Young Mercy Leaders: 2022 Review & 2023 Dates Announced
Young Mercy Leaders Pilgrimage at Mercy International Centre!
In July, MIA welcomed students from Mercy schools, colleges and universities to Mercy International Centre for the annual Young Mercy Leaders Pilgrimage. Inspired by Catherine McAuley, the pilgrimage experience offered Mercy students the opportunity to engage with Mercy spirituality, cultivate relationships and connect to a wider Mercy student network. After two years of upheaval and uncertainty due to the COVID-19 pandemic, we were excited to host the pilgrimage in-person again at Baggot street. The theme of this year's pilgrimage was ‘Rekindling the Flame: Always Act with Courage!’.
30 students were welcomed to Dublin from Carlow University, Our Lady of Mercy Academy, and Gwynedd Mercy High School for this year’s pilgrimage. Greeted by the YML team at Mercy International Centre with a 'Céad míle fáilte’, each student received a gift tote bag from MIA with their name badge, pen, notebook, programme booklet, t-shirt, and Catherine’s Suscipe prayer bookmark.
Each morning throughout the four-day programme, we began our day with an opening ritual and prayer in the chapel, centering the group into a place of spiritual renewal. During our ritual, we lit our Young Mercy Leaders candle, rekindling the flame and igniting the fire within each of us to act with courage.
Keynote addresses during the Pilgrimage were offered by:
- Sr Berneice Loch rsm who formally welcomed the students to Baggot Street and introduced the themes of mercy and leadership;
- Elizabeth MacNeal who explored Sustainable Development through a Mercy Lens and;
- Sr Margaret Twomey rsm who discussed Ecology, Religious Tradition, and Responses to the Ecological Crisis we are faced with.
In addition to these, there were a range of workshops organised throughout each day for the students which related to Mercy Spirituality, Leadership, Justice, and Stress Management. Workshop presenters included:
- Sr Carmel Bracken rsm who explored some simple body, mind and spirit healing practices for managing stress and building resilience
- Sr Máire Hearty rsm who led a reflective conversation on merciful leadership and the power of vulnerability;
- Andrea Haller from Mercy Volunteer Corps who discussed cultivating mercy and justice, and invigorating our passions as compassionate agents of change;
- Sr Berneice Loch rsm who explored what it means ‘to live justly’;
- Siobhán Golden who introduced tools for advocacy and shared the work of the Mercy Global Action at the UN.
It was an action packed programme. Other exciting activities included:
- A tour of the House of Mercy led by Elizabeth MacNeal, Sr Sheila Carney, and Sr Máire Hearty.
- Reflecting on the story of Catherine McAuley and watching the film ‘In God Alone’. Students were challenged to contemplate how they incorporate the values of Mercy into their own lives today.
- Visiting Merrion Square park for lunch where there were a selection of local food trucks for students to choose from.
- A creative walking tour of Dublin which incorporated a Mercy quiz of the places of importance in Catherine's story.
- An Irish immersion night which offered students a taste of Ireland, followed by Irish music and dancing. Each school competed in a dance-off and students were presented with medals and trophies for their participation.
- Reflecting on Catherine’s letters and writing a letter to their future selves.
On our final day of the programme, each school was challenge to brainstorm and present an action plan to take home to their schools which would contribute to the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals. Students were asked to identify what inspires them to make changes in the world on a global and local basis. SDG 11 Sustainable Cities and Communities, SDG 5 Gender Equality, and SDG 13 Climate Action were at the centre of their plans of action!
We concluded our time together with mass in the Baggot Street chapel. Father John O’Gara celebrated mass, thanking the young mercy leaders for their commitment to lives of mercy and justice. John highlighted the need for young people to be pillars of hope in our communities. After mass, the students and their leaders departed Baggot Street to explore more of Ireland and continue learning about Catherine’s homeland.
Writing about their experience on this programme students said “I feel so close to Catherine and empowered to continue her vision alongside the Sisters of Mercy” while another noted “I had such an amazing experience here and don’t want to leave. I hope my family recognizes the happy person that comes home!” Overall, it was a beautiful week here at Baggot Street, and as one student wrote “the experience of this week will stick with me forever.”
We hope you will consider joining us for the Young Mercy Leaders Pilgrimage in 2023!