More on Formation

The Language of Formation

For any woman seeking to become a member of the Congregation, it will be an unfolding and unique journey reflecting her own individual experience, gifts and personality. Every Sister of Mercy has trodden this path, including Catherine McAuley herself.

Every group, organisation or institution has its own in house language. Religious life is no exception.

Some people inquiring about religious life find the language confusing at times. Their family and friends may also ask to know what certain terms mean - the following may help help. As time goes on you will no doubt find other things that need clarifying. The Sister accompanying you would be happy to discuss anything you may wish to add to the list below.

Vocation is another way of saying `call', a personal call from God to serve him in a particular way. All Christians have a baptismal call to holiness of life and participation in the mission of Jesus Christ. The call to religious life is one way of responding to that call, a distinctive way of life within the wider Christian community.

The Institute of Our Lady of Mercy is a congregation of apostolic women religious within the Roman Catholic tradition who live out their baptismal commitment in a vowed state. They are known as Sisters of Mercy.

Religious Life basically means living according to a Rule. The `Constitutions' are our Rule of Life as Sisters of the Institute of Our Lady of Mercy. The Sister accompanying you would be happy to show a copy of this document.

Apostolic basically means `sent out'. The Sisters of Mercy are not an enclosed Order. Their life is a blend of contemplation and action in which love for Jesus is enfleshed in ministry to others. As Catherine McAuley simply explained: "Need is our cloister". Prayer and ministry remain central to the life of the Sister of Mercy. Sisters have different ministries according to local needs and their own gifts. What a Sister is sent out by God to do may be referred to as her apostolate.

The Mercy charism is the spirit and tradition of Mercy given by God to Catherine McAuley, the foundress of the Congregation, for the whole church. Getting to know the Sisters and finding out about Catherine McAuley are the best ways of understanding what this charism is. For a Sister of Mercy, mercy is not an idea but a creative energy. For Catherine, this meant a lifetime's work of educating and empowering others and of hospitality and compassion towards them. Her last words were: "Will you tell the Sisters to get a good cup of tea when I am gone and to comfort one another."

The vows taken by Sisters of Mercy are Poverty, Chastity, Obedience. Sisters of Mercy also take a fourth vow, which is Service of those in Need.

Religious Profession is the public profession of these vows. They express her self-commitment to God in and through Jesus Christ and her dedication to the fulfilment of God's reign of love, justice and peace.

Discernment begins the process of becoming a member of the congregation. It is an attentive, honest search for God's will. A woman who feels personally called by God to this way of life agrees with the congregation to enter with them into a period of dialogue with others, and of prayerful listening so that she can be attentive to the voice of God and to her own deepest desires. Living reflectively in this way characterises the life of a Sister of Mercy.

Formation is the life-long process of fostering growth and deeper intimacy with Christ and becoming the person he calls us to be. Formation involves reflection on the Word of God, spiritual direction, regular periods of retreat, and commitment to a reflective life-style. It is not `head knowledge', but the conversion and transformation of the whole person underlying their self-gift to God in Jesus Christ. The invitation, challenge and goal of both initial and on¬going formation are to become `one spirit with Christ' (I Corinthians 17).

Initial Formation refers to the more intensive period of formation in the early years of a Sister's religious life. It begins when-a woman -is- accepted for admission into the congregation. This time involves opportunities for prayer and individual study, inter-congregational courses and experience of ministry. It focuses on discernment of her call to religious life and, if the decision is made to become a Sister of Mercy, it prepares her entrance into the life of the congregation. This is a gradual, mutual process of discerning, testing and nurturing the woman's vocation through a number of defined phases. It culminates with the moment when she makes her Final Profession of Vows and is fully incorporated into the congregation.

Sources for Reflection

from the Bible, our foundress and Church documents. The latter usually have Latin titles which are usually the first two words of the Document 

The Spirit of the Lord is upon me; therefore He has anointed me.
He has sent me to bring good news to the poor, to proclaim liberty to captives, recovery of sight to the blind and release to prisoners, to announce a year of the Lord's favour
Luke 4:14-18 
The Sisters whom God has graciously called ... shall animate their zeal and fervour by the example of their Divine Master Jesus Christ, who testified on all occasions a tender love for the poor and declared that he would consider as done to Himself whatever should be done unto them.
Catherine McAuley 
Let religious see well to it that the church truly show forth Christ through them with ever-increasing clarity to believers and unbelievers alike - Christ in contemplation upon the mountain, or proclaiming the Kingdom of God to the multitudes, or healing the sick and maimed and converting sinners to a good life, or blessing children and doing good to all, always in obedience to the Will of the Father Who sent him.
Lumen Gentium (The Light of the World)
Religious should remember that the example of their own lives is the best commendation of their Institutes and is an invitation to others to take on the religious life.
Perfectae caritatis ( Perfect love)
We ought to give ourselves to prayer in the true spirit of our vocation ... and have great confidence in God in the discharge of all these offices [works] of Mercy, spiritual and corporal, which constitute the business of our lives.
Catherine McAuley
And I am sure that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ... filled with the fruits of righteousness which come through Jesus Christ to the glory and praise of God.
Philippians 16, 11
The purpose of religious Formation, as a lifelong process, is to foster growth and deeper intimacy with Christ.
Constitutions, Institute of Our Lady of Mercy