January 29, 2014

Trocaire '81- a Refounding Moment

When we tell the story of Mercy International Association, we see Trocaire ’81, the first international gathering of the Sisters of Mercy, as a seminal moment.

Trocaire '81 marked the 150th anniversary of the founding of the Mercy Congregation, but in hindsight we can see that it planted a seed that would shoot up over a decade later as Mercy International Association.

Some gems from the archives give us an insight into the creative work of God forming and reforming Mercy.

From the Archives:
The emergence of a Common Statement and Recommitment at the end of the Trocaire ’81 meeting was seen as a refounding moment, writes Helena O’Donohue rsm. In this, she says lies the significance of Trocaire ’81. The 130 delegates spoke as one voice, as a mouthpiece for the 22,000 sisters and dared to say:

Mercy is God’s powerful word,
Spoken in Jesus, His life, passion and resurrection.
It bends and changes, forms and reforms our lives
So that we may receive mercy and in turn be merciful

As women of the Church today,
In the footsteps of Mary and Catherine
With faith and prophetic boldness

We commit ourselves anew
To search for ways to express God’s mercy by
Standing with the poor
Reassessing our ministries,
Working to alleviate and eradicate
poverty, injustice and oppression
In collaboration with all people of goodwill
Who make the gospel live in today’s world.

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After returning home, some delegates to Trocaire ’81 shared their impressions. Here are extracts from these accounts. They serve to give us a taste of what that very special experience was to them.

Reflections from the United States
Our ‘after thoughts’ on Trocaire ’81 are thoughts of the future, not of the past as the challenge expressed there grows in us. The experience created in us a sense of pride in, even responsibility for, one another’s apostolic efforts.
Doris Gottemoeller rsm

A Gospel seed has been sown! All of us must nurture it so it can bring forth mutual international support among Sisters of Mercy for God’s cause on this earth: establishing a loving union of all nations based on justice, mercy and peace’
Joanna Regan rsm

Trocaire ’81 is the cutting edge for forging the future
Karen Marcil rsm

Trocaire ’81 changed ‘pen pals’ to persons and friends, changed foreign concerns and issues to our concerns and issues. No longer feel that I am a member of a small independent community, but rather I belong to a large family of the universal church. We Sisters of Mercy are persons in a local, national and international community.
Ann Marshall rsm

The conference was more than I had ever envisioned. I feel the total community was alive with the possibility of what we could be. That for me showed great courage and hope for all of us
Concilia Moran (First to initiate the idea of a pan- Mercy meeting)

Reflections from Aotearoa New Zealand
So much to reflect on, to respond to, to share. It is only now, so far away in distance and time that I am gradually knowing the richness and challenge of the Lord’s global gracing through Mercy
Anne Campbell rsm

A sense of wonder filled me – that persons from such diverse cultures should have the similar charism of carrying out a responding to the Mission of Mercy in the Church and that this diversity in cultures, language and countries did not separate us. There was unity in this diversity; we were part of one family
Stella Maris rsm

Reflection from Australia
My experience was of the conjunction between the first radical impulse in history which brought about the direction of Catherine’s life, her community and her work, and this present meeting of all known as mercy.
Beverley Stott rsm

Reflection from South Africa
The feeling which dominated was one of unity. The Mercy spirit was evident and formed a bond among us.
Immaculata Devine rsm

Reflection from Ireland
The summons was to a searching and refounding experience that would ‘fashion a future, global in vision and rooted in Mercy’.
Helena O’Donohue rsm

The Call to Mercy in the 21st Century


Sr. Mary Augustine Cahill (Great Britain Union) was one of the keynote speakers at Trocaire ’81, her topic The Call to Mercy in the 21st Century.

M Augustine Cahill rsm. Image courtesy of GB Union

The 21st Century was still 2 decades away, so one can only marvel at her far reaching vision and prophetic call.

Among Sr Augustine's challenging statements was the following:
The future belongs to God, and I’m sure we all agree that if we Sisters of Mercy of the 1980s wish the Institute founded by Catherine McAuley to survive, we who are living in this transition period have a part to play in the revitalisation of the Institute of Mercy. A revival at this transition stage will demand new beginnings. We are challenged to start out afresh, to follow where the Spirit leads and to pioneer Christian witness in a new and radical way. This upsurge of new life involves a reappropriation of the charism of Mercy, and it means a transforming response to the signs of the times.

She concluded her presentation with the following: I would like to express gratitude for this privileged moment of grace that Trocaire ’81 has been in the history of the Sisters of Mercy. It cannot be seen otherwise than as the work of the Holy Spirit in our Institute, and through it, in the Church universal. Trocaire ’81 has set in motion a new surge of life that will have far reaching effects throughout the world. Our sharing together here this week has brought enrichment to ourselves, to our Communities and to our Mercy Apostolate for the future.

Some form of connectedness, to continue educating the Mercy Sisters to themselves, to enable us to see creative fidelity to the charism of Catherine McAuley across the world, and to provide practical means of mutual support and encouragement would I’m sure be welcomed by all of us.


Sr Augustine died in February 2013. Thankfully, she had seen some of her dreams realised and I expect she would approve of the connectedness that has now developed among members of the Mercy global family.

Messages to: Mary Reynolds rsm - Executive Director MIA

# MIA Welcomes contributions of images for this web gallery and the archives. Please contact: Anne Walsh

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