Last week, I attended the Australasian Mercy Secondary Schools Association (AMSSA) Conference with a number of colleagues from the College. The conference was attended by representatives of over 40 Mercy schools across Australia, NZ and PNG and the theme of the conference was “Speaking the Silence.”
Keynote speakers included Sr Angela Reed RSM an Australian Sister of Mercy leading Mercy International’s Global Action at the United Nations in New York, Mely Lenario Philippino, Human Trafficking survivor and now advocate for women victims and survivors, Marietta Latonia, Professor of Social Work based in the Philippines. Mary McAleese former President of the Republic of Ireland 1997-2011 (herself a former Mercy Girl from Belfast) and Phil Glendenning, Human Rights advocate, Director of the Edmund Rice Centre and President of the refugee Council of Australia.
You could imagine the depth of insight in the presentations from these wonderful people - both challenging and in some ways provocative to us as Australian and as church people. To hear the plights of the victims of human trafficking from Mele brought me and the total audience both to tears and invoked a standing ovation. For this strong woman to detail her life as a trafficked worker from the age of 15 to now having completed her Social Work degree and committing her life to advocating for other women was very inspirational.
To hear women speak about how they feel disenfranchised by our Church and excluded from the Church hierarchy and decision-making process was also moving. Let’s hope something comes from the upcoming Plenary Sessions in the Australian Church.
Hearing about the range of issues facing marginalised people ranging from the effects of climate change on the small island communities of the South Pacific and Australia’s current policies for Manus Island and Nauru to the issues affecting refugees and minority groups in our society - combined with my recent visit to the Indigenous communities in far North Queensland - I came away from the Conference somewhat upset and challenged by the many needs of all these groups and this caused me to reflect on how, as a Christian in a Mercy community, I can be true to the Gospel values of dignity and respect to all people.
I often ask myself, as a leader of a Catholic Mercy school, what it means to be a person of Mercy? How can I make a difference to the lives of others? How can I support our students to be the best version of themselves whilst accepting of the challenges they will face as young woman who have a responsibility to make a difference to the many different minority groups in our community?
I would like to share with you a few quotes on Mercy for you to reflect upon:
“Mercy means compassion, empathy, a heart for someone’s troubles. It is not something you do – it is something in you; accessed, revealed or cultivated through use, like muscle.” - Anne Lamont
“Mercy is first an action, or more precisely a reaction to someone else’s’ suffering, now interiorised within oneself - a reaction to a suffering that has come to penetrate one’s own entrails and heart.” Jon Sorbrino
“While we keep our heads down, our mouths closed, our public reputation unblotted, thanks to the silence, we keep in the face of great public issues of the day, the pillars of society erode in front of us.” Joan Chittister
“Privilege can be thought of as an unearned advantage in your life. It means you will not be treated differently or have issues with accessing your rights or opportunities due to discrimination on the basis of skin colour, race, gender, sexual orientation or other identities that are fundamental to who you are.”
“First of all, we well know that in our world there are not just wounded individuals but crucified peoples, and that we should enflesh mercy accordingly.”
“To react with mercy, then, means to do everything we possibly can to bring down them from the Cross. This means working for justice… and employing, on behalf of justice, all our intellectual, religious, scientific and technological energies.” - Jon Sorbrino
Together as a Mercy family, we can make a difference!
Last week I was elected as the President of the Australasian Mercy Secondary Schools Association (AMSSA) for the next two years, representing 65 Mercy schools across Australia, NZ and PNG. I am very humbled by this position and will use my capacity in this role and as Principal of OLMC Parramatta to make a difference.
A reminder about a number of events happening in the coming weeks - I encourage you to come along to as many of these as you can (see posters at the end of the newsletter):
Mercy Futures - September 3: Hear from Sister Maryanne Kolkia who has been a Sister of Mercy of Australia and Papua New Guinea for 22 years. She will speak about Mercy and Kindness in her role as Founding Director of Mercy Works PNG.
OLMC Exhibition and Showcase: Friday 23 August, 4.30pm in the Ailsa Mackinnon Community Centre.
OLMC Dance Showcase: Friday 23 August, 6.30pm in the Edith Angel Hall.
August Concert Series:Musical Evening on 20 August 6.30pm in the Edith Angel Hall and the HSC Music Showcase on 26 August 6.30pm in the Christina Creede Music Centre.
Mr Stephen M Walsh