THE POWER OF NUN: Farewell and thanks after 150 years of Mercy, sisters

WORDS are extraordinary things.

The inclusion or the omission of one little word can change the whole meaning and intention of a sentence.

This occurred among the lovely photographs of the Sisters of Mercy, celebrating a special occasion last week to celebrate the end of an era.

After more than 150 years of Mercy Ministry within the Catholic schools of the Bathurst Diocese, this particular ministry has run its course, and the schools are now in the capable hands of dedicated and capable laity.

The sisters, however, are not leaving town, and continue to live out their vowed life through exercising Mercy Ministry in a variety of different, and sometimes challenging ways.

Currently, within the Bathurst Diocese, there are Mercy Sisters living in Bathurst, Orange, Wellington, Dubbo, Lithgow and also in Forbes.

We are part of the Institute of Sisters of Mercy of Australia and Papua New Guinea, all following in the footsteps of Catherine McAuley who founded the Sisters in Dublin in 1831.

The Australian and Papua New Guinea Institute currently has about 800 sisters spread right across the continent and beyond.

Mercy is not something that belongs to the sisters exclusively.

It is strongly founded on biblical teaching and is mentioned many times in the sacred scriptures.

It is a basic ingredient of Christianity, and a beacon and a challenge to all followers of Jesus.

Scholars have tried to list mercy characteristics under two headings – the spiritual and the corporal works of Mercy.

It’s a goal to which we can all aspire, and parts of which we can fulfil day by day.

Listed under the spiritual works of Mercy are teaching, advising, consoling, comforting, forgiving, patience and prayer.

Under the corporal works of Mercy are feeding the hungry, giving drink to the thirsty, clothing the naked, sheltering the homeless, visiting the sick and imprisoned, almsgiving, and burying the dead.

All people everywhere are called to take up the challenge to make mercy a part of their lives.

It’s yet another way of expressing and actioning Jesus’ command to love God and to love one another.

If more of us tried it out we might reduce the number of brutal terrorist attacks that seem to be unstoppable.

Domestic violence might become a thing of the past.

Homelessness might be overcome.

Refugees and asylum seekers might receive proper and respectful treatment.

Inmates of the prison system might receive proper and appropriate rehabilitation as part of their sentencing.

Our governments might focus more compassionate attention on the needs of the less fortunate.

Good people might be inspired to offer their time and talent to support worthy causes as volunteers and helpers for the benefit of others.

Thank you to all the staff, friends and supporters of the Catholic school system now and into the future.

Blessings on all who can find the courage to embody the spiritual and corporal works of mercy into their daily living, and on the sisters of Mercy past, present and future who make this their life’s work.