Mercy Charism, Alive and Thriving, Within Our Schools

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By Sister Regina Ward, Associate Director of Mission Integration, Mercy Education

This week our Mercy schools join in the celebration of Catholic Schools Week. The theme for Catholic Schools Week—“Faith. Excellence. Service.”—resonates strongly in the mission of each of our education ministries, where Catholic identity and Mercy charism harmonize to nurture highly competent and deeply compassionate leaders ready to serve a vulnerable world.

Charism is a gift of the Holy Spirit given to a person for the common good. It is the Spirit’s way of being present in our world.

For Sisters of Mercy, our Mercy education ministries and our worldwide Community of Mercy, the gift of charism was given to and received by Catherine McAuley, who actively sought how to be Mercy in nineteenth-century Dublin, Ireland. The experience of charism can be told through the stories of the community, but charism cannot be captured in words to be handed on to those who follow. Charism is dynamic!

The Holy Spirit continues to inspire people with the charism to respond to the needs of the present day and moves where it will. The main function of Mercy Education is to promote the charism within our schools, inspiring the students, families, faculty, staff, administrators and the broader community to embrace the charism and bring Mercy to our world.

Throughout Catholic Schools Week, our Mercy charism will take on many intentional expressions.

Kaila Lujambio, senior at Mercy High School in Middletown, Connecticut, completes a Butterfly of Love delivery at a local emergency shelter.

Service efforts include a coat drive at Mount Saint Mary Academy in Watchung, New Jersey, for a local soup kitchen and the annual Focus: HOPE food drive at Mercy High School in Farmington Hills, Michigan, to support low-income seniors. At St. Catharine Academy in the Bronx, New York, students will celebrate the creative ways they have engaged in service during the pandemic, which include tutoring online, grocery shopping for those who are unable to do so and collecting donations for local food banks. Ongoing service activities, such as “A Butterfly of Love” effort at Mercy High School in Middletown, Connecticut, will be highlighted during the week. This student-led project provides facemasks and care packages to frontline workers as well as cards to COVID-19 patients.

Students at Mercymount Country Day School in Cumberland, Rhode Island, will deepen their understanding of vocations through Q&A sessions with Sister Rayleen Giannotti, principal; Brother Alan Aubin, campus ministry director; and Brother James Burns, teaching assistant.

To enhance his students’ study of Los piratas del caribe y el triángulo de la bermudas by Carol Gaab, Señor Ernesto Laspiur—Spanish teacher at Mercy Academy in Louisville, Kentucky—dressed as a pirate to act out parts of the book. You can see him using the Swivl, which helps keep online students learning synchronously as if they were actually sitting in the classroom, while having students in the classroom, as well. This is just one of the countless ways faculty have gone above and beyond in the past several months.

At Mercy Academy in Louisville, Kentucky, students are writing letters of appreciation to their families, and families are sending thank-you cards to faculty and staff members who have been going above and beyond in these challenging times. Several schools are saying “thank you” to local police officers and firefighters with special treats in gratitude for their service to protect the local communities in which they serve.

At Mater Christi School in Burlington, Vermont, Mercy charism was the focus of a new program, Mercy in Actions, in which classes designed and completed projects to bring joy, hope and serving-care to others. These projects included virtual picture postcards from preschool students to local Sisters of Mercy, and stunning stained-glass images of Mercy Critical Concerns created by the fifth grade.

The time since last year’s Catholic Schools Week has been a time of unprecedented events: the COVID-19 pandemic, our heightened consciousness of racial inequities, natural disasters and political unrest. We bless our students and continue to appreciate their creativity, resilience and passion for Mercy that transcends all obstacles and infuses their approach to new ways of embracing the Mercy charism. We are grateful to each member of the administration, staff and faculty at our schools who continue to work tirelessly to ensure they fulfill their mission of educating young people in the Mercy Catholic tradition. We pray for our schools as they express their faith, excellence and service—not only during Catholic Schools Week, but all throughout the year.