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Monday, April 16, 2012

Explain how the writings of Catherine McAuley, reflect her spirituality and inspiration of the mercy spirit in her fellow sisters, and the ways in which Catherine’s spirituality is actively expressed at OLMC today?

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Catherine McAuley was undoubtedly an amazing woman whose works of mercy and compassion were prominent in 1th century Ireland. However Catherine’s works were the result of an imminent spirituality that she not only expressed in her practical efforts of mercy but also in her private writings, a record of her principles, ideas and philosophy’s that continue to inspire today’s mercy generations.


Spirituality is defined by the Sisters of Mercy, Parramatta Congregation as “A basic human capacity- calling us to go beyond the self and to reach out in love.”


Catherine McAuley wrote many prayers and letters throughout her life in which “there is evident a strong vein of spirituality” During her years as a foundress she wrote with good news, in request and in dispute with letters addressed to God, the cardinals of Propaganda fide in Rome, bishops, vicars, general clergymen, businessmen and contractors, to her brother, her solicitors and her sisters in a growing network of convents.


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Catherine’s letters show her, above all as a woman of the church, an evangelizer whose spiritual teachings revolved around three main themes. Trust in the father’s providence, Identification with Jesus in his Mission and Heart felt gratitude for the mercy of God.


What shines through in all of her letters as she encourages, persuades, reproves and consoles her sisters is her faith that whatever God permits is a blessing.


Catherine’s unending trust in God’s will was an essential part of her spirituality that continually emerged in her writing especially those of advice to her sisters in the various convents around Ireland. In a letter to Sister M. Theresa on the 1st of November 188 Catherine writes


“If it must come let us receive it as the Holy will of God in our regard.”


In this letter Catherine writes to give comfort and advice to her sisters, which she often did in times of hardship. She emphasizes using the analogy of carrying the burden of Christ’s cross, that although they may suffer at times they must remain strong and accept it as God’s will. Catherine also encourages compassion for the poor and the total willingness to sacrifice all they have for the well being of the needy.


Through her writings we see Catherine McAuley calling her sisters to close union with God training them so that prayer would be the texture of their day and their hearts would be centered in God alone. As Catherine viewed prayer and service as reciprocal dimensions of spirituality, this teaching is repeated over and over again in her letters and instructions and emphasized as a means by which sisters could become closer to God.


The spirituality that Catherine passed down to her sisters is essentially scriptural in its foundation. Many of the writings make reference to the scriptures, especially the works of Jesus where by Mother McAuley encourages her sisters to emulate Christ’s Mercy and passion in all that they do.


“ Imitate the mild gentle saviour”


It is undoubtedly evident that Catherine used her faith in God to deal with the circles of suffering that surrounded her. She learnt to enclose within her own heart the sufferings and pain of others and encouraged her sisters to also take up the burden of Christ’s cross.


“ The life of Jesus Christ in which we model ourselves was a life of self denial and suffering”


Catherine’s principles of understanding the mission of her congregation emerge clearly in her letters and instructions. Her constant aim was to inspire her sisters to make prayer and God central to their work as she had experienced in her spirituality and encourage them to offer this to others.


“We should be like the compass that goes round it’s cycle without stirring from the center… Our center is God, from whom all our actions spring, as from their source and no exterior action should separate us from him”


“Draw souls to God by your words, by your actions and by the works of the institute”


Catherine McAuley was known for her practicality in her approach to conveying mercy values wherever possible. This is evident in her words


“The poor need help today, not next week”


It was the initiation of this simple concept of Mercy in Action that enabled her to make such a difference especially to the disadvantaged young women of Ireland.


From these words one can see that there is little difficulty adapting Catherine’s messages from her writings to our present situation here at OLMC Parramatta.


Catherine McAuley’s great love of the poor and desire to provide quality education for all women can be seen through the works of the Parramatta congregation of the sisters of Mercy and their dedication to the OLMC community since 1888, when Mother M Clare first arrived in Parramatta from Callan, Ireland.


Catherine’s message of compassion, charity and willingness to make a difference continues today at OLMC Parramatta through our many social justice activities and the immense participation shown whenever the school community is called upon to give generously whether it be time or money.


Earlier this year OLMC hosted the Mercy Secondary Education Conference on the 8th of June, which looked at the ways in which the values of Catherine McAuley, are shown in Mercy School’s worldwide. Discussions included the history of the founding mothers, Justice in Action and Aboriginal reconciliation workshops.


OLMC’s Mercy Action and St Vincent De Paul Groups were established recently in order to give senior students the opportunity to be involved in practical acts of Mercy outside the school community, such as visits to Villawood detention center and feeding the homeless.


Strong links and visits with the Irrekerlantye School in Alice Springs have also been established and in late December 00 a group of girls will travel to India/ Nepal for three weeks. Such experiences have allowed OLMC students and teachers to offer their services of mercy and charity in response to communities in need. It is in these very acts one can see Catherine’s spirituality and values of mercy which called her sisters to take immediate action where was need, emulated and carried out through generations of rich mercy tradition.


However Catherine’s spirituality is not just restricted to the select few who get the chance to partake in these extra-curricular experiences, OLMC students have a uniqueness that surrounds them and a willingness to employ Catherine’s values.


As Principle Sr Alisa Mackinnon states in her report in the 001 Misercordia


“For their education has taught them to have concern for their peers, to have responsiveness to need, to have a sense of justice, to be ready to speak out on behalf of those who cannot and have the courage to break new ground’


“ For a true mercy woman will never be stamped or molded in any superficially recognizable way, she is her own person, knowing where she is going in life, and hence is a powerful force for difference in a world which is crying out for justice and mercy.”


These are exactly the acts and traits whose basis lies in Catherine McAuley’s dedicated and amazing spirituality. One can see that without the writings of Catherine McAuley there would simply be the memory of a gracious and wonderful woman who loved her god and acted in all her power to help god’s poor but there may not however be a lasting tradition of Catherine’s spirituality and mercy. Catherine McAuley’s writings are a record of her thoughts, words and prayers and are the basis of confidence and motivation in many generations of the Sisters of Mercy. Withdrawing this medium of text that has sustained mercy congregations throughout the world for over 170 years, it is simply hard to imagine how such a wonderful philosophy on life, charity and God could have come to surround us today in 00 at OLMC Parramatta.





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