Mercy Sisters celebrate Epsom anniversary

17 Epsom 1921

Sunny skies and smiling faces were to the fore as the Sisters of Mercy celebrated 100 years since their arrival in Epsom, Auckland.

On May 2 this year, some 250-280 people were welcomed to the sisters’ property in Epsom, where they enjoyed morning tea, and viewed static and audio-visual displays, which had been prepared by Srs Rita Vessey and Cathryn Wiles-Pickard. Of the visitors, 26 were Sisters of Mercy, some of whom had lived at the property, taught at Our Lady of the Sacred Heart School, or worked in Te Ngakau Waiora Mercy Spirituality Centre.

Bishop Patrick Dunn with Sisters of Mercy and guests at the Epsom celebration.

Bishop Patrick Dunn, helped by Srs Rita and Cathryn, cut a cake made for the occasion, and many photos  were taken.

The displays covered a wide range of themes, including the foundation of the Sisters of Mercy in Ireland, and their arrival in New Zealand, the purchase of the Epsom property and the establishment of the convent school, boarding school and Mass Centre, as well as the ministry of spirituality offered on the site in more recent times.

Sr Cathryn said the 2021 celebration was a very happy day, which was enjoyed by many Epsom parishioners, participants in programmes and retreats, presenters of programmes, spiritual directors and counsellors and board members. Many wonderful and special memories were shared, she said.

However, many people conveyed their feelings of sadness at the closure of the Mercy Spirituality Centre on the site in July last year. Issues associated with finances and Covid-19 restrictions brought about this decision.

Sr Rita said that many at the centenary celebration commented that they missed the presence and work of the centre.

According to an article in a book celebrating 100 years of Epsom parish: “In the fallow time of 2020-2021, following the July closure, Sisters Rita Vessey and Cathryn Wiles-Pickard remain living in the Cecilia Maher House as the Sisters of Mercy reflect and discern what the future of this centennial Epsom foundation might be. For now, spiritual direction/ companioning and [Christian] meditation remain as an ongoing Mercy spirituality ministry which we offer. . . ”. “It is truly an oasis in the centre of Auckland, with a 100-year history of prayer and Mercy presence,” Sr Rita said.

Sr Rita and Sr Cathryn will be part of the parish centenary celebrations planned for September, as advertised in NZ Catholic.

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Michael Otto

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