May 01, 2023

What Mercy Women Leaders are Reading!

Mercy Global Action's Leadership Generating Project team (Colleen Swain + Jemima Welsh) are currently working on a position paper on Mercy women's leadership. This paper seeks to honour the legacy of the Sisters of Mercy around the world and explore contemporary understandings of, and hopes for, Mercy leadership in areas such as global justice advocacy, women's rights, education and the Catholic church. 


In writing this paper, we hope to highlight the myriad of stories of amazing leadership work undertaken (sometimes very quietly) by vowed and lay women of Mercy. We also aim to equip Mercy Global Action with the knowledge to speak at the United Nations and other international platforms about the value of Mercy women’s leadership. 


At the beginning of this project, we sent out a survey to Mercy women leaders around the world, inviting thoughts and stories. One question in particular asked: If you had to recommend a book/movie/podcast/poem/article to an emerging Mercy leader, what would you choose and why? 


To leave you feeling inspired, rejuvenated and proud to be part of this global Mercy community of women leaders who do things differently, we share with you below a snapshot of some of the answers we received. We hope you enjoy seeking out a couple of these resources!


  • I love the movie The Inn of the 6th Happiness. We must never allow others to deny us the ability to be our best and most productive selves. The heroine, Gladys Aylward, believed in herself, even when others did not.



  • Braiding Sweetgrass by Robin Wall Kimmerer, to see how the author so beautifully integrates Indigenous wisdom with scientific knowledge. It's a reminder that we all come with much experience and wisdom to share for the greater good and we need to bring our full selves to our work.


  • Just Mercy by Bryan Stevenson. Unless we walk in the shoes of the ones who are suffering, we cannot remedy the suffering. If we want to help the suffering, we must be close to them.


  • Glennon Doyles podcast We Can Do Hard Things. Her most recent book Untamed is also a phenomenal read that showcases how we should consistently let others down before we dare let ourselves down. I think this style of leadership is revolutionary, particularly since I was raised to believe that I had to strive for perfection and that is not attainable.


  • Drawdown and Regeneration by Paul Hawken. These demonstrate how leadership/education of women and girls are in the top 5 actions required to reverse global warming and build resilience in unstable times.


  • The Isabel Dalhousie novels of Alexander McCall Smith- depicts a main character who tries to live with integrity and kindness. Low key but interesting depictions of ordinary life.


  • I like the work of Margaret J. Wheatley - Who do we Choose to Be? and other leadership books of her authorship. The recent work of Dr Martin Shaw (UK) - a notable academic in myths and legends and wilderness experience who has recently converted and been baptised to Catholicism.


  • In the aftermath of the Vatican investigation of the Leadership Conference of Women Religious, the sisters who had been in leadership within the Conference during that time collaborated on a book on which they told the story of how they chose to move through that time. The book is called However Long the Night and it is edited by Annmarie Sanders, IHM. It is a magnificent story of leading with power and graciousness and mercy of the Leadership Conference of Women Religious.



  • A Man for All Seasons movie about Thomas Moore. I'd recommend the necessity of standing alone against the prevailing culture. This culture can be congregational or the social culture of the particular country at a particular time. I would recommend a book, The Road Less Travelled by Scott Peck. The reason is, a leader needs to find her own road and be enabled to make good judgements after ensuring that she has the facts.


  • This may seem like a trivial response, but the animated movie Soul. It is about presence, acting while you have the chance to act, and living the life you have - not the "dream" life you don't have .... the secret to happiness and fulfilment.

Is your favourite book/movie/podcast that you would recommend missing? Contact Jemima Welsh at and/or Colleen Swain at to include your recommendations for emerging Mercy leaders!

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