This is Why Mercy Matters
MERCY LIGHT: Leading
During the first whole school Mass for 2023, it was announced that the St Aloysius College community would celebrate this as a ‘Year of Blessings’ and reflect on this theme in subsequent liturgical celebrations and events. One way to celebrate blessings is to share them with others through acts of service and personifying the Mercy Values: Courage, Compassion, Hospitality, Justice, Service and Respect. So, it’s fitting that, in the Year of Blessings, a new Service Learning program, Mercy Matters, was launched to enable students to do just that.
Mercy foundress, Catherine McAuley, famously said, “the proof of love is deed,” and participation in Mercy Matters enable all students in Years 7-9 to experience the personal growth and enrichment that flows from making a difference to those in need. The call to express love for humanity through acts of service is at the heart of Christian faith and Mercy mission.
In Mercy Matters, students volunteer to participate in a range of social justice and service initiatives, just some of which include:
- Knitting blankets to be gifted to local homelessness services.
- Volunteering at Sister Janet Mead’s Adelaide Day Centre.
- Assisting at school functions (i.e. on Open Night).
- Assembling kits for the Birthing Kit Foundation.
- Donating goods to support services such as Catherine House.
- Making Mercy bracelets to sell and fundraise for Mercy Works.
- Volunteering at the SAC Op Shop.
- Supporting Reception classes and listening to reading.
Through Mercy Matters, students contribute to our local community, but importantly, they also have a chance to reflect on their experiences and debrief with staff who support Mercy Matters activities. This process of questioning, action, analysis and reflection help students to learn about social justice issues and develop informed insights. Ultimately, the goal is for them to experience meaningful engagement with social justice initiatives so that they can continue to be ambassadors for the Mercy Values beyond their participation in the program.
On Thursday 23 November, a number of students who went above and beyond to commit to the program were invited to a morning tea with the SAC’s Leadership team and staff who oversee Mercy Matters. The students were eager to describe their experiences of encounter and connection through their volunteering experiences.
Ms Kate O’Reilly, Religious Education Curriculum Coordinator (Secondary), opened the special gathering by explaining to the Mercy Matters participants, “I come from Ireland, where the Sisters of Mercy were founded by Catherine McAuley, and she said that a lot of good can come from sharing a cup of tea to celebrate small achievements, which is what we wanted to do with you today. What you do is seen and appreciated by the school community and we know you aren’t doing good things for recognition, but it’s inspiring for us as teachers to see compassionate leaders emerging.”
Students then shared their favourite elements of Mercy Matters. Year 8 student, Mariah, said, “I really enjoyed volunteering at the Day Centre. It was really nice to know that you were giving a little bit of extra help that they [the Centre volunteers and staff] might have needed that day, and it’s good to see what’s happening out in the community in a different environment.”
Alison, a Year 9 student, enjoyed working with Year 11 students to make SolarBuddy lights for families experiencing energy poverty in developing countries. Alison shared, “I really liked learning about other communities and how much something as simple as access to light can help them and even improve their studies.”
Through stepping out of their comfort zones, whether it be through extending hospitality to visitors and newcomers on Open Night, or participating in an initiative to help people on the other side of the world, students develop new skills and become people who communicate and lead with empathy. This is why, more than ever, Mercy Matters. Congratulations to all who participated in or supported the program in its first year – which truly has been a Year of Blessings.
Ms Maddie Kelly