“All the world is a stage,” said William Shakespeare. For Daena Schweiger ’87 her career has flourished on that theatrical stage. From acting to directing to backstage work to writing plays, she has been involved in theatre for more than 30 years in the Omaha area.
Daena caught the theatre bug as a Mercy freshman and was involved in theatre and speech all four years. She tried tennis and soccer and took several honors classes during high school, but she knew she had found what she wanted to do for the rest of her life on the stage. Daena is part of a Mercy legacy. Her mother, Pat Schweiger ’64, attended Mercy as well as her aunt, Barbara Schweiger Skalla ’60.
After graduating from Mercy in 1987, Daena attended the University of Nebraska -Lincoln and earned a Bachelor’s in Fine Arts with an emphasis in acting. She worked as a stage manager at Opera Omaha for eight years as an independent contractor. For ten years she served as a secretary and business manager of Mary Our Queen Church. Currently, she is an office manager at Melotz & Wilson, LLC, a local tax firm.
“My first love is the theatre, but it doesn’t always pay the bills. I have been fortunate to have other jobs so I can fulfill my true passion. At Mercy, I learned about the importance of Catholic faith. I have always had faith that I could pursue theatre and find other jobs to supplement my income. Things have always had a way of working out,” Daena said.
The award-winning playwright, actress and director has been part of many Omaha-area productions. Her writing credits include numerous one-act plays, and two full-length plays: “Love is Strange” and “Voices From the Closet.” She has directed over 20 plays and musicals, including “Now. Here. This.” at Creighton University; “Clue: The Musical” for Bellevue Little Theatre; “Avenue Q” for SNAP! Productions; “Jesus Christ Superstar” for Chanticleer Theater in Council Bluffs; “The Great American Trailer Park Musical” for BroadStreet Theatre Co.; and “Eating Raoul” for the Shelterbelt Theatre.
Daena is also a frequent performer onstage, appearing in “The Resistable Rise of Arturo Ui” at the Bluebarn Theatre; Montressor in “The Cask of The Amontillado for Tales of Poe” at Joslyn Castle; Claire in “Proof” for Baby D Productions; Reggie in “The Laramie Project” for SNAP! Productions; and Jeanette d’Arcy (Joan of Arc) in “Daughter of the Tree” at the Hudson Guild Theatre in New York City. Most recently, Daena was part of the cast of the Omaha Community Playhouse production of “Men on Boats.” Directed by another Mercy alumna, Amy Harmon Lane ’86, “Men on Boats” told the story of the John Wesley Powell expedition to map the Grand Canyon. All the roles were written for and portrayed by women. Daena received recognition for her work in this production from The Omaha Community Playhouse, the Theatre Arts Guild and the Omaha Entertainment and Arts Awards Academy.
Daena hosts her own podcast called “Thank You 5” where she spotlights the vibrant performing arts community in Omaha by interviewing local theater artists. She is also an established audiobook narrator.
Although she does not have much free time with her hectic schedule, Daena still has friends from her years at Mercy, keeping in touch with them on social media and at the occasional breakfast or dinner.
“Literally I made my best friends at Mercy,” she said.
Her first love, her theatre career, continues to blossom. Daena will be directing “Joseph and the Amazing Technical Dreamcoat” this spring at the Chanticleer Theatre.
For Marilyn Krajicek ’58, Ed.D. R. N., F.A.A.N., teamwork has been a constant through line in her successful career as a pediatric nurse, professor, and medical researcher. She credits her success to her willingness to learn from others and lead with them in mind.
“The things I did at Mercy provided me with the confidence I needed,” she said.
Marilyn was enrolled at St. John’s High School before it merged with St. Mary’s in 1955 to become Mercy High School. While some of her classmates were not excited to move to this new school, Marilyn was thrilled: “I was so pleased to have the navy-blue Mercy uniform.” When she arrived at Mercy, Marilyn came with a can-do attitude and an openness to meeting new friends and having new experiences.
“My friendships were critical,” she remembers of her time at Mercy. “I didn’t have a car, so I either had to get a ride to the activities or somebody had to cart me home.” Marilyn credits her friendships, including her ongoing friendship with former Mercy Principal Sr. Corrine Connelly, RSM ’58 , with making her high school years unforgettable.
As a senior, Marilyn was featured in an issue of the Mercy student newspaper. The 1958 article explains that Marilyn “has made herself and others happier by her cheerful leadership in class activities.” She served as the president of the Mercy Marthas, treasurer of the Christeens, vice-prefect of Sodality, and as a member of the Triple Trio, Glee Club and Greek Club. She was also selected by her classmates to be May Queen her senior year.
Her involvement allowed Marilyn to hone her leadership skills and obtain valuable lessons about relationship building and teamwork. From her time at Mercy, Marilyn realized the importance of working with others. “You can learn from other people,” Marilyn said.
And learn she did. As a student, Marilyn visited state institutions where she met people who had developmental and physical disabilities. From those experiences, she knew she wanted a “career in caring, in working with people with challenges.”
The student newspaper article explained that “Marilyn, who is seldom unsure about anything, replied hesitantly when asked about plans for the future. ‘I’m really undecided, but at the moment I plan [on] a career in nursing.’” Those hesitant plans blossomed into an impressive career spanning five decades during which Marilyn touched the lives of thousands of patients.
After graduating from Mercy, Marilyn received her nursing diploma from St. Joseph’s School of Nursing in 1961. She then received a Bachelor’s in Nursing from Duchesne College, a Master’s in Maternal Child Nursing from Washington University in St. Louis, a Post-Master’s in Nursing Handicapped Children from the University of Washington, and a Doctorate of Education at the University of Northern Colorado in Greeley.
Early in her career, Marilyn served as a nurse. In 1965, Dr. Loretta Ford and Dr. Henry Silver created and implemented the first pediatric nurse practitioner model and training program at the University of Colorado Anschutz Medical Campus College of Nursing. Three short years later, Marilyn began working at the University of Colorado in 1968 as the Director of Nursing of the John F. Kennedy Child Development Center. In this role, she worked in the innovative nurse practitioner program.
Since then, she has held various positions within the Schools of Nursing and Medicine within the University of Colorado system. Marilyn is currently a tenured professor at the University of Colorado Denver College of Nursing, as well as the Nursing Director of JFK Partners, University Center for Excellence in Developmental Disabilities: Education, Research, and Service, Department of Pediatrics University of Colorado School of Medicine.
Marilyn’s research has resulted in numerous publications on topics ranging from childhood obesity to dental health. She has helped develop and led multiple nursing courses for university students and served as an advisor for numerous students in their pursuits of higher education.
She is quick to recognize the importance of teamwork and that good leaders seek out those who can help and provide consultation.
“I have learned that to be successful, you must work with people from different disciplines and backgrounds. At Mercy you have the opportunity to benefit from different perspectives,” she said.
Throughout her impressive career, Marilyn has been dedicated to creating strong partnerships with her colleagues. She is a strong believer in interprofessional relationships and believes that her time at Mercy made it all possible. “My time at Mercy led me to carry on those leadership skills throughout my nursing career,” Marilyn said.
Four new Board members were appointed by the Mercy Education System of the Americas to the Mercy High School Board of Trustees effective January 2020. Mercy is a sponsored by the Sisters of Mercy the Americas.
The new Board members are: Molly Collins Beran ’97, Ob-Gyn Physician, CHI Health Clinic; Robert R. McGill, President, Robert McGill Construction Company; Annie Messersmith, Vice President/Comptroller, Mutual of Omaha; and Timothy Schmad, Former Executive Director, Omaha Community Playhouse.
Molly Collins Beran, M.D., is a Mercy graduate who has been a physician for more than 15 years. She received an English degree from Creighton University and a Doctor of Medicine from the University of Nebraska Medical Center in 2005. The busy physician has four children and is part of a Mercy legacy as her older sisters Coralie Collins Kroll ’86 and Mary Collins Wolf ’88 attended the school. The active alumna keeps in touch with classmates. Her educational and health sciences background will be beneficial to the Mercy Board.
Robert McGill has been involved in construction for 48 years and has used his expertise to support many community organizations’ building projects and committees. He is a past board member of Creighton Preparatory High School and served on several committees involved in Prep’s building expansions. He was on the Parish Council and Steering Committee at St. Wenceslaus Catholic Church from 1981-1989 and on Creighton University’s Expansion Committee from 2000-2005. With a strong passion for Catholic schools and the role they plan in the formation of young women and men, he looks forward to this appointment.
Annie Messersmith is returning to the Board. She is the Vice President of the Comptroller Group at Mutual of Omaha and has been with the company for more than 12 years. She previously served on Mercy’s Board from 2008-2017. Active on the Catholic Charities Board, Messersmith brings experience in financial budgeting, forecasting and strategic planning to the school. She received her Bachelor of Arts in Accounting from the University of South Dakota in 1982. Her hopes are to bring her expertise to the mission of Mercy, especially in educating all women regardless of economic ability.
With more than 40 years of nonprofit experience, Timothy Schmad has lent his talents to numerous community groups including the Rotary Club of Omaha as past president, St. Vincent de Paul Parish Council as past president, Creighton Prep’s Development Committee, Teammates as a Mentoring Board member. He served as Executive Director of the Omaha Community Playhouse from 2000-2017. Schmad holds a Bachelor’s of Applied Science from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. He hopes to bring his business and volunteer acumen to Mercy and help the school fulfill its mission.
Jessica Cannon Rempe ’96 learned in her years at Mercy High School that service is a humble way of giving gratitude for the things that God has given us. In 2016, the Mercy graduate started the Secret Kindness Agent Family Chapter as a parent at St. Columbkille school. Her efforts have made national news. In February 2020 she and her husband are will be flown on the Ellen DeGeneres Show, which has a viewership of 4.2 million, to be recognized for the program. It is one of 10 efforts being honored through Ellen’s One Million Acts of Good.
“As a mother of four, I wanted to find a way for families to work together to participate in random acts of kindness for the betterment of others. I had heard a speech by Ferial Pearson, the founder of Secret Kindness Agents Projects, and I adapted her program into family service mission. Ours is one of many groups worldwide. All ages participate from toddlers to grandparents,” she said.
The first event was painting rocks with positive messages in a local park. The response was overwhelming, and the movement began. The program has grown through social media (there is a special group Facebook page) and word of mouth.
More than 100 different activities have taken place and include:
o Easter baskets for the Ronald McDonald House
o Blessing bags for the homeless
o Military care packages
o Scarves and hats on Christmas trees for the homeless
o Survival kits for NICU mothers
o Kindness cards for people
o Treats and thank you notes for teachers
o Book drives
o Refugee home setups
o Prayers on lockers
o Chemo care kits
“Kindness missions are originated by our members, usually having to do with someone or something that is developing in their life. Other missions can be determined by local events or tragedies,” she said. Her group made pinwheels in Gretna after several students died in a car accident this past year.
“My love of service began at Mercy. In learning about the Sisters of Mercy and Mother McAuley, I learned that the world is much bigger than me,” she said.
“I was drawn to Mercy because it was a smaller, all-girls school since I was a quiet, shy student during my grade school years,” she said.
Jessica took part in Volleyball, Basketball and Track for all four years. She was also involved in journalism as a yearbook editor, junior class secretary, an EMHC and in National Honor Society. Her classmates chose her to be a Nocturne Princess as a junior. She also participated in Habitat for Humanity and the work study program in the summer months.
“I was struck by the feeling of family at Mercy. It was really about the little things...classmates, teachers and coaches who were there for me and wanted the best for my future. At the time I didn’t realize the little things were the big things. At Mercy, I was given a gift I knew I needed to pass along,” she said.
After graduation Jessica attended the University of Nebraska-Lincoln and earned a Bachelor’s Degree in Education. She received her Master’s Degree in Speech-Language Pathology from the University of Nebraska Omaha in 2002. Since then she has been working full time as a Speech-Language Pathologist for Omaha Public Schools. She and her husband, Jim, have four children who attend St. Columbkille.
“Mercy had a huge impact on me socially, academically and spiritually. My years at Mercy taught me how to interact with people on a level of kindness no matter what they are going through,” she said.
Thanks to that Mercy education Jessica is passing acts of kindness along to others.
Mercy graduate Sr. Pat McDermott, RSM, ’66 holds the highest leadership position in the Sisters of Mercy community: President of the Institute of the Sisters of Mercy of the Americas. The Institute has more than 2,400 Sisters serving in education, healthcare and social service ministries in the United States, the Caribbean, Central and South America and the Pacific. The Omaha native, who is also an educator, celebrated her 50th Jubilee as a Sister of Mercy in 2016. Her dedication and commitment to the values of Catherine McAuley were formalized during her time at Mercy High School.
Attending Mercy was a foregone conclusion for the young student whose only sister, Mary Ann Dobrovolny ‘58, attended St. John’s and then moved to Mercy for her last two years of high school . But the school was a good fit for Sr. Pat.
“The spirit of Catherine McAuley was vibrant in the school, not only from the Sisters there but from the lay faculty as well. You are encouraged to be your best self and discover the importance of relationships and collaboration. Articulate young women emerge as a result,” she said.
She recalled that it was a time in history where school was like a second home.
“The educational community had an advanced sense of women spiritually, socially and academically. The student body lived their faith in concrete ways, especially through a lens of social justice,” she said.
During high school, Sr. Pat enjoyed the creativity of journalism as she worked on the school’s quarterly magazine and learned layout and design. She also participated in debate.
“Debate was a wonderful discipline. It encouraged thinking, got you engaged in current issues and increased skills for women who might be competing with young men at debate competitions,” she said.
She also recalls values were practiced and critical concerns were part of the fabric of educational life at Mercy.
When asked about receiving a calling to be a Sister, Sr. Pat explained it was more of a movement in a certain direction.
“At an early age there was a sense of awe and mystery surrounding the Sisters of Mercy whose lives I wanted to emulate. They had a sense of God that was an essential part of their makeup, which I admired,” she said.
After graduation, she and 18 others entered the Novitiate at the College of St. Mary, receiving their formation while attending classes. She also studied at Misericordia University in Pennsylvania and received her Bachelor’s of English in 1971. Pat made final vows as a Sister of Mercy in August of 1972. She taught English, journalism and religious education for 10 years at St. Thomas More and at St. Albert’s in Council Bluffs, Iowa. Following that she finished her doctoral studies and taught pastoral theology at The Catholic University of America.
She has spent most of her ministry in Sisters of Mercy leadership positions for more than 20 years.
“As part of the discernment process, you are called to share your gifts with others. It is somewhat unique that someone would serve this long on the leadership team, but I feel God’s deepest presence in this ministry and it is still a good fit,” she said.
Prior to being elected president in 2011 and again in 2017, she served two terms on the Institute Leadership Team. She also served as president of the former regional community of the Sisters of Mercy in Omaha from 1990 to 1998 and as an administrative team member for the previous four years.