Mercy Sisters around the world are ecstatic that their latest digital production has won at the Australian Teachers of Media awards.
The CD-ROM, which features stories of hope in situations of injustice and gives scriptural reflection and suggestions for group interaction, was launched at the end of last year.
Its director, Adele Howard rsm, was in Wellington last month talking to Mercy sisters about the possibilities for using the CD-ROM, titled Mercy and Justice Shall Meet, with groups in seminars.
Sr Adele established Fraynework: Digital Storytelling, which created MAJSM, 10 years ago.
The CD-ROM features people from around the world telling their stories about, for example, a struggle for acceptance as a refugee in a strange land and a complementary story from a Mercy sister or a Jesuit refugee Service worker about their work and advocacy for refugees.
It gives data for each country featured, discussion questions, scriptural reflection on the topic, and a space for recording personal reflections.
The resource is the result of an international justice meeting of Mercy sisters in 2001 which came up with eight areas for focus and action.
‘People saw the value of this technology in being able to communicate the intention of the group, and to record how the individuals in the group went, that they went back to their own countries and tried to implement the focus of the group.’
The reaction to the CD-ROM has been ‘overwhelming’ and not just because of the impressive technology.
‘People have not only loved using the resource but the key thing is that the stories really move people and it was my hunch that they would.’
Sr Adele likened the resource to inviting people across a bridge to where people are struggling, ‘surviving against all hope, and yet they do survive, that’s what we try to do.
‘We try to expose people who are otherwise living in a reasonably comfortable world, to an uncomfortable world. The best thing is to physically take people, but in the absence of being able to do that, and out of respect for people who are living in this situation, the next best thing is to bring the story to them through this technology.
‘That’s where you see the impact – the stories being told and people from another world, listening, watching and engaging and being so moved and broken open to new insights about this capacity of the human heart to live, to find deep hope and to spiritually endure. It’s quite extraordinary.’
The beauty of the medium of digital storytelling that the CD-ROM uses is that it gives people a choice about how they want to absorb the information.
They can read the text on the screen, look at the images, listen to the sounds, the narrative or the music, watch the video or see the animation.
‘For those who’ve grown a bit shy about asking questions out of their fear or ignorance about the other, this medium helps them to explore some answers without having to disclose [their uncertainty] to others.
‘It may also enable people to take a spiritual journey.’
Impact on the secular world
Quite by chance Sr Adele and a colleague were invited to speak at an international conference on digital storytelling last year just as the CD-ROM was released. ‘What was amazing was that it fitted right into a lot of the theories about storytelling and the power of narrative, the power of insight through storytelling. There’s a whole theory out there that I hadn’t actually consciously been following.’
Another example of the wider community responding to the resource has been shown in the number of awards MAJSM has won.
Fraynework has been nominated as a finalist in London for One World Broadcasting Trust awards, it has won the education and training section of the American awards, Horizon Interactive, and the best multimedia education reference resource in the Australian Teachers of Media awards.
Sr Adele says there has also been ‘enormous affirmation’ from the groups to whom she has presented the resource. A recent Mercy-related group meeting in New York brought some of the women who work in the Mercy centre in the Bronx.
‘They were very moved because they work with people like those in the stories, people on the edge of struggle. It took them to another place as well. It’s a powerful little resource and it’s getting out there and changing hearts and minds.’
Understanding Mercy work
Fraynework’s intention is also to give some of those who are not Sisters of Mercy but are taking on the administration of the order’s health and education networks and family services, an insight into what is at the heart of their responsibility as Mercy associates.
‘Perhaps it will help them to be a little bolder than usual – take those risks with confidence to challenge the unjust systems and structures, to be a little more public about their disapproval of public political activity that doesn’t fit with the message of mercy and justice. These are the hopes I have.’
To buy Mercy and Justice Shall Meet in New Zealand, contact Sr Marcellin Wilson on (04) 4742330 or email email@example.com