There is a preparation period of at least ten months, during which time the aspiring associate explores the story of our foundress, Catherine McAuley, and her charism; the history of the Congregation of the Sisters of Mercy, both locally and internationally; spirituality, scripture and prayer; ministry; church; and discernment of the call to be an associate with the Sisters of Mercy.
After this process is completed, the potential associate indicates if it is her desire to become an associate and enters into an agreement for one year. There is a ritual held to mark this commitment and associates receive the pin designed especially for our Mercy associates.
Most associate groups are hosted by one of our communities where they meet regularly and share hospitality. Some of the groups meet in other meeting places and are less connected to a particular sponsoring community of sisters. Associates are invited to join other associate groups as well as the total congregation for special times of prayer and reflection and for some festive celebrations. Occasionally information sessions are held for people interested in learning about the Associate Program.
Emphasis in the program is placed on the charism of Mercy which is the bond that draws sisters and associates together, the life of our foundress and our own story in Newfoundland and Labrador. A number of our sisters offer input in these areas or in another relative to their own expertise. Facilitators of Associate Groups serve in two aspects of the program: the pre-Associate Program and/or Associate Program and are under the direction of the Coordinator of the Program. Each sponsoring community has a coordinator of the group whose responsibility it is to call the meetings and with the assistance of the associates to plan each meeting. Sisters of Mercy and associates serve as group facilitators.
Although the Congregation has not designated ministerial assignments for them, associates generously volunteer at several of our institutions in the St. John’s area – an acute area care hospital, a home for the aged and infirm, and a drop-in center for adults. They also collaborate with our sisters in the rural areas of Baie Verte, Marystown, Bell Island and Conception Harbour by participating in parish ministries, attending to food banks and more.