In the 1980s Ireland, informal groups of Mercy Associates began to form, but Associates of Mercy in the Congregation had its formal beginnings in the 1990s. However, it is interesting to note that Catherine McAuley’s vision of Mercy began with laywomen, who sheltered homeless people and reached out to the sick and dying in Dublin in 1827. This was a first step in Catherine’s journey to found a new Religious Congregation in 1831.
In the years that followed, drawn by the works of Mercy and Catherine’s spirituality, lay women and men came together to associate themselves more with the Mercy charism. Today, within the Congregation of the Sisters of Mercy there are various expressions of Associates – Mercy Associates, Circles of Mercy and Together in Mercy groups.
As the seedlings were nurtured, outline structures were put in place, though groups were encouraged to follow the promptings of the Spirit and define their own identity and character. Over time they clarified their identity around prayer, meaning in life, companionship and mutual support.
The nature of Association is not closed and holds possibility for new forms. Though Catherine and her followers gave a specific form and direction, it is envisaged that the charism of Mercy will be brought forward by lay people into the future. This rapidly changing age continually calls out for different forms and directions.
Underpinning each expression of Associates is the:
- wish to deepen their Christian call to live the Gospel.
- desire to express a practical compassion for the sufferings of others in this urgent time of global degradation and displacement of people.
- call to reflect on the heart and soul Catherine McAuley’s spirituality and her legacy of Mercy.
- generosity to bring their different gifts to this relationship, and together find new ways of being merciful in the 21st century.
FORMS OF MERCY ASSOCIATION
Some of the possible forms of Mercy Association are:
- People who share in the Mercy Charism through prayer and reflection and who will support all Mercy ministries and endeavours in this way.
- People who are already involved, or wish to be involved in Mercy ministries and who wish to share in and contribute to Mercy spirituality as Mercy Associates.
- People who want to engage in or develop a specific Mercy-Centred Project. Young adults (or maybe not so young) who would commit themselves for a certain time to a specific project i.e. Mission Experience; Care of the Homeless, Drug Addicts, Disadvantaged and the Earth; Alternative Liturgies; Justice Groups; Peer Ministry; Homework Clubs etc.
Associates Commit Themselves to:
- Pray regularly
- Seek an understanding of the charism of Mercy and compassion through prayer and reflection, on the Gospel and the life of Catherine
- Promote the values of justice and compassion particularly in their place of work, or through a specific work or project
- Attend regular meetings
- Together seek new ways of being merciful for the 21st century
Throughout this journey, members, having come to know Catherine McAuley, desire to live the Gospel in the spirit of Catherine, with compassion and respect, trusting in God.
To read more about Associates click on the following;