Institute of Sisters of Mercy of Australia and Papua New Guinea (ISMAPNG)
The story of the Sisters of Mercy in Australia and Papua New Guinea begins in Ireland on December 12, 1831 when Catherine McAuley, along with two companions, Anna Maria Doyle and Elizabeth Harley, professed their vows and became the first Sisters of Mercy.
Arrival in Australia and Papua New Guinea
In 1846, just five years after Catherine's death, Sisters of Mercy made a foundation in Perth, Western Australia. The leader of this first Mercy community in Australia was Ursula Frayne who had known Catherine well and, in fact, was with her when she died. The first Sisters of Mercy who arrived in Papua New Guinea came to Goroka from Australia in 1956.
Search for Unity
Even as early as 1905, the Australian Bishops urged congregations of common origin to unite so that their capacity for the vital work of Catholic education, as well for as other ministries would be strengthened. Although since the beginning there had been a number of movements towards unity for the various Mercy congregations in Australia, a most significant step in this direction happened with the creation of the Institute of the Sisters of Mercy of Australia (ISMA) on December 12, 1981. For thirty years, ISMA, which encompassed the 17 independent Australian Congregations of Sisters of Mercy and the Autonomous Region of Sisters of Mercy in Papua New Guinea (PNG), engaged fruitfully in God's mission. From 2005 the Sisters commenced formally searching for the best way to nurture our unity and to strengthen our capacity for engaging in God’s mission of mercy.
The search involved much prayer, frequent theological reflection on the social needs of our time, careful study of the life and ministry of our founder, Catherine McAuley and her vision for religious life, and several comprehensive consultations in which all sisters were encouraged to participate. Eventually it led us to the point where 14 of the congregations (Adelaide, Ballarat East, Bathurst, Cairns, Goulburn, Grafton, Gunnedah, Melbourne, Perth, Rockhampton, Singleton, Townsville, West Perth, Wilcannia–Forbes) as well as the autonomous region of PNG, decided to ask the Holy See for permission to relinquish our independence and to come together as one new congregation. Rome granted this permission in July, 2011 to become effective at the commencement of the First Chapter of the new congregation on December 12, the 180th anniversary of the founding of the Sisters of Mercy in Ireland. The new congregation is known as Institute of Sisters of Mercy of Australia and Papua New Guinea (ISMAPNG). Follow the journey here.
In forming the Institute, each of the 15 groups ceased to be a separate canonical and legal entity and its sisters are now members of the new Institute with all the rights and responsibilities of professed Sisters of Mercy.
Shape of the Institute
Within the Institute every sister belongs to a community which takes in a wide geographic area. There are six communities throughout Australia and in PNG.
Leadership of the Institute
The Institute is governed by the Institute Leadership Team (ILT) - a leader and council elected by the chapter. The Office of the Institute is based at Stanmore in Sydney. The day to day work of leadership is shared with the Institute Leadership Forum (ILF) which includes the six community leaders. Much of the business of the Institute is administered through Mercy Administration Centres in Alphington, Newcastle and Rockhampton.
The Office of the Institute can be contacted at:
The members of the Institute Leadership Forum are:
Helen White rsm (Northern Community), Barbara Bolster rsm (Institute Councillor), Marie Duffy rsm (Southern A Community), Faye Kelly rsm (Southern C Community), Carolyn Nolan rsm (Central A Community), Mary Geason rsm (Central B Community), Berneice Loch (Institute Leader), Annette Schneider rsm (Institute Vicar), Berenice Kerr rsm (Southern B Community), Sally Bradley rsm (Institute Councillor), Theresia Tina rsm (Institute Councillor).