New website a window on our Mercy world
The maxim ‘think global, act local’ has been used to great effect by volunteers in recent decades, seeking to protect the world’s environment by taking care of their own patch. Today, the same maxim catches the spirit of Mercy at work, making the difference in a myriad of small ways to bring hope to our world.
In New Zealand, Sisters of Mercy launched their new website on Foundation Day,12 December. It offers an especially localized view of Mercy, with images and the use of te reo Maori that give an unmistakably Kiwi flavour. Yet the wider Mercy world is never far from sight, with easily accessed links to the Mercy International Association and its office at the United Nations, Mercy Global Concern.
Patricia Rowe rsm, who has taken a lead role in developing the new website, explains. “In the spirit of Catherine McAuley, our Congregation remains an autonomous group in Aotearoa, Tonga and Samoa, with our own bicultural and Pacific flavour. But our links to the wider Mercy world, through Mercy International, are strong. These express our global interdependence around heritage, mission and values.
“The links with Mercy International help to place us in the context of Catherine’s story. They also give easy access to the extensive resources held by MIA, as a source of education and inspiration for all who visit the website.
“Links with Mercy Global Action and the news pages of MIA are a way of sharing and celebrating our local achievements, as well as hearing of others and mobilizing for global action.”
Patricia Rowe hopes that the new website will mean that local Mercy ministries will become better known. “There is a section devoted to Mercy in the Pacific which includes content written and videoed by sisters working in Tonga, Samoa and Chile. Pacific sisters working in Aotearoa are also featured; this reflects the multiethnic reality of our Congregation.
“Visitors to the site can take a video tour of three of the schools where sisters work in the Pacific. Some may be tempted to volunteer or offer practical help, as some of our Mercy companions have already done to such good effect.”
Technology has changed since the Congregation launched its first website and later updated it in 2007, says Patricia Rowe. “Current technology allows us to use audio and video material to tell our story.
“The new site is user-centred; people will find that it offers an interface which enables them to connect with Mercy at work and to become engaged. Ours is a living organisation and we hope the website will be, too.
“The systems for updating the site are easily managed, and we have the dedicated personnel in place to do this. We will be on the lookout for stories and photos that highlight and celebrate our vision of working ‘to keep hope alive.’
“Sisters of Mercy and partners in mission will be encouraged to share their stories. We are also hoping that Mercy ministries will link their websites to our own, both broadening our coverage and serving as a valued resource.”
Visitors to the website may be surprised to find so many lay women and men doing so much of what sisters once did on their own. “This trend is threaded through the text, with stories that show how sisters and companions are working side by side in so many Mercy works. While this may be a surprise to some, the same trend is reflected today in Mercy congregations worldwide,” Patricia Rowe notes.
Serving with her on the Congregation’s website group, Te Pae Tukutuku, are Sisters of Mercy Natalie Murphy, Eileen Brosnahan, Raylene Dwyer, Anna Nicholls and Katrina Fabish who is the Leadership Team’s communications spokesperson. “It’s our hope that those who visit the website will come to experience the mercy of God at its deepest levels – seeing in the works of compassion a focus of mercy in our own time and place,” says Katrina.
“We hope that they may be drawn to support and contribute in some way. They may see that religious life today is a call to be with and among people, sharing ourselves in ways that bring healing to those who have been hurt by their experience of life.”
Katrina also hopes that the new website may catch a wider, especially younger, audience through Facebook. “Bookmarks will be distributed to every pupil in our Mercy schools, and will be available to staff working in our other ministries. Those with iPhones may create a permanent link, get into Facebook and so keep connected.
“I think of Mary Oliver’s poem, The Journey. No matter who we are, we are all connected in one community of life. The wild goose calls; the invitation is to see a place where we can belong and contribute.”
The bookmark has been made to “put Mercy in your pocket,” says Patricia Rowe. The design includes a QR (quick response code) which can be read by smart-phones and link the user instantly to Mercy’s digital world. “It’s a great way of engaging and sharing by social networking, especially for the younger, internet-savvy generation,” she says. “QR codes are at heart an advertising key, and have the power to expand greatly our reach.”