In February 2014 we set out on an unknown journey for MIA with nothing other than the good will to travel. Fortunately we, the ‘point persons’ for the Congregation had navigators Adele Howard rsm and Anne Walsh, and the MIA team, who would steer us on that journey to its destination – the anniversary celebration of MIA in Baggot Street, Dublin.
Srs. Adele Howard, Margaret Farrell, Breda Coman
Early in March the detailed directions arrived and it was very obvious that the MIA team had a clear vision for the celebration of this milestone. Much planning had been done before we came on board. The plans were well thought through, innovative, ambitious and exciting. The dreamers had done their work. Could we realise the dream?
The 20th anniversary was to be ‘a celebration of mercy worldwide honouring those on whose shoulders we stand, celebrating God’s mercy at work in our mission and ministry today and leaning to catch the whisperings of the spirit in the signs of future directions.
As the weeks and months progressed and we took direction and guidance from Adele and Anne we gradually saw how the dream would be accomplished. The preparations became for us a lived experience of the MIA motto ‘What can we do better together than any of us can do apart?’ We also had the opportunity to grow in greater awareness, and ownership, of the MIA concept. The commitment, dedication and vision of the MIA team inspired us and kept us enthused and focused on the task.
In the job description of a ‘point person’ it stated that ‘she in turn will most likely need to recruit others around her.’ We happily drew on the wide range of skills and gifts of so many sisters in our Congregation. Creativity is abundant and overflowing, be it talent for music, art, technology, photography, design, dance and movement or spirituality. Our experience of asking for help from so many was such a positive one – the willingness, generosity, co-operation and eagerness we received made our task possible and so much easier.
We thank with special appreciation the Congregational and Provincial Leadership Teams who in the midst of all their other responsibilities, enabled and encouraged us and responded to all requests.
Members of the Congregation who took part in the Mercy Day Morning Prayer ritual.
Prayer was central to the whole celebration. The thirty days MIA prayer of preparation was a unifying and inclusive activity. Sisters, associates, friends and individuals prayed this faithfully and wholeheartedly. It created a greater sense of awareness among us, that we are one Mercy family. It surfaced conversations and questions about ‘people from many parts of the world, diverse in tongue, talent and place.’
Many prayer rituals were prepared and are now online and archived on the mercyworld.org website. These rituals were created by each branch of the worldwide mercy family and they give an insight into ‘our spirituality and the faith which sustains us.’ Each morning of the celebratory week began with a prayer ritual, setting a reflective mood, centering us in the ‘God of Mercy’ and introducing the theme of the day. We acknowledge all those who helped to create these rituals.
The most modern means of communication were used to create and sustain our awareness of ourselves as one Mercy family right around the globe. The use of IT stretched and challenged us, and provided us with opportunities to broaden our horizons. The reports, live streaming, archives, etc. enabled all of us to be in the one place at the same time. The bookmark received was an original and effective way to bring this website to everyone’s attention. Our challenge following this week is for us to become more technically aware and skilled so that we fully exploit the potential and possibilities IT is offering us. MIA’s celebration has shown us how technology is opening up a new dimension to progress our conversations and connectivity.
Sr. Adele Howard with President Higgins, Sabina Higgins and Sr. Mary Reynolds at the Photographic Exhibition
A central part of the MIA celebration was the gathering of a photographic picture of the face of Mercy across the world today. This was one of the most challenging tasks we undertook. We needed to learn such technical terms as pixels, raw images, .jpeg form, SD cards, Dropbox etc. A meeting with Adele Howard rsm and Ailish O’Brien rsm, and a follow-up conference call helped to allay fears. Photographers set out with cameras to capture the story of Mercy in action. The results are evident in the International Room in Baggot Street. This is not a display of the stars of today who feature in our newspapers and glossy magazines. It shows the hidden side of society. It captures the founding values of Mercy as they are lived today, the exchange of the compassionate look, the kind word, the patient listening and the healing moments. It is a powerful portrayal of the tradition of Mercy spread throughout the forty plus countries where the Sisters of Mercy and their colleagues live, work and pray. If you can visit the International Room to see the exhibition it will be a meditative and humbling experience. It strengthens our growing sense that we are one Mercy family and it opens us to give thanks.
Srs. Patricia O’Donovan, Ailish O’Brien, Frances Kennedy and Marie Cox provided the music and singing for the Mercy Day Morning Prayer and Mass
Finally after all the preparation the celebrations began on 23rd September 2014. The Mercy International Centre in Baggot Street was a hive of activity, buzzing each day with expectation. People were practising for liturgies, making final checks on the technology, organising the huge catering undertaking, musicians were tuning up and others were exploring and enjoying being in the home of Catherine McAuley and the first Sisters of Mercy. The hospitality was warm and inviting. Sisters, associates and co-workers were arriving from all parts of the world, some for the first time while others reconnected with old friends. There was a sense of coming home, a sense of belonging.
During the Closing Ritual of the celebrations
The members of the MIA team, along with Adele and Anne must be praised and thanked, not just for the organisation of the celebration but for the Céad Míle Fáilte they extended, and for their graciousness and welcome throughout the whole week. They ensured that Baggot Street became everyone’s home. Joy, hope and celebration were evident. The sense of being one Mercy family, reinforced by the messages from across the globe, was real and palpable. Praying together and joining in the activities, whether one was in the Philippines, Newfoundland, Kitui, Pretoria, Burlingame, Baggot Street, Mullingar or Laytown created a profound and real experience of unity.
The journey to, and this week of celebration of the 20th anniversary of MIA, truly honoured the past, celebrated God’s mercy at work in the present and looked with hope to the future. The Mercy family across the globe experienced renewed life and energy. Baggot Street, Catherine’s home, was the catalyst. Míle buíochas. Gracias. Obrigado.
Breda Coman rsm and Margaret Farrell rsm
‘Point Persons’ for the Congregation