Contemplatives in action

“Contemplation is… setting aside time and giving oneself over to what really matters…”

Michael Downey in Called and Chosen Edited by Zeni Fox and Regina Bechtle R.C. 2005 p. 27

Love Justice Compassion Hope
On 24 May 1812 Mary Aikenhead and Alicia Walsh left Ireland for the Bar Convent York to undertake formation in religious life from Mary Ward’s Institute of the Blessed Virgin Mary.

On their return to Dublin on 22 August 1815, Daniel Murray; then Coadjutor Bishop to Archbishop Troy, assisted by the Jesuit Fr Robert St Leger developed the constitutions for the new religious order. From their foundation the Congregation of Sisters of Charity had a strong connection to Ignatian spirituality.

In a Mary Aikenhead Ministries’ college that spirituality finds expression in the relationship between the individual, God and the world. Ignatian spirituality tells us that God is an active God, and that we are called by Christ to be active with God in and for our world.

Mary Aikenhead Ministries’ colleges are communities which respond to the call to share Christ’s life, to think like him, to do what he does. We grow close to God as we do God’s work in the world, as we become ‘contemplatives in action’. In doing so all are encouraged to cultivate the habit of regular reflection in order to detect the presence of God in their lives, and to employ the tools of Ignatian discernment to make sound decisions.

The fruit of our contemplative effort is action, action which brings to reality the presence of God in our world and the love of Christ for all.

Through the deliberate application of effective processes of contemplation and discernment Mary Aikenhead Ministries’ colleges cultivate in all members of their community the disposition and ability to contribute to the realisation of God’s work in our world.

In a Mary Aikenhead Ministries’ college learning and teaching animate approaches to discovery, thinking and problem solving that empower students to become skilled in discernment and critique. Each leader, student and staff member of a Mary Aikenhead Ministries’ college works to sustain a culture of learning and teaching that places Christ at the centre, promoting sound judgement in initiating reflective social action. Within such a culture the nexus between contemplation, judgement and deed is to be found in the example of the life of Christ, brought to life in each individual.

Mary Aikenhead Ministries’ colleges engage in this process of active contemplation through a commitment to ensuring that programs and processes of learning and teaching provide all with the skills and opportunities to:

  • Develop insight and understanding of their current context and their relationship to this context;
  • Make judgements about the extent to which this context contributes to the realisation of God’s work in the world;
  • Engage in personal and social action to establish preferred options and a renewed future; and
  • Undertake contemplation and discernment to identify transformative achievements and further possibilities.
Our colleges are communities:
driven by a sense of moral purpose exemplified by a strong commitment to the preferential option for the poor and a deep respect for all creation;
steadfast in their advocacy for justice on behalf of the vulnerable, the marginalised and the voiceless; and,
searching always for opportunities for hope directed towards justice, equity and the common good for all.

Catholic colleges under the stewardship of Mary Aikenhead Ministries will be known through:

Cultural Characteristics

  • a culture that actively promotes the relationship between the individual, God and the world;
  • Ignatian spirituality that seeks to initiate right action in the world drawn from a considered understanding of context and experience through reflection and evaluation; and,
  • a commitment to the creation of knowledge through processes of discernment and exploration leading to the imperative to act in the world in ways consistent with our Catholic faith.


Catholic colleges under the stewardship of Mary Aikenhead Ministries may evidence this by:

Evidential Indicators

  • opportunities for all members of the community to understand, experience and apply Ignatian spirituality in their lives;
  • programs that include and develop an emphasis upon personal and group reflection as a means of discernment and decision making;
  • promotion of approaches to learning that recognise the utility of knowledge applied within Catholic perspectives;
  • structures that support the development of deep thinking, reflective practice and considered action;
  • the application of appreciative inquiry processes to learning and research.
PDF Resources