As with people the world over, Mercy high school students found their lives put on hold this spring when the global coronavirus pandemic forced schools, communities and whole countries to close and go into lockdown. Mercy students continued their educations virtually and, at the same time, found ways to support their communities spiritually and materially. MESA (Mercy Education System of the Americas) asked a group of graduating seniors how they continue to “Make Mercy Real” during a pandemic, and how they will carry this strange time forward after high school. Whether in Jamaica, the Bronx or Omaha, their responses shared a mournfulness for what has been lost but hope for the future. Here are their stories.
Persevering Despite this Difficult Situation
By Angelena Antenuci, Class of 2020 at Gwynedd Mercy Academy High School in Gwynedd Valley, Pennsylvania
On March 10, I walked the red and gold corridors of Gwynedd Mercy Academy High School, not knowing it would be the last time. In an uncertain rush, my classmates and I said quick goodbyes to each other after hastily cleaning our lockers and anxiously walking to our cars. In that moment, we bid farewell to a place that had become our home over the last four years. The next three months were supposed to be the peak of our high school experience: our induction into Gwynedd Mercy’s sisterhood of alumnae; the Crowning of Mary, Blessed Mother, with our May Procession; our beloved, tradition-filled commencement ceremony. Instead, we received social-distancing directives and repeated stay-at-home orders.
Despite my inability to participate in fun senior traditions—such as tie-dying my uniform Oxford shirt or painting my light blue kilt with the logo of my college—my heart is forever emblazoned with the memories of the past four years with my 86 sisters. With my fellow seniors, I have experienced four vibrant Mercy Day celebrations, one colorful junior prom, numerous faith-filled retreats and so much more.
One of my favorite memories with my classmates is planning and leading Gwynedd Mercy’s first-ever Emmaus retreat where the Class of 2020 spent several days growing in our relationships with God and each other. It is in the friendships and memories made that I find the strength to persevere despite this difficult situation.
This Was Going to One of the Best Years of My Life
By Madeleine Wirth, Class of 2020 at Notre Dame High School in Elmira, New York
From the moment I walked into Notre Dame on my first day of school in seventh grade, I could not wait to be a senior in high school. Seeing all the fun the seniors were having, especially within the last three months of school, made me so excited for my senior year!
Flash forward to the first day of my senior year on September 5, 2019. My classmates and I got to school extremely early to watch the sunrise. We had a plan: on the first day of school, we would watch the sunrise together, and on the last day, we would watch the sunset together. I remember thinking this was going to be one of the best years of my life and I could not wait to make as many memories as possible with my friends. Little did I know what was in store.
The Storm Won’t Last Forever – The Sun Will Shine Again
By Shawna-kay Spence, Class of 2020 at Convent of Mercy Academy – Alpha in Kingston, Jamaica
I thought that my final year of high school was going to be the best one yet: Being a student leader at the Convent of Mercy Academy – Alpha, carrying out duties and having responsibilities, learning new content every day from the best teachers ever, having a jolly time with friends, going to clubs after school and inspiring students. I enjoyed each day like it was my last, but who could havve known that those last few months at the academy would really be the last I spent there. School life was going great until the coronavirus arrived on our shores. I was unable to go to one of my favourite places due to the closure of schools caused by the pandemic. Of course I was devastated, but my health is more important.
Being at home all day, every day, is not something that I am used to. I am used to waking up early for school five days a week, taking the bus, being on time, going through the rest of the day, etc. It took a toll on me mentally. Being a student during a time like this is not easy, especially not being able to see friends, schoolmates and the rest of my Alpha family. But I am managing to pull through since communication is still viable among my friends and me.