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Mercy Mission

Ministry of Vocations Fostering and Formation

When I was in secondary school with the Sisters of Mercy in Coláiste Muire, Tourmakeady, Co. Mayo I was intrigued by the life of the Sisters. As boarders we got a little more of an insight into their lives as we saw them as much outside of the classroom as in it. I was very impressed by their selfless generosity and by the wholesome attitude they had to our education. Getting on well in the examinations was important but our overall development was also very well catered for in a variety of ways – through extra-curricular activities that included orchestra, debates, games, cleaning(!), films, letter-writing, reading, elocution, music, etc.

I entered the Mercy convent in Tuam, Co. Galway in September 1970 - a few short months after I did the Leaving Cert. The journey that has unfolded for me since has taken many turns and I find myself asking: “How could so many years have elapsed since I took that first step?”

As I reflect on those years I am truly amazed at the mysterious ways in which God has been at work. After the initial years of formation and study I had the privilege of going back on the staff of the school which I and my three sisters had attended. I spent nine wonderful years there. While many opportunities were offered me to be the face of Mercy to the young people in our care, what stays with me most from that time is the rich experience of community that I knew during those nine years. It is a blessing that I treasure to this day.

After leaving Tourmakeady I ventured into the ministry of spirituality and in one way or another that has been part of my life ever since. At the moment I am in the ministry of vocations and formation in the Western Province. This is the most challenging and in some ways the most rewarding ministry I have ever been in. There is great variety in what I do and many opportunities for networking with people in diverse settings: the university campus, the parish church, the pulpit, the classroom, the meeting room, the local radio station; in short any setting where I get the opportunity to promote the Mercy story.

The image I often use is that of throwing pebbles into a lake and letting the ripples form. I have experienced great joy and encouragement when the Sisters have responded generously to initiatives I have suggested, for example a partnership of prayer between the Sisters and the Leaving Cert students in the former “Mercy” schools in the Western Province. Setting up a lay advisory group has encouraged, challenged and supported me and through them I have been called to a greater boldness about proclaiming who we are as Mercy Sisters.

At a personal level the greatest gift of this ministry has been getting to know and love Catherine McAuley in a new way. When I started I spent ten days in Mercy International Centre, Baggot Street – to get some clarity about where to start and how to go about this ministry in a very complex Ireland. During that time I was invited to help out on some of the programmes there. I took up this invitation as I believe that the best possible way for us to be encouraging of new membership in the Congregation is to be enthused ourselves about the life we are living. I am convinced that getting to know and love Catherine is crucial to us in these times – and if we do we will have no problem inviting others to be part of the mission of Mercy in the world. It is a great joy to me to make the warmth, humanity and heart of Catherine known a little to my Sisters and Associates from many parts of the Mercy family across the world.

This ministry invites me into a reflective space that asks and stays with questions that are central to all of us. What are we about today? Are we convinced of the value of our way of life? At its core what is Mercy? To what are we inviting people? At a time when the need for compassion is so palpable why is it that our way of enfleshing it does not appeal to the young women of Ireland? This ministry has challenged me to search my own heart and has asked with St. Paul that we at least try to give a reason for the hope that is in us.

Aine Barrins rsm

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