In the Church, there are many religious institutes with gifts that differ according to the particular grace which has been given them. This distinctive character, or charism, first given to the founder/foundress and approved by the Church is not only transmitted to each member of the Institute but is deepened and constantly developed. This charism involves a particular style of sanctification and apostolate. Mercy is the charism that has been entrusted to Venerable Mother Catherine McAuley in the foundation of the Religious Sisters of Mercy. Venerable Catherine McAuley, sought to incarnate the Mercy of God the Father to the poor, sick, and ignorant.
An attitude of Mercy is present among the Sisters— and subsequently becomes evident—through the Institute’s communal life of prayerful service and contemplation. Mercy is best understood in the covenantal relationship of God with His people. God’s love is “more powerful than betrayal, grace stronger than sin. The fruits of this love are forgiveness and restoration to grace, the reestablishment of the interior covenant” (Dives in Misericordia, n. 52). God’s abundant mercy embraces and transforms the Sister’s own misery into a healing grace for her and impels her to dispense this mercy to others in their misery. The Sisters strive for the perfection of charity in order to reveal the “Father of Mercies,” pursuing and manifesting Christ’s command “to be merciful as your Father is merciful” (2 Cor 1:3; Lk 6:36).
Union and Charity
In recalling Jesus’ prayer to the Father, “That they all be one . . . as we are one that the world may believe that you sent me,” Venerable Mother Catherine indicated that the Institute is called to image the Divine Persons in Trinitarian union and that perfection of love and union is the unqualified condition of effective evangelization” (Constitutions, 55). In its essence, this religious community endeavors to be an instrument of unity and mercy within the Church, with “charity our badge of honor, so that there be in us but one heart and one soul in God” (Venerable Mother Catherine McAuley). The Sisters cultivate a spirituality of communion, rooted in the union of the Persons of the Trinity, from which all expressions of mercy emanate.
Venerable Mother Catherine McAuley proclaimed before her death that her legacy to the Institute was “Union and Charity.” The legacy of union and charity and tender mercy to Christ's poor left by Mother Catherine to her daughters was kept alive through the Constitutions she wrote, her letters, her poetry, and most of all her prayers. We cherish our legacy of Union and Charity, the spirit in which we live together as a religious family and in which we fulfill our consecration and life of service in Mercy.
The Mercy Cross
The Mercy Cross was part of the original habit of a Religious Sister of Mercy from 1831; today, each Religious Sister of Mercy of Alma, MI still wears this Mercy Cross. In the past, the Mercy Cross was part of the Sister’s Rosary, which was worn on a leather belt around her waist. Today, the Sisters wear the cross around the neck.
The black of the Cross symbolizes the misery of mankind, sin, darkness, suffering. The white of the Cross symbolizes the mercy of God, His light, purity, unfading brilliance and His descent into our misery.
The Mercy Cross reminds the Sister that she is to be the convergence point of the misery of mankind and the mercy of God. There is no corpus on the Mercy Cross, because the Sister wearing it is to be the corpus.
Apostolate in Mercy
“The Apostolate, in its essential mission, is the proclaiming of the Word of God to those whom He places along [the] path, so as to lead them towards faith” (Evangelica Testificatio n.9). Prayer is the primary activity of our Institute, and every activity, if it is to be realized as a work of mercy, must be an expression of prayer. Our apostolate, as that of all religious, consists primarily in the witness of our consecrated lives.
The unique apostolate of our Institute flows from the charism entrusted to Venerable Catherine and the Vow of Service of the poor, sick and ignorant that each Sister of Mercy professes. Our Vow of Service flows from our life of prayer. Each Sister of Mercy offers her life, in praise and honor of the Triune God, to be the convergence point between the mercy of the Lord and the misery of mankind. As Jesus was sent by the Father to the Cross, each Sister is missioned through the heart of the authority of the community into carrying the cross so that she can give herself freely and fruitfully in service to the poor, sick and ignorant. The ways in which a Sister of Mercy of Alma, MI serves Holy Mother Church in the apostolate are various, with a focus in healthcare and education.