in discerning how the activities of MIA can be better integrated in the service of the Mission of Mercy. The new Team will launch officially on December, 12th.

Anne Reid’s reflection on this transition time at Baggot Street beautifully captures the moment:

The time has come for seeds to be planted yet again planted now in soil that has become fertile and readied through 15 years of tender, loving dedication of past caretakers. May the new caretakers be filled with enthusiasm and great hope for the future vision of Catherine’s beloved Baggot St.

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