Mercy Pilgrimage to Rome 1-4 April 2016

The Spirit of Mercy and Hospitality

The “Rome” component of the Year of Mercy pilgrimage for Sisters of Mercy, Associates and Partners in Ministry began Friday evening, April 1, with the sharing of a meal together in an Italian restaurant near St. Peter’s Square.   The 39 pilgrims from around the world had settled into their accommodations in various residences near the square and enjoyed this first gathering of the whole group.

The next day they gathered early in the morning to walk the pilgrims’ way to St. Peter’s Basilica with prayer and reflection at significant stops along the way.  They gathered again in the early afternoon to get a good seat for the vigil of Divine Mercy at which the Pope presided.  Thousands of participants were able to listen to the testamonials, enjoy interpretative dance and join in the prayer and song of the ritual which was based on five moments of readings, prayer, chanting.

Photos from L’Osservatore Romano

On Sunday the group met at 6:30 a.m. so that they could find a place to sit together for the Eucharistic liturgy that would begin at 10:30!  Getting beside the barricade was the best place to get close to Pope Francis when he goes out among the people!  The group was able to claim a few rows of chairs in the front center section. Because of this members of the group had a close of view of Pope Francis as he passed by in his jeep.

Tea at Mater Dei

In the afternoon the group was invited to tea at Mater Dei, the house of the Poor Servants of the Mother of God in Piazza di Spagna.  Participants found their way to the convent where they enjoyed a good cup of tea!  Some said it was the best they had since coming to Italy.   (It takes the Irish to make a good cup of tea! – editor’s bias!)  The sisters were delighted that the Mercy contingent could come and welcomed all of them warmly.

This gathering was a significant event because of the connection of the Mater Dei Sisters with Mercy.  Those who gathered had the opportunity to visit the special room that was used by the Foundress of the Poor Servants of the Mother of God when she was in Rome and which has a display of items used by her personally and for prayer and ministry.



Sister Francesca serves a good cup of tea

Brief Historical Background

Frances Margaret Taylor was born in 1832 in London, daughter of a Church of England minister. Seeking a way to express her deep faith, a faith that did not seem to be met in her own church, she joined the Roman Catholic Church and in subsequent years went on to found a religious order that would respond to the needs of the poor in London.  After detailed investigation of other religious orders and how they were responding to the cry of the poor and under advice if her spiritual mentors Fanny Taylor (a prolific writer by this time) founded the Poor Servants of the Mother of God in 1869.  She took the name Mary Magdalen of the Sacred Heart. September 24, Feast of Our Lady of Mercy, is held as the beginning of the new Congregation. (See biography and rich and detailed history written by Francis Charles Devas, sj.

One more significant historical connection with the Sisters of Mercy is that Miss Fanny Taylor nursed with Sisters of Mercy in the Crimea and credits her deepened faith and her vocation to their example and to the faith of the Irish Catholic soldiers that they nursed together. (Her book Irish Homes and Irish Hearts is on-line ). Another of her books published in 1862 devotes a chapter to the Sisters of Mercy beginning on page 210 .  Other books are linked here: Taylor, Mary Magdalen, 1832-1900.

This Mercy Sunday was indeed special as bread was broken in St. Peter’s Square in the morning with Pope Francis presiding and a “good cup of tea” was shared with kindred ‘mercy’ folks in the afternoon.

God’s mercy and God’s sense of unity work in mysterious ways!

Closing Ritual

On Monday morning the Mercy pilgrims met in the small and beautiful church of Santa Prudenziana which is one of the oldest churches in Rome.  There is found the large painted image of Mary, Mother of Mercy in one of the side altars.  A copy of this image of Marywas sent to  the House of Mercy at Baggot Street by Pope Leo Xlll in 1890 and still hangs in the chapel there.  The group gathered before the image to pray in gratitude for the needs of the world and commited themselves to be guardians of the doors of Mercy to those in need.  the group sang the sucipe in English and Spanish.  The group from Aotearoa New Zealand sang a beautiful hymn in Maori language. The pilgrims sang the Hail Holy Queen and extended to each other an Irish Blessing.

This gathering marked the formal end of the Mercy pilgrimage.


Sincere gratitude is extended to Mary Reynolds rsm for having facilitated the details and format of the pilgrimage.  Gratitude is offered to those who led the components of the preparation and orientation of the pilgrims at Mercy International Centre before they left for Rome.  Thanks are given to Brenda Dolphin rsm who collaborated with Mary and others to ensure that the local logistics in Rome were in place- accommodations, the gathering meal, transportation, etc.  Deep gratitude is offered to the Mercy congregations and facilities who supported and encouraged the piligmage and the pilgrims.  It was a world-wide Mercy event that will not be easily forgotten and that will bring many blessings to the Mercy world.