Transition

By 1965 the need for the 16 independent Mercy congregations (those who had not joined the Union) and the Union provinces to communicate and coordinate with one another became clearer. The Federation of the Sisters of Mercy was formed and charged with providing leaders of the independent congregations and the Union the opportunity to collaborate more closely. Federation sponsored activities such as a formation programs for novices, the Mercy Higher Education Colloquium, and shared publications led the independent congregations and Union to deepen their relationships with one another and maximize resources. Eventually, these new bonds birthed an even more innovative endeavor: the Core Constitutions Project.

The Core Constitutions Project emerged close to 10 years after all religious congregations had been asked by Rome to review and revise their constitutions in accordance with the renewed understanding flowing from the documents of the Second Vatican Council meetings. The Federation of the Sisters of Mercy saw the creation of a core constitutions as an opportunity to deepen more fully the common heritage shared by the independent Mercy congregations and the Union. It was proposed that a common core statement, inspirational in nature, would serve as a preamble to all Mercy constitutions. After the approval of the Core Constitutions in 1981, it was decided to create collaboratively a complete constitution. Sister Helen Amos, President of the Sisters of Mercy of the Union, chaired this project. Extensive consultations followed resulting in the development of Constitutions.

A parallel unifying initiative proposed by the Federation was the Mercy Futures Project. Over the years, the Federation’s activities had increased to a point which its structure could not sustain. A group was formed to consider alternative structures to address this issue. The Federation passed a resolution stating that “[a task force develop] through a process of education and consultation, a new model of relationship for the Sisters of Mercy of the Americas, and the necessary governmental structures to implement it.” This group became known as the Mercy Futures Task Force. Sister Doris Gottemoeller, Federation president, chair and project director, headed a nine-person team to explore how the independent Mercy congregations and Union of the Sisters of Mercy might join together under a common governance structure.

Mercy Futures quickly grew into a larger undertaking than was first envisioned, offering consultations, discussion, prayer experiences and gatherings as opportunities for all Sisters of Mercy to develop and deepen their relationships with one another. One such opportunity, entitled The Grand Right and Left, was initiated to foster a heightened sense of shared relationships through art. Sister-artists were invited to create paintings, drawings, sculptures, poems and other works of art. In 1988 these works of art became a traveling exhibition moving with great ceremony and celebration to Mercy sites throughout the Union and independent Mercy congregations. At the end of the exhibit in each location the sisters would select one piece of art to keep and add a new piece to the exhibit. Then in the spirit of great celebration and prayer the exhibition would be escorted by two sisters to the next location.

As part of the Federation’s facilitating communication about a possible new governance structure a straw vote was taken in 1985 asking each Sister of Mercy: “Do you wish your congregation to be a part of the proposed new Institute?” Seventy-seven percent of the sisters responded: “Yes.”

With the knowledge that a wide majority of sisters within the Federation favored the creation of a single, unifying structure, the move towards an official referendum began. A majority of over 80 percent affirmative votes was required from each congregation to enable them to send their formal petition to Rome. Overall, 97.9 percent of the 7,400 voting-eligible sisters voted in favor of creating a unifying entity. In June 1990, the Congregation for Consecrated Life consented to the formation of a new congregation and the Institute of the Sisters of Mercy of the Americas was on the road to becoming a reality!

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