Having completed Secondary School education, Dr. Mary Lyons joined the Congregation of the Sisters of Mercy. After graduating from the National University of Ireland Galway with a B.A. in English and Latin and a Higher Diploma in Education, Dr. Lyons taught English and Latin in Secondary Schools. Dr. Lyons was awarded the JCL and MCL degrees by Saint Paul University and the University of Ottawa. Work as a judge at the Galway Regional Marriage Tribunal followed. Dr. Lyons then commenced doctoral studies in Canon Law at Saint Paul University, receiving her JCD and PhD degrees. Dr. Lyons is a Judge at the Galway Regional Marriage Tribunal and consultant in Canon Law to religious congregations.2005 0-7734-6186-8
14 July 1994 marked a significant milestone in the history of the Sisters of Mercy, a congregation founded by Catherine McAuley in 1831. On that day, 27 independent diocesan congregations were juridically united as the Congregation of the Sisters of Mercy (Ireland). This study, historical and canonical in nature, examines how the governance structures that operated in this congregation evolved in response to ecclesiastical legislation of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, and especially to the Second Vatican Council's mandate for adaptation and renewal. In four organically related chapters the author addresses four questions: (i) What form of governance did the congregation inherit from its historical roots? (ii) What factors prompted the changes that had begun to take place in some Irish dioceses as early as 1860? (iii) What considerations motivated the eventual move towards a centralised form of government in 1994? and (iv) What are the implications of this development for the congregation? The author situates the foundation of the Mercy institute in the relevant historical, social, and ecclesiastical background. Then she integrates elements from several sources: the 1917 Code of Canon Law, the 1983 Code of Canon Law, papal documents, those issued by the Congregation for Institutes of Consecrated Life and Societies of Apostolic Life (under its various titles), conciliar decrees, together with archival material from Mercy Congregational archives. She systematically describes the various stages in the creation of new structures in response to the prevailing legislation. The human as well as the juridical factors that such restructuring involved are highlighted. Chapters three and four, in particular, offer a significant contribution to the canonical knowledge in the area of the law as it applies to religious. Students of religious life and institutes contemplating the challenge of restructuring will find this study particularly helpful and inspiring.