The Sisters of Mercy is an international Congregation of Religious Sisters dedicated to works of compassion and mercy in response to the needs of our time.
The Congregation was founded by Catherine McAuley who lived in Ireland in the 19th century. She was a fearless pioneer who laid the foundations of an educational, healthcare and social network that long outlasted her own initial efforts and which continues throughout the world today.
The spirituality of Catherine McAuley was based on Mercy “the principal path marked out by Jesus Christ for those who wish to follow him.” For Catherine, Mercy was something to be experienced in one’s life, an experience derived from an encounter with people in need, a response that springs from the heart, and taking action to relieve the suffering. This experience was not possible without the nourishment provided by a life with God – the contemplative dimension of Catherine’s apostolic life. As Mary Angela Bolster wrote of Catherine, “she took a long, loving, contemplative look at the reality of life as she saw it in 19th century Ireland. From this came her gospel-based spiritual response as she pointed out a new way in which women could play an important and integral role in Church and in society.”
“We are like the compass that goes round its circle without stirring from its centre. Our centre is in God, from whom all our actions should spring as from their source.”
Catherine’s care, compassion for the poor and those in need and all her actions sprang from a deep inner life of communion with her God. She nourished and guarded her interior life despite the huge demands on her. She had a powerful sense of Christ at work in her life and this enabled her to accept, with beautiful balance and serenity, the intermingling of life’s joys and sorrows and to see the wisdom and goodness that comes from acceptance of one’s cross, in companionship with Jesus.
She also had a remarkable trust in the providence of God which enabled her to take great risks on behalf of the poor she served.
“Put your whole confidence in God; he will never let you want.”
Unusually for her time, she had a great love of scripture and quiet prayer which came from many years spent with a Quaker family before her mission could begin. This time of waiting, of poverty, of continual emptying of herself led Catherine to an unconditional trust in God where she was content to let all change happen in God’s way and in God’s time.
“In silence God will work in our interior if we allow him.”
This inner life of prayer was what nourished Catherine and helped her to be strong and steady in the face of opposition, frustrations and human frailty. In the midst of hardships and poverty, she was a rock for others because her own rock was God in whom she took constant refuge.
“We have one solid comfort amidst this little tripping about: our hearts can always be in the same place, centred in God, for whom alone we go forward or stay back.”
The Sisters of Mercy, at their General Chapter of 2006, expressed what they discerned as the vision of Catherine for today’s world:
This is the time when…
Centred in the God of Mercy
Engage with the questions and struggles of our time.
Conscious of the interconnectedness of all life
Together we will
Refocus our Mercy mission
Committing our lives and resources
To the alleviation of extreme poverty in all its forms
At local and global levels.
We see the Hermitage Centre as a response to the deepest and most urgent questions of our time. Knowing that a hunger for God underpins the struggle and yearning of many today and knowing that this hunger is a form of extreme poverty, the Hermitage Centre offers a place and a space where this need can be fed. In this way, we see ourselves as continuing the work of Mercy initiated by Catherine.
“You have made us for yourself, O Lord, and our hearts are restless until they rest in You.”
For further information on Catherine McAuley and the Congregation of the Sisters of Mercy, visit www.sistersofmercy.ie.
At Glendalough Hermitage Centre, we are conscious of an ecumenical dimension to our work. We believe that all human hearts are restless as they seek to return home to where they came from, to the loving-kindness of the heart of our God. By sharing the silence and mystery of this sacred place, we seek to facilitate that journey home by all, whatever path each may take and whatever beliefs each may hold.
As Sisters of Mercy, we belong to the Roman Catholic tradition and our daily prayer is based on that tradition. Nonetheless, we welcome all pilgrims who wish to stop for a while along their journey and be still, rest and reflect.
In the spirit of Vatican II, we believe that the Spirit of the One we know as God speaks to the hearts of all people of good will and works in an unseen way, known only to the Spirit, to bring each person to their ultimate destiny (Gaudium et Spes 22). We are aware that, in other religions and cultures, there is much that is good and true and holy (Nostra Aetate 2).
In humility and reverence, we wish to learn from all that is good and wise in the traditions of others. In this way, we hope to open the treasures of the hermitage tradition in Glendalough ons of others and to share the riches of our own faith. Where possible, we seek to enter into a sincere and mutual dialogue with others of different beliefs with a view to recognizing and building on what we have in common and learning from each other’s differences as we make this journey together.
We believe also that praying/meditating together in silence draws us closer to the ultimate mystery which inspires us all to search and, in a very real way, helps us to understand each other.
We would like to mention especially our Anglican neighbours and friends. We value deeply the links created by our working and praying together in many joint initiatives. We believe that praying together in silence and with scripture and working together to serve others will foster a sense of unity and love among us. It is appropriate that, in Glendalough with its rich spiritual heritage which long predates the Reformation, initiatives should spring up which move us towards greater unity. This is the work of the Spirit and we thank and praise God for it.
“May they all be one as you Father are in me and I am in you.” (John 17:21)