“Mercy, the principal path marked out by Jesus Christ for those who are desirous of following him”
– Original Rule Sisters of Mercy, Chapter 3
The call to Mercy comes to all Christians- our Baptism consecrates us to Christ, to follow his way of seeing the world and all creation, which is with a gaze of compassion and love. In the words above, Catherine McAuley sets out her manifesto, her conviction, of the centrality of Mercy to living a truly Gospel life. The Latin word for Mercy- Misericordia- can be translated literally as to give one’s heart to the destitute. Reflecting on Mercy draws us into a deeper understanding of the unconditional love and unlimited Mercy of God.
Sisters of Mercy are asked to respond in a particular way to this call to embody- by how they live and minister- the Mercy of Jesus. We are called to show “great tenderness in all things” (Catherine McAuley) and reminded” that Mercy receives the ungrateful again and again and is never weary of pardoning them” (Catherine McAuley).This Mercy becomes a way of living , a self -emptying allowing us to be filled with God’s love, bringing the Spirit of Christ to all whom we meet. Nothing if not challenging!
“Our centre is God, from whom all our actions should spring as from their source.”
– Catherine McAuley
The formation journey
In Baptism we are all called to holiness of life and participation in the mission of Jesus Christ. The call to Religious Life is one way of responding to that call.
- FORMATION is a life-long process of fostering a deeper relationship with God and involves continual discernment, reflection and prayer.
- INITIAL FORMATION is a focused period following enquiry and has phases to follow.
After initial contact, the person will be accompanied by a Vocation Guide who will help her in the discerning process which will deepen her sense of call, learn about the Sisters of Mercy and how to live out God’s mission. The timing is likely to be from six to twelve months during which time the person remains in her own home.
Gives opportunity to deepen Christian identity and determine the motivation and capacity to live Religious Life as a Sister of Mercy and to continue discernment, meeting regularly with the Vocation Guide for times of discussion and prayer. This phase can last for six to twelve months.
This phase includes a time of residence in a Mercy Community in order to gain experience of the living in Community. It is a time for the individual to reflect on her journey so far and to assess how her capacity to live Religious Life is progressing. It provides a realistic experience of the life of Religious as a Sister of Mercy in which she can continue to discern her call, and gain a greater understanding of the implications of choosing Religious Life in the Institute of Our Lady of Mercy. This phase lasts from six months to two years.
A reception ceremony marks the beginning of this stage and is held in the Formation House. This phase initiates the new member into Religious Life, offering a process of experience of and reflection on, the vowed life. It takes place in the Formation House under the guidance of the Novice Director and supported by the Formation Community. This phase lasts for two years consisting of a Canonical year which focuses on prayer and spiritual formation, as well as learning about the vows and an Apostolic year designed to give opportunities to explore ministries and works of mercy in order to prepare for a full commitment to the vowed life.
This vow calls us to live in God’s love that flows through us in our relationship with others. We are strengthened to live the self-sacrificing love of the vow by being centred in God in prayer, community and mission. Chastity will always be a mystery, a mystery of love.
The vow of poverty is to live simply. We share a life in common and use goods for the benefit of one another and those we serve. We hold sacred all of creation. Interdependence and a lack of attachment to wealth is a witness to keeping hope alive in our world today.
This vow invites us to listen to God who is leading us in our lives. Together we discern the signs of the times bringing forth our collective gifts in the service of Mission to further the Reign of God for the wellbeing of people and creation.
- THE SERVICE OF THOSE IN NEED
In our ministry of serving, we are guided by the charism of Catherine McAuley through the Works of Mercy, using our gifts in the service of others. Our priority is to live faithfully our call to Mercy and to witness the loving kindness of God to all with whom we come into contact.
The candidate with the Novice Director, the Director of Formation and the Leadership team will decide together if the Sister is ready for the First Profession of vows to take place. The remaining time of Novitiate will involve preparation for this step including a time of retreat.
As a newly Professed Sister, under the guidance of the Formation Director, there will be opportunity for ongoing formation and for developing a deeper understanding of the commitment made. This First Profession is for a period of three years, but can be extended by mutual agreement. It is a time to prepare by prayer and continued discernment to make a final commitment.
At the end of the time in First Profession the Sister may be admitted to Final Profession, or alternatively she may renew her vows for a further period. To be ready for Final Profession a time of intense preparation takes place including a retreat. As the call to life as a Sister of Mercy is confirmed the religious makes a life-long commitment to God and the congregation in the Perpetual Profession of the Vows pronounced during Mass which is usually celebrated in the local church.
Formation is ongoing and is a life-long process of fostering growth and deeper intimacy with Christ. It is the conversion and transformation of the whole person and of becoming who God calls us to be. It involves reflection on the Word of God, Spiritual Direction, regular periods of retreat, and commitment to a reflective way of living.
“If we are humble and sincere, God will finish in us the work he has begun. He never refuses His grace to those who ask.”
– Catherine McAuley