MERCY Sister Berneice Loch is the new president of Catholic Religious Australia (CRA).
She was elected at the 2014 CRA National Assembly in Melbourne from June 23-27.
Sr Loch is leader of the Institute of Sisters of Mercy of Australia and Papua New Guinea. She received the Medal of the Order of Australia (OAM) in 2013. Notable among her leadership achievements was her central role in the establishment of Mercy Partners (2004-2011) and more recently the Institute of Sisters of Mercy of Australia and Papua New Guinea.
She replaces Sisters of Charity SisterAnnette Cunliffe who has served the two-year term of the CRA executive council. At a speech to assembly participants where she expressed thanks for their support and confidence, Sr Loch honoured the outstanding leadership of her predecessor.
“You have held the position with grace and with a very light touch which has probably been very appropriate for the times you needed to lead this conference, particularly to the challenge of the Royal Commission,” she said to Sr Cunliffe.
“At all times you behaved with so much wisdom and with so much concern for the whole of Church. We have admired you greatly in that role and there is deep gratitude in our hearts for your contribution.”
Sr Cunliffe acknowledged the support from CRA members and office staff during her term as president. “I would like to say thank you and I would like to say that I have absolutely every confidence that Berneice would do us even more proud,” she said.
The tributes and congratulatory mood provided a fitting end to this assembly which featured the head of the Vatican’s Congregation for Institutes of Consecrated Life and Societies of Apostolic Life Cardinal João Braz de Aviz, International Union of Superiors General president Missionary Sisters of Our Lady of Africa Sister Carmen Sammut and apostolic nuncio Archbishop Paul Gallagher.
A CRA spokesperson said their global perspective on the future and nature of religious life informed the issues faced by religious congregation leaders in Australia and New Zealand which were discussed widely at the assembly.
Lay partners from various ministries and Truth, Justice and healing Council chief executive officer Francis Sullivan also gave talks on partnership in mission.
Sr Loch will be supported on the executive council by: Passionist Father Tom McDonough, Mercy Sister Sally Bradley, Marist Brother Jeff Crowe, Missionaries of the Sacred Heart Father John Mulrooney, Josephite Sister Monica Cavanagh and Josephite Sister Megan Brock. State representatives on the council are Josephite Sister Annette Arnold (Queensland), Missionary Sisters of Service Sister Stancea Vichie (Victoria), Ursuline Sister Ruth Durick (NSW), Dominican Sister Bernadette Kiley (South Australia) and Sisters of Our Lady of the Missions Sister Marie Therese Ryder (Western Australia).