By Ann Marie Foley - 01 July, 2014
The Irish President, ambassadors of countries where the Sisters of Mercy work, and members of the congregation from around the world are expected in Dublin for a week-long celebration to mark 20 years of the Mercy International Association.
The programme for the celebrations in September has been finalised according to Sr Mary Reynolds RSM.
She told CatholicIreland.net, “It is about celebrating the past, recognising the present, and looking towards the future. It is open to all. The global Mercy family is not just sisters but our associates and co-workers as well.”
Mercy International was born from the original site where founder, Venerable Catherine McAuley, opened the House of Mercy in 1827 on the boundary between those who were rich and poor in Dublin at that time.
Her mission spread throughout Ireland and the world through daring women willing to respond in various countries for over 150 years.
Twenty years ago, the house at 64a Lower Baggot Street opened as a heritage house and home for the Sisters of Mercy worldwide.
In order to facilitate this, the Mercy International Association (MIA) was formed.
The association is made up of the leaders of the Mercy ‘families’ around the world – in the Americas, Australia, England, Ireland, Newfoundland, New Zealand, and the Philippines.
This ‘global family’ consists of 7,500 vowed members, 5,000 associates and almost half a million partners in ministry, in 44 countries worldwide.
The Mercy International Centre (MIC) on Lower Baggot Street is a place of pilgrimage and hosts Sisters and their associates, youth groups and extended family.
“We have an international young pilgrimage where they come and learn more about Catherine and her vision for the world. They learn about making ‘Mercy’ real in their world and they do this through outreach to the poor, and but getting involved in justice issues.”
“For example some got involved in helping Sudan when they were inspired by her (Catherine’s) message,” Sr Mary Reynolds explained.
The Baggot Street premises includes a heritage centre and sees up to 8,000 visitors per year.
Visitors are encouraged to book in advance but those who walk in off the street and want to look around are also welcome.
A tour of the building lasts an hour and a half and it takes in both the grave and the chapel of Catherine McAuley as well as the story of Mercy around the world.
MIC is also a place that holds the Congregation’s archives and a hub for communications such as the MercyWorld website (www.mercyworld.org) and the weekly Mercy e-news which keep the Mercy global family in touch and strengthens bonds in this network.
Given its global links and nature, MIA also focuses on international social action and provides advocacy to influence change though national and international decision making bodies, such as EU and UN. For example MIA has an office at the UN in New York.
Two areas of focus of MIA are opposing human trafficking and protecting the environment.
“We have identified them as being areas that every part of the world is involved in some way. They are also issues that cannot be, if you like, handled at a national level, there is a global aspect to them,” Sr Mary Reynolds said.
“We do have a desk at the United Nations so what we try to do is link what is happening on the ground. For instance, recently in Peru people were put off their land to make room for a mining company and when they tried to defend it, the police and all sorts of violence was brought against them. We took that case to the United Nations and got redress.”
These issues will feature at the week of celebrations which take place in Baggot Street from 23 (the eve of Mercy Day) to 29 (Catherine McAuley’s birthday) September.
Much of the celebrations will be streamed to locations around the world. Parallel events will be planned in many places worldwide and prayer rituals from around the world will be used at Baggot Street and worldwide on the various days.
A photographic exhibition of the ‘Face of Mercy’ will be open each day of the celebrations.
On Wednesday 24 September, Mercy Day will be celebrated with a special Mass at 2pm in St Mary’s Church, Haddington Road and the main celebrant will be Archbishop Diarmuid Martin.
On Thursday 25 September, President Michael D. Higgins will address the gathering on the theme of Mercy around the World today and Ambassadors from member areas will attend.
On Friday 26 September, the theme of Sustainable Development & Opposing Human Trafficking will be addressed while the next day will involve a discussion on “Shaping Mercy into the Future”.