A JOURNEY that began with the arrival of Queensland’s first Sisters of Mercy in 1861 took another historic turn recently.
During a special ritual, the Brisbane Congregation of the Sisters of Mercy transferred canonical responsibility for Mercy Community Ltd to Mercy Partners.
Mercy Community Ltd has been a ministry of the congregation for many years and incorporates aged care, family services, disability services, and migrant and refugee services across a number of locations in Queensland.
It is a ministry begun by the first six sisters who journeyed to Brisbane with the city’s first Catholic Bishop James Quinn in 1861, and it has been “close to the hearts of the Sisters of Mercy in south-east Queensland”.
Mercy Partners is a Public Juridic Person, erected by the Holy See in 2008 at the request of the four congregations of Sisters of Mercy in Queensland.
It has canonical responsibility for five Catholic secondary girls’ schools, a number of aged-care and community services, and hospitals.
The transfer took place in a ritual in the St Vincent’s Chapel at Nudgee on April 11.
The Brisbane congregation leadership team, many Sisters of Mercy, ministry leaders and the Council of Mercy Partners attended.
For the sisters, this transfer is the last of their incorporated ministries to be transferred to Mercy Partners.
At the transfer ritual congregation leader Sr Catherine Reuter said this ministry, and particularly the Nudgee location, held a special place in the hearts of many of the sisters.
Reflecting on a reading from the prophet Isaiah, Sr Reuter encouraged the group to trust in the Lord as the ministry moved into a new phase of canonical sponsorship.
She reminded the group that God “will always be with us, to guide and protect, to keep us strong and well and ‘be like a garden that has plenty of water, like a spring of water that wells up that never runs dry’” (Isaiah 58:11-12).
Chair of the Mercy Community board of directors Dr John O’Donnell, speaking on behalf of the board said, “I thank the congregation leadership team, Sisters of Mercy and the members of the council for your active engagement and support for Mercy Community Ltd.
“I am sure we will have a long and productive future together in providing compassionate service to the poor and marginalised.”
Council chair Dr Ray Campbell expressed his appreciation for the work done by the congregation in the transfer process.
“The council is committed to continuing the great work done by the congregation through its incorporated ministries,” he said.
“This occasion gives us a moment in time to consider the many sisters who have worked in these ministries since the congregation came to Brisbane in 1861.
“Their work in education, in orphanages and disability services, as nurses in hospitals, social workers, teachers and all the tasks that go on behind the scenes to achieve the mission often goes unmeasured.
“The people of Queensland, and the Church in Queensland is indebted to their enthusiasm, persistence and foresight.”
Dr Campbell acknowledged the great trust the sisters had placed in Mercy Partners and pledged to continue the work of the sisters, and the great affection they had for this ministry which was “in many ways a reflection of what is in their hearts – their desire to alleviate the suffering of so many people in our society”.
He said that, in many ways, this transfer was a completion of the original intention of the four Queensland congregations of Sisters of Mercy to bring all their incorporated ministries across Queensland into the new canonical entity.
This had now been achieved, and there was a sense of completion.
Dr Campbell said Mercy Community joined the other ministries of Mercy Partners within a “communion of charisms”.
In acknowledging the many emotions that surround this event for the sisters, Dr Campbell said he hoped the transfer would give the sisters hope and a sense of confidence in the future.
He said the sisters could be confident that the ministry they had established and nurtured would remain a ministry of the Church where the spirituality of Sisters of Mercy founder Catherine McAuley would flourish into the future.
Mercy Community Ltd director Elaine de Vos said “Mercy Community is looking forward to the next part of our journey with Mercy Partners as our canonical sponsor, as we continue to work with the board to pursue our mission meeting unmet needs for those who are disenfranchised in our communities”.
She said Mercy Community would continue to work with a strong focus on the Mercy charism as Catherine McAuley, Mother Mary Vincent Whitty and the Sisters of Mercy, Brisbane Congregation had continued over the past 151 years in Brisbane archdiocese.