Glendalough Hermitage

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Sisters of Mercy

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.

Spirituality of Catherine McAuley

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.”

Contemplative Dimension

“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.”

 

Our Vision of Mercy Today

The Sisters of Mercy, at their General Chapter of 2006, expressed what they discerned as the vision of Catherine for today’s world:

Chapter Statement
This is the time when…
Centred in the God of Mercy
We will
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
Acting collaboratively
At local and global levels.

 

Our Response

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.”
(St. Augustine)

For further information on Catherine McAuley and the Congregation of the Sisters of Mercy, visit www.sistersofmercy.ie.