Young Mercy Leaders Pilgrimage Now Underway at Baggot Street
Editor: The dining room at Baggot Street was just large enough to contain the 69 young people (Mercy pilgrims) with 14 accompanying university staff and mentors who arrived in at 10am this morning to register their attendance at the third biannual Young Mercy Leaders (YML) pilgrimage for college students and young adults with its theme Leadership in the Year of Mercy.
Each pilgrim received a pack containing the essentials for their days at Baggot Street: the program, a journal for note-taking and reflection, an MIC biro, a chocolate bar and reflective writings including the poem by Mary Wickham rsm, 'The Door of Mercy'.
The pilgrims are from Carlow, Georgian Court, Gwynedd Mercy, Misericordia, Salve Regina and Mount Mercy universities in the United States, with local delegations from the Southern, Northern and South Central Provinces of The Congregation.
Welcome and Opening Ritual
Registration completed, the pilgrims gathered in the Chapel where they were welcomed by Mary Reynolds rsm, Executive Director of Mercy International Association. The Welcome was followed by an Opening Ritual beautifully prepared by Bernie Ryan rsm (Southern Province), who was also responsible for the focus space, and Kathy Higgins rsm (MIC).
One of the highlights of each pilgrimage is the music. Our gifted musicians, Marie Cox rsm (Northern Province), Patricia O'Donovan rsm (CLT) and Anne Marie O'Carroll rsm played and led the singing of: 'Gather' (Liam Lawton), 'Here I Am Lord' (John Michael Talbot), 'The Cry of the Poor' (John Foley sj) and 'Healing Balm' (Peter Kolar). These familiar tunes played and sung so well sounded fresh and new and our voices soared in response.
Sr Mary gave a many-faceted welcome to the pilgrims - to the founding house of Catherine McAuley, to the wellspring of Mercy and to the homecoming of their own inner spirit.
Now welcomed, the pilgrims could commence their journey. Sr Mary lit the pilgrimage candle from the eternal light that burns at Catherine's grave. She invited those present to be 'ready and willing to be led wherever the journey takes you and to be alert for the unexpected'. The replica of the Baggot Street doors featured in the focus space, painstakingly hand-carved in meticulous detail by Bernie Ryan's brother Eddie and painted by his wife Eileen, were opened at this point, as these pilgrims were invited to cross the threshold through the Door of Mercy.
Mary Conway rsm (Northern Province PLT) laid the foundation for what followed with her reading from Matthew 7:7-8 'Ask and You Shall Receive'.
Having proclaimed their awareness of and sensitivity to the Cry of the Earth and the Cry of the Poor in the prayers, pilgrims then sang of their willingness to be of service: 'Here I Am Lord'.
Sheila Carney rsm (Americas) read from Tender Courage the extract that concludes 'Catherine somehow grasped intuitively that mercy is gift given in response to need, neither earned nor deserved. She did not shrink from the demands mercy places on whoever would extend it. She knew that rendering the merciful service was not an act of benificence, but one of gratitude to God for mercy received'.
Sr Sheila spoke of the movement outwards from the First House of Mercy in Catherine's Day and of how in our time, MIC is the centre of inward and outward movement for global mercy. She invited us to be supported, nourished, encouraged and inspired by our time here; to take these gifts back to our home places and to keep alert for glimpses of Catherine peeking around the corners of this House in delight and expectation.
The ritual ended with a spontaneous communal movement to the final song 'Healing Balm', led by Bernie Ryan rsm. That brought smiles, laughter and applause as the pilgrims left the Chapel on the next step of their journey into the home of mercy at Baggot Street.
Liz Murphy rsm (Southern Province) an experienced consultant and facilitator is the Pilgrimage Facilitator. She began the Opening Process in a most engaging way - teaching everyone to give greetings in Irish and then to welcome each other to the pilgrim experience using their newly learnt Irish language. She took the pilgrims through the four stages of building a group: forming, storming, norming and performing. The guidelines for our tine together were drawn from the book The Four-Fold Way by Arrien Angeles. Pilgrims were invited to turn to the person next to them and, with each taking turns to tie on the other's wristband, the symbol for this pilgrimage, to recite the following commitment:
1. Show up and choose to be present
2. Pay attention to what has heart and meaning
3. Speak the truth without blame or judgement
4. Be open to the outcome, not attached to it.
The wristbands were woven from 3 colours: purple (for the deepest part of ourselves); blue (to find your voice and speak one's truth) and multi-coloured ( to be open to the surprises of the place and people at MIC)
Over the four days, all pilgrims will rotate through the 7 workshops (more about the workshops tomorrow). They will remain in their assigned Workshop Group so today was an opportunity to meet the twelve members of one's group, to introduce themselves and to begin to build connections.
Srs Mary Reynolds, Sheila Carney and Mary Trainer each shared their intimate knowledge and love of Catherine's house with all the pilgrims rotating through their 'Stations'. Mary Reynolds led the tour of the International Room and the Doyle Room; Mary Trainer had the tour of the Callaghan Room and the Chapel and Sheila Carney had charge of the Cemetery Garden and the Heritage Room.
Keynote & Discussion
No one is excluded from the mercy of God: this was Sr Betty Scanlon’s keynote message to the Young Mercy Leaders. Sr Betty’s message, like that of Pope Francis’ in Misericordia Vultus, is that the only valid way to think Mercy is in the global context.
She told a story of her visit to Haiti after the earthquake in 2010. The staff from a demolished clinic who had scattered to look after their families returned when they learned that the sisters had come to stay and were living in a tent. She didn’t use the words leadership or example or compassion or empathy but it was clear from her story that all of these elements were factors in motivating the terrified staff to return to the clinic to care for the injured and sick.
Her talk raised many questions for us:
• How do we, who are well fed and clothed, understand and empathise with the plight of the 3 billion people who live on less than $2.50 /day or the 800 million who go to bed hungry every night?
• Can we, who have never really experienced powerlessness, understand those who are totally powerless and oppressed?
• Have we any obligation towards the 65 million who have been driven from their homes?
• What steps can we, in our insulated cultures, do to open ourselves to the consequences of extreme poverty in many other cultures and nations?
Sr Betty’s message: In our world today we are called to a revolution of tenderness and love no matter what our circumstances.
The program (PDF) will run until Friday night. You are invited to follow online the life and energy of these days with our daily updates on the mercyworld.org website, on Facebook @MIA Young Mercy Leaders and on Twitter using the hashtag #YML2016.
Messages to: YML Communications Team: Elizabeth, Ruth, Anne