In 1846, Ursula Frayne and five companions made the first Australian foundation of Sisters of Mercy in Perth, Western Australia. Following this, there were fifty-one other autonomous foundations. Of these, fifteen were from Ireland, two from England, one from Argentina (via Dublin) and thirty-four from within Australia.
In the early decades of last century there were a number of amalgamations among most of the foundations resulting in the present configuration of seventeen autonomous Australian congregations. These congregations, along with the foundation in Papua New Guinea which became an autonomous region in 2006, are the present eighteen members of the Institute of Sisters of Mercy of Australia (the Institute) which was established in 1981. Currently the Institute, which represents just over 1400 sisters, is engaged in a process of reconfiguring.
Since coming to Australia, and then to Papua New Guinea in 1956, Sisters of Mercy, with their many partners in ministry, have worked with ground-breaking determination to honour and enliven the tradition of Gospel service entrusted to them by Catherine McAuley. Their areas of service include education, health and aged care, pastoral and spiritual care, welfare, and advocacy for justice. Sometimes they carry out their works of mercy in close collaboration with bishops and pastors, and, occasionally, the government.
In all their being and doing the Sisters have a preferential care for those who are least advantaged or who are most vulnerable to the effects of poverty and injustice. They also try to shine Gospel light on structures which devalue human worth and potential and to redirect demeaning attitudes within society, the Church, and themselves towards the ‘principal path’ of God’s mercy.
While much of their ministry is ‘at home’ Sisters of Mercy are also ready to serve in developing countries as teachers, health care providers, social and community workers or in whatever way their skills can assist. At present, there is an Australian ‘mercy presence’ in Cambodia, East Timor, Kenya, Pakistan, Papua New Guinea and West Papua, Peru, and South Africa. The national sisters of PNG are deeply involved in various projects of self-determination among their own people.
Whatever work we do,
our song must be about mercy and fidelity,
righteousness and peace.
Because of the Lord to whom we sing our song,
we must join in the search
for justice and love wherever we are.
(Institute Constitutions 4.06)
Berneice Loch rsm
1 Thomas Street
Lewisham, NSW 2049