Engaged in God's Mission

For thirty years, it engaged fruitfully in God's mission, particularly through the sisters of its member congregations who ministered among Australia's Indigenous people, in Papua New Guinea, in countries of South East Asia hosting refugee camps, in Pakistan and East Timor, and in Australian detention centres for asylum seekers.

Through its leaders it was significantly involved in the peak bodies of religious life, for example, Catholic Religious Australia and the Federation of Religious in Papua New Guinea and Solomon Island. It also participated in the triennial conferences of the International Union of Superiors General in Rome, and similar ecclesial events.

At the same time, the Institute was part of a vigorous network of Mercy congregations throughout the world. This gave it scope both to influence and be influenced by the growth in understanding of contemporary religious life through scholarship, theological reflection and
collaboration for works of mercy.

Independent Congregations

To join the Institute, the eight congregations which had become provinces of the Union in 1954 reverted to their autonomous status, and the Union was dissolved.
Likewise, the other nine congregations withdrew from the Federation and it was dissolved.

Now there were again 17 independent congregations, each of which became a member of the Institute while retaining its own autonomy. In 2006, having received the canonical status of an autonomous region, the Sisters of Mercy of Papua New Guinea joined the Institute as its eighteenth member.

Purposeful Involvement

Another important development over the period of the Institute's life was the purposeful involvement of other women and men who loved the story of Catherine's life
and life's work and were keen to interpret her founding vision for their own time and place. Many of these became friends and associates of the Sisters of Mercy throughout Australia and PNG and others assumed leadership of established Mercy institutions, such as schools, hospitals, aged care centres.

Yet notwithstanding the Institute's rich contribution to the Church and Mercy religious life, sisters generally continued to seek a more creatively faithful form of being in communion with each other. In their various gatherings for prayer, theological reflection and celebrations they considered new ways of strengthening their Mercy life for the sake of serving a world that seemed to be longing for God's mercy with increasing urgency. Within this context, a pivotal event was the Fifth Institute Chapter in July 2004.

Sr. Colleen Livermore with girls from St. John Vianney's School, Peshawar, Pakistan; Sr. Anne McDonnell, Palawan refugee camp, Philippines, 1989; and Mercy Connect Melbourne and Sydney for refugees (MWI) i i i

Fifth Institute Chapter, 2004

The major item on the chapter's agenda was how to strengthen the unity among the 18 members of the Institute so that their capacity for sustaining their diverse works of mercy, and creating new ones would be strengthened. As evident in the history of Sisters of Mercy in Australia, this was not a new question.

Since 1846, each time it had been purposefully asked, the actual response meant another move towards complete union. Now it was being presented again in the early years of the twenty-first century.

Fifth National Chapter Logo i

Together for the Future

After much prayer and discussion, the chapter determined to ask all sisters in Australia and PNG to begin exploring how best to be together in the future. The work of this exploration was described as 'reconfiguring' and with the confidence of unanimity, the chapter declared.

Reconfiguring is the call of God's Spirit to the Institute at this graced moment in our history

And as it elaborated in its documents, foundational to that statement was a desire to invigorate our involvement in God's mission and to renew our religious life.