By Greg C., Mercy High School Staff
My closest friends and I have a playlist of songs that remind us of each other; songs that we have listened to at least once a year since we met 14 years ago. One of the songs references the “days that changed my life.” Since the stroke of my good friend Becky, I’ve been reflecting on my life-changing days. As it turns out, they are not all tragic, scary or sad. In fact most of the days that changed my life in the last few years have been incredibly positive and affirming—and many of those days came at Mercy High School.
A few years ago I was in the middle of a full-blown quarter-life crisis. My friends and I were hanging out and I mentioned that I really wanted to work in educational theatre at a high school but I felt I had exhausted all of my possibilities. My friend Rosie said, “You know, my mom is the theatre director at Mercy. Email her; I’m sure she can get you involved.”
I emailed her mother, Miss Mac, and told her a little about myself and what I wanted to do. She immediately found a place for me as her assistant director on “Beauty and the Beast” and I have felt welcomed at Mercy ever since. The day I met Miss Mac changed my life; that day I felt at home.
A house is inanimate but a home is active and alive. Home is people, not just a place with four walls and a roof. A house becomes a home with hospitality, with the love overflowing from one another. Love accepts people where they are for who they are. That’s how I experience hospitality at Mercy High School. That’s what it means to be a home.
In 2010, Miss Mac invited me to a luncheon the day Susan Sarandon and “Dead Man Walking” author Sister Helen Prejean visited Mercy High School. A student greeted me at the main door saying, “Welcome to Mercy! How are you today?” Her hospitality made me smile.
This was to be another day that changed my life. I introduced myself to Dr. McCrea, principal at Mercy High School, shook Sister Helen’s hand and told her that I often drew upon her words about what it means to work for justice in our world, words I heard her speak when I was in high school. The next day, Sister Helen called me and offered me the incredible opportunity to be the National Coordinator of the Dead Man Walking School Theatre Project, housed in Mercy High School. Life: changed. Quarter-life crisis: over.
On my first day, I walked into my office in Mercy High School and found the room prepared with a fresh coat of paint, a new carpet and an executive office chair. That’s hospitality, too.
Two years later, as a full-time member of the staff, I feel Mercy hospitality daily: when students wave to me and say good morning in the hallway; when I’m offered a piece of chocolate in a colleague’s office; when I see students’ love and support each other onstage, backstage, on the court, on the field and in the classroom. From my perch back in the tech booth in the theater, I see the way students reach out to new students and old friends during orientation. Hospitality at Mercy High School is active and it permeates the building and the community. We meet each other where we are and accept each other for who we are. That’s hospitality. That’s compassion. That’s Mercy.
Mercy is a major theme in Shakespeare’s play, “The Merchant of Venice,” especially juxtaposed against justice. Shakespeare writes:
The quality of mercy is not strained
It droppeth as the gentle rain from heaven
Upon the place beneath. It is twice blest:
It blesseth him that gives, and him that takes.
Mercy blesses us twice but I feel more than twice-blessed to be a member of the Mercy High School community. It’s been full of days that changed my life.
This blog is the third in a series of highlighting Catherine McAuley and Mercy, shared in connection with the anniversary of her death on November 11, 1841. The first post on Catherine can be found here and the second post on tea can be found here.