Mercy Associates Rockhampton16 November, 2021
Mercy: One Charism, Many Paths
Rockhampton Mercy Associates members gathered in late September 2021 to celebrate Mass, share a morning tea followed by a presentation by Sr Beryl Amedee rsm on the historical development of the Mercy Associates, particularly in the Diocese of Rockhampton – from a seed of an idea planted in 1980 to being part of a national organisation in 2016.
In setting the scene for her presentation, Sr Beryl reflected on how, originally, Catherine McAuley, envisaged establishing a community of pious lay women who would devote themselves to the service of the poor and ignorant, with liberty to return to their worldly life when they no longer felt inclined to discharge such duties. However, circumstances forced Catherine to abandon this idea and, instead, to establish a religious order, the Sisters of Mercy. The development of Mercy Associates, in some way, echoes Catherine’s dream of establishing a lay organisation seeped in the spiritual and corporal works of mercy, living in the secular world.
Sr Beryl explained that early thinking on the establishment of Mercy Associates groups in the Diocese of Rockhampton was raised at a chapter of the Rockhampton Sisters of Mercy in 1980, but it was not until 1991 that a formal proposal was put forward and approved at the Chapter of the Rockhampton Sisters of Mercy of that year. Mercy Associates groups were formed in Rockhampton, Gladstone, Mackay, Bundaberg and Brisbane.
To provide spiritual formation for these new groups, significant experiences were offered. These included: Diocesan meetings and retreats, guest speakers, monthly prayer leaflets relating to Catherine McAuley’s Mercy vision as well as prayer days for the Rockhampton and Gladstone groups.
In 2000, representatives of eighteen congregations of the Sisters of Mercy and their Mercy Associates groups met to share their stories. An outcome of this sharing was the realisation that a common Mercy Associates’ policy was needed. At a subsequent gathering in 2002, a common Mercy Associates National Policy was approved and the role of regional Mercy Associates coordinators was defined.
With the formation of the Institute of the Sisters of Mercy of Australia and Papua New Guinea (ISMAPNG) in 2011, meant further adaptation by Mercy Associates groups to bring them under the umbrella of the new Institute. This was completed in 2016.
While each Mercy Associates group enjoys autonomy and informal structuring, spiritual formation of each member is important. As well, each group is encouraged to discern the needs of their community and to support underprivileged people.
Guided by the Mercy values of compassion, justice, hospitality and hope, Mercy Associates aspire to celebrate and give thanks for God’s merciful love; to nurture their relationship with God to enable them to witness to their faith in prayer and action; to give expression to God’s mercy in response to the needs of these times in the ordinariness of their daily lives and in all their relationships; and to journey with each other and the Sisters of Mercy and so share the gift of knowing God’s loving kindness with others.
If you would like to join the Rockhampton Mercy Associates group, please contact the Chairperson, Kathleen Winter on firstname.lastname@example.org.
Mercy: the principal path pointed out by Jesus Christ to those who wish to follow Him