The Power Of The Mercy Community – Jennifer Oaten

As a Mercy woman, I can attest to the significance of living the values of our Mercy tradition. It means more than just saying you care about others; it means taking action to serve those in need and being an advocate for those who cannot speak for themselves. From the very beginning, the Mercy tradition has been about empowering women to use their voice to make a difference in the world.

Our Mercy History

The Original Building 1938

The Mercy tradition has profoundly shaped me, and I love sharing our history. Catherine McAuley founded the Mercy Sisters in Dublin in 1831, but Ursula Frayne spread it even further when she brought the Mercy Sisters to Australia in 1846. Upon their arrival, they established Mercedes College as their first school for girls – a milestone that marked the beginning of so many other possibilities!

The sisters soon realised that one school could not meet the growing need for education for girls in Western Australia, especially rural students. There were challenges finding a suitable piece of land; however, they eventually found the perfect spot in Attadale, despite its reputation as being in “the backwaters of Perth in the mosquito-infested swamps.” Despite the obstacles, the sisters were undeterred and purchased the land, selling the land nearest the river to fund the building of the College which opened in 1938.

L - R: 1. Sisters owned the land to the river. 2. The original Figure 8

The Mercy Sisters lived on-site in the convent from 1938 up until 1985.  The spaces they once occupied now serve as the home of the school’s Music community. Throughout its history, the Mercy tradition has played a significant role in helping Santa Maria students thrive in school and beyond. I am proud to be part of this remarkable tradition that empowers and transforms the lives of countless individuals.

Being A Mercy School

As a Mercy school, we belong to a group of 13 Mercy schools and 25 affiliated schools (meaning they have some Mercy heritage) across Victoria, South Australia and Western Australia. I enjoy being a part of this larger national network of Catholic Colleges under the Mercy Education Limited (MEL) umbrella. We are united by the shared vision of Catherine McAuley and her mission.

Recently, Santa Maria College hosted over 60 participants for the annual College Advisory Council and Leadership Dinner. 12 Sisters of Mercy, Mercy Education Directors and Executive Team members, Advisory Council members and leadership teams from Mercy schools came together for an evening of formation and connection. Schools represented at the event included Mercedes College Perth, St Brigid’s College Lesmurdie, Aranmore Catholic College Leederville, Mercy College Koondoola, St Gerard’s Catholic Primary School Westminster, Ursula Frayne Catholic College Victoria Park, Our Lady of Mercy College Australind, and Santa Maria College.

The evening included a presentation by Chris Bence, Head of School Engagement, on the ‘Characteristics of a Mercy Ministry’. Father George Kolodzieja also spoke on the ‘Connection between Faith and Wellbeing.’ Seeing the community come together to celebrate our uniqueness as a Mercy community and to build this sense of connection and belonging was inspiring.

Mercy Education is responsible for the governance and operation of our Colleges and provides excellent opportunities for professional learning for leadership teams in our Mercy schools, enabling staff from the three states to join together in person and online. This sharing, support and collaboration are important to build a strong community.

Santa Maria College is part of a larger Mercy community that incorporates schools, hospitals, aged care and other community services across Australia.

While our Mercy values differ among our schools, they are all based on ‘Mercy’. Our staff and students are encouraged to embody our Mercy values of Hospitality, Compassion, Justice, Service, and Excellence in our daily lives, understanding that these values guide the actions and decisions of the school community each day. Each Mercy school is encouraged to embody the Mercy values to create a more just and equitable society where students can thrive. It is inspiring to be part of a community that places such a strong emphasis not only on teaching but also on creating better human beings who will make a difference

Being A Mercy Girl/Woman

As a proud Mercy woman and Principal at Santa Maria College, I wholeheartedly believe in our mission “To educate young women who act with courage and compassion to enrich our world.” But what does it really mean to be a Mercy girl?

To me, being a Mercy girl means embodying the values of compassion, respect, generosity, and kindness. It means being intelligent, curious, and hardworking, with a willingness to learn and grow. We approach life with an open mind and a thoughtful heart, always keeping the needs of others in mind.

At the core of a Mercy girl’s character is a strong sense of morality and a willingness to take risks to achieve our goals. We cultivate a growth mindset and a global perspective, driven by a desire to make a positive impact in the world. We are resilient problem-solvers and excellent communicators, always striving for self-improvement and growth.

But it is not just our individual qualities that make us unique. Being part of the Mercy community means being united by a strong sense of sisterhood and support. We foster an environment of inclusivity and a sense of community where students feel empowered to support and care for one another. In developing young Mercy women, we hope our young women will graduate valuing themselves, valuing others and valuing giving back to the community.

As I reflect on the thousands of Mercy women (and men) who have graduated from Mercy Schools around Australia, I cannot help but feel inspired. Each woman carries with her unique stories of success.

Together, we are a powerful force for positive change in the world, embodying the values and qualities that Catherine McAuley held so close.

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