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Becoming one with you and one with us

On Tuesday 18th October 2021 Mercy Partners welcomed Our Lady of Mercy College Parramatta into the Mercy Partners family. Due to Covid restrictions the ritual of transfer was delayed until Sunday 13 March 2022.  

The Transfer of Governance Ceremony of Our Lady of Mercy College Parramatta from Canonical Sponsorship of the Sisters of Mercy Parramatta to Mercy Partners was celebrated with Sisters of Mercy, many of them former students, teachers and leaders, current board, staff and students, the Mercy Partners Council and many friends in mercy. 

As Mary-Louise Petro rsm, Congregation Leader, Sister of Mercy Parramatta said, “Today is all about journey. It is about the whole thread from the journey that began with Catherine McAuley, right through the ages and continuing through to today.”  

Those in attendance gathered on OLMC ground, a place of Mercy sacred to countless generations of the Darug people and blessed by the gifts of those who have lived, worked and learnt there. Aunty Julie Webb welcomed all to Country and blessed the ground painting by Ngemba artist, Danny Eastwood depicting the ongoing connection of the Darug people and the contribution of the women religious who have lived and worked at OLMC. 

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From L-R:  Matthew Esterman, Louise Millar, Ann-Marie Herd, Gabby Scanlon, Marie Wood, Lucie Farrugia, Michael Cuzic, Margaret Jones rsm, Maria Lawton rsm, Mary Louise Petro rsm, Margaret Sheppard rsm, Patricia Bolster rsm, Caroline Thompson, Ricki Jeffrey, John Leahy, Kerrie Walshaw, Margaret Endicott rsm, Margery Jackman.  

This traditional Aboriginal artwork aptly name, The Journey, marked the beginning of the transfer ceremony. The procession continued carrying Parramatta River water and candles to the ‘Come, Sit Awhile’ Sculpture of Catherine McAuley. Here the story of Catherine McAuley was retold, a candle gifted to the Parramatta Sisters by the Callan Community was lit and small rocks painted by OLMC students were distributed to the Sisters of Mercy in attendance.  

After adding water from the ‘Rill’ (a small watercourse in the back garden of Mercy International Centre) to the Parramatta River water, it was carried with the Callan candle to the Mother Mary Clare Dunphy Memorial Chapel. Here the founding st, ory of the Parramatta Sisters of Mercy was shared. Mary Louise Petro also shared the journey to the transfer of ownership to Mercy Partners, “We have come to this wonderful place, this new life for OLMC with Mercy Partners and we are delighted! We can sing that our souls in fact are joyful. Even though we know we have tears of sadness, and we all recognise those, it is a wonderful space to be, to be so sure that OLMC has found the best home. A home that is welcoming of us as well and a realisation we are giving over nothing except having to do the work and we are now the grandmothers who enjoy OLMC as it journeys into the future.” 

The final element of the ritual was a procession to the Mercy Tree where water from the Brisbane River joined the blended waters from the Parramatta River and ‘The Rill’, Mercy International, Dublin and the formal transfer proceedings began. 

In her address, Kerrie Walshaw, OLMC Board Chair said, “Today, we are sharing in a part of OLMC’s rich journey. 

“Our short walk through the college and convent grounds have told the stories of the paths we have travelled.  

“As you have heard already, in 1889 OLMC was founded by our brave sisters who travelled from Callan Ireland.  Since that time for 133 years OLMC has been on its own journey.  

“Now in 2022 we are reaching another major milestone with the canonical sponsorship of OLMC transferring from our beloved Sisters to Mercy Partners.” 

In her address, Ricki Jeffery, Chairperson, Mercy Partners Council, noted, “It has been a privilege to hear the story of this sacred place, of this school and of the Congregation of the Sisters of Mercy here in Parramatta, enacted through the words, prayers, song and actions of this ritual.” 

 “It is humbling in so many ways to be stepping onto such a well-worn path of mercy, to be receiving in trust this college which has been such an important ministry of the Sisters of Mercy, to be part of the ‘Muru Ba’ – the future pathway.” 

The final ritual included the pouring of the onto the Mercy Tree by Lucie Farrugia (Principal OLMC), Maria Lawton rsm (Congregation Vicar, Sisters of Mercy Parramatta), and Kieran McCarthy (Deputy Chair and Company Secretary, Mercy Partners). 

Congregation Leader, Mary Louise Petro rsm, concluded the official proceedings with the presentation of hand carved walnut bowls to the College, the congregation and Mercy partners. The walnut tree is a rich symbol from the life of Catherine McAuley and the bowls are a wonderful link between all stages of the journey.  

As Mary Louise Petro rsm said, “We decided what would be a nice thing to do was to have something that came from the OLMC walnut tree and the thread that went all the way back to Catherine McAuley sitting beneath the walnut tree and discerning her future and for the future of those who were poor and vulnerable.” 

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