Walter Scott Jr. Scholarship Winner
Lucy Euteneuer has been named the Walter Scott, Jr. Scholarship winner for Creighton University. As a Scott Scholar, Lucy will receive full tuition, room & board, fees, and books coverage.
The Scott Scholarship is Creighton’s premier merit-based scholarship program, made possible through the generosity of the Suzanne and Walter Scott Foundation. The Scott Scholars program seeks to attract and equip future business leaders, who are entrepreneurial in spirit and strive for excellence, innovation and community impact.
Omaha History Day Success
Ellah Hoge and Elizabeth Troia won the Schwalb Center's History Day Award for the their entry, “The Golden Library” in the Senior Exhibit Group category. Their exhibit provided the historical context for the rise and fall of the famous library, The House of Wisdom in present day Baghdad. The library was constructed in the 8th century and destroyed by the Mongols in the 1258.
Ellah and Elizabeth with be honored at a lunch in late March where they will receive scholarships for their outstanding work.
Two State Runner-ups
Grace Swoboda and Sally McClellan competed in the State swimming and diving finals and both earned runner-up medals. Swoboda earned her in the 100 yard breaststroke and the 50 yard freestyle. McClellan earned hers in three meter diving.
CATHOLIC SCHOOLS WEEK
This week we celebrate Catholic Schools Week.
Our theme for the week is Mercy Education is Universal, so we are really focusing on Mercy's global connection. Each day is focused on a particular country where a Mercy school is located, and a few facts will be read about that country and/or that particular Mercy school over the morning announcements. In addition, throughout the week, we will be posting photos of a cardboard cutout of Catherine McAuley placed around Omaha, and it will be a competition for the girls to find out where the picture was taken. ("Where in Omaha is Catherine McAuley?" instead of "Where in the World is Carmen San Diego?")
Monday's country is Ireland. Students get a free dress down day in orange, white, and green: the colors of Ireland's flag. At the kickoff assembly - we play a trivia game. Then, we dance an Irish jig to the "Just Dance" Irish Meadow Dance together - student body and staff! We will hide pots of gold around the school and whoever finds them, gets to keep the candy.
Tuesday's country is Honduras. The free dress down day colors are blue and white. Students can visit the Media Center to color flags from the different countries where Mercy schools are located. Flags will be displayed, and each flag colored will earn the student their name in a drawing for a prize.
Wednesday will celebrate Jamaica. Students dress down in black, green, and yellow for free. We will play music during each passing period.
Thursday's country is Australia. Students dress down in red, white, and blue, but must bring in a donation to the Open Door Mission to participate in the dress down day. Socks, hats, gloves, underwear, etc. will be collected and donated.
Friday's focus will be on our favorite Mercy school right at 48th and Woolworth! Students dress in blue and gold (or other Mercy spirit wear) for free. Classes 1-8 will be held in the morning. Staff serve the students pancakes for lunch after 8th period. Then, students will participate in a special activity that will test their knowledge and international prowess.
Great times are sure to be had to celebrate our Catholic Mercy Schools around the world.
NATIONAL HONORS SOCIETY BLOOD DRIVE
NHS is hosting a blood drive on Saturday 1/28 with Holy Cross.
The blood banks around Omaha are still very low and could really use our help. Sign up today and save a life!
When: Saturday, 1/28 from 7 am - 12:30 pm
Where: Holy Cross School Cafeteria
How: Sign up at redcrossblood.org by searching MercyHolyCross
Dr. Kim Oliver Named New Assistant Principal
With great excitement, Dr. Kim Oliver has been named the Assistant Principal. She'll begin her post this summer. She is a member of the Class of 1998! She earned her doctorate in Education-Leadership and Transformation from Concordia University Portland. She is departing the beloved community at All Saints Catholic School. Congratulations and welcome back, Dr. Oliver!
ABRIENDO PUERTAS DONATES TO REFUGEE EMPOWERMENT CENTER
Abriendo Puertas donated nearly 75 gifts to the Refugee Empowerment Center. They raised money, bought, wrapped, and delivered the toys for refugees in the Omaha area. Check out the video to learn more.
ALL-STATE SCHOLAR ATHLETES
Congratulations to the following student-athletes for being named to the The Nebraska School Activities Association (NSAA) Fall 2022-2023 Nebraska Chiropractic Physicians Association (NCPA) Academic All-State Awards.
Molly Pensick (Golf)
Julia Batenhorst (Softball)
Clara Behounek (Softball)
Lucy Euteneuer (Volleyball)
Abby Mills (Volleyball)
Mary Kate Nussrallah (Cross Country)
Sophia Rau (Cross Country)
NSAA Awards Program recognizes students who meet the criteria for nomination by their school in the season of their activity.
FALL SPORTS RECAP
Volleyball finished the season with 18 wins. That's the most since 2007. Great start for new head coach Brittany Spekhals. Emily Lee and Abby Mills earned 1st team All-Conference and Lydia Boyce and Lucy Euteneuer were named to the Honorable Mention team.
Mercy softball tied the mark for most wins for a season with 17 wins and a trip to the District finals. That's the most wins for the program since 2001. First year head coach, Maren Angus has to be very pleased with her first campaign. Victoria Placzek and Adrienne Pruss were named to the All-State Honorable Mention Team.
The golf team had two state qualifiers, Addy Powers and Molly Pensick.
Finally, every member of the cross country team set a personal record during the district meet.
LIZETTE CABRERA WINS ARTSONIA'S ARTIST OF THE WEEK
Congratulations to freshman artist, Lizette Cabrera! Artsonia's online voting ended on Saturday and Lizette's artwork came in 1st in the 7 - 9 grade division with 691 votes! She had close to 200 more votes than the 2nd place finisher and edged out a 7th grader from Holy Cross! She will be getting a plaque from Artsonia and a gift certificate from Dick Blick
NATIONAL HONOR SOCIETY INDUCTS NEW CLASS
The McAuley Chapter of the National Honor Society inducted its latest class on Tuesday, November 1st. The latest members are:
Ahok Apayo Landry Lehan
Julia Batenhorst Kaitlyn List
Clara Baumker Sydney Malesker
Clara Behounek Malanna Muse
Aislinn Bilgere Mia Norton
Alyssa Daniels Hannah Peatrowsky
Kaylee Epp Rylee Rempe
Karol Franco-Barrios Hanna Riha
Isabella Hajek-Jones Amaya Sims
Savannah Hemsley Grace Swoboda
Maren Hollinger Delani Wiedel
They join the ranks of current members:
Kailey Anson, Gabrielle Brock, Hailee Davis, Sarah Day, Therese Drake, Isabella Earl, Lucy Euteneuer, Valeria Figueroa Garcia, Charlotte Hearn, Danielle Hoer, Reece Keenan, Riya Ketelsen, Abigail Mills, Mary Kate Nussrallah, Sophia Rau, Megan Riesberg, Eleanore Slavik, Grace Weber, Claire Wichita
The ceremony included short remarks by four current members of the chapter on each of the four pillars of the National Honors Society: Scholarship, Leadership, Service, and Character. The key note address was presented by alumna Erin Whiteside '07 on how her life has been impacted by those same four pillars since graduating from Mercy.
Congratulations to all the members of the National Honor Society of Mercy High School, especially our newest inductees, for your tremendous hard work and dedication to scholarship and character.
FRESHMEN UNITY DAY
On Friday, October 28th, the Class of 2026 participated in Mercy’s annual Freshmen Unity Day. The goal behind the day is to assist the acclamation of the freshmen class and build community among them. Throughout the day, the students participated in small and large group activities to promote unity. They learned about each others’ strengths and completed challenges working with students who share similar personalities and were grouped with individuals who had different personalities from their own. One activity even required them to create a “human machine” – where everyone in the group had to have an active part in the machine.
At the end of the day students exchanged bracelets that they created and the final challenge activity was to successfully complete a “human chair sit” with all of the attendees. Check out some of the photos.
Valentina Arriola Tirado Wins inSpire Scholarship
On Wednesday, October 26th, Valentina Arriola Tirado was awarded the Inspire Scholarship. It was a part of a larger ceremony put on by inSpire Celebrating Women's Leadership sponsored by Union Bank & Trust. This honor recognizes “An Omaha metro-area female high school or college student who has contributed to her community, excels in the classroom, and has great career aspirations.”
At that same lunch, Class of ‘66 Sr. Maryann Stevens, RSM received the Woman of the Year Award for her tireless dedication to the College of St. Mary’s. Read more at Omaha.com. We're so proud of each of our women of Mercy. Thank you for all that you do!
WILLEY DWYER '03 NEW VP FOR ADVANCEMENT
Anna Willey Dwyer has been named Mercy High School new Vice President of Advancement. She will begin her new role on Monday, November 7, 2022.
Willey Dwyer is an alumna of Mercy High School’s class of 2003. She is very excited about returning to Mercy. “Mercy has taught me so much. At the forefront has been service and giving back. It’s been my hope that I would have the opportunity to return and continue this school’s important work of educating young women.” She’s most excited about promoting its sense of community and hospitality. “To me, Mercy’s hallmark has been its sense of welcoming. Once a Mercy girl, always a Mercy girl. I want to make sure that this mission continues for several more generations.”
Willey Dwyer comes to Mercy with a wealth of experience helping to lead the development efforts for the Child Saving Institute. She’s been with that organization since 2016, exceeding annual fundraising objectives five years in a row. President of Mercy High School, Sister Delores Hannon, RSM believes that Willey Dwyer will be most successful at connecting with the various community members that support Mercy High. “She is a dynamo at making people feel welcome. Her joy is infectious and by the time the conversation ends you feel like you have known Anna for several years, regardless of having just met. She’s a welcomed addition to the Advancement Office at Mercy.”
Willey Dwyer is married to her husband Scott Dwyer and has two children: Rex, who is three, and Stella, who is one.
Valeria Figueroa Garcia Wins Scholarship
VALERIA FIGUEROA GARCIA WINS SCHOLARSHIP!
Valeria was one of 10 Latino Nebraska Students to win the Jesusita and Santos Courage and Fortitude Scholarship. She earned this by presenting an essay highlighting her leadership skills and how they will apply to her future plans after high school. She wants to become an elementary school teacher. She was awarded $1,000 to put towards any college of her choosing. Well done, Valeria!
Riya Ketelsen named National Merit Scholar Semi-Finalist
This fall Riya Ketelsen was honored with the distinction of National Merit Scholar Semi-Finalist. In the video below you'll see the surprise and pride from Riya, her parents, and the Mercy school community. We couldn't be prouder of the dedication and accomplishment of Riya. This make 3 National Merit Scholar Semi-Finalists in the past two years.
Congratulations to Ahok and Mary Kate!
First, congratulations to our own Ahok Apayo, who was recognized in the National African American Recognition Program. She is one of 62,000 students from across the country to earn academic honors from the College Board’sNational Recognition Programs! Ahok earned this recognition by excelling on her PSAT and AP Exams and in her classes. These National Recognition Programs grant underrepresented students with academic honors that can be included on college and scholarship applications and connects students with universities across the country, helping them stand out during the admissions process. Colleges and scholarship programs use these honors to identify students from underrepresented groups through College Board’s Student Search Service.
Congratulations, also, to Mary Kate Nussrallah, who was named a Commended Student based on her outstanding performance on the PSAT test last year. She is one of the top 50,000 students nationwide and one of only 60 Nebraska students from 36 high schools to achieve this honor.
Congratulations, Ahok and Mary Kate! We are so very proud of both of you!
Sr. Dee Leaving at the End of the School Year
On Wednesday, September 7th, Sr. Delores Hannon announced her resignation as president of Mercy High School to the Board of Directors effective June 30th, 2023. She has served as president since 2009, having served for 14 years.
Sr. Dee, as she is affectionately known to students, faculty and parents, has overseen many changes at the school. The school facilities have experienced improvements with The Hannon Center for Academic Success, heating and cooling systems, new lockers, bathrooms, a dramatic facelift to the front offices and entryway, to name a few. By the time Sr. steps down, most of the school will have gone through some sort of renovation. Mercy High School has also experienced growth in their academic reputation. “One of the things I’m most proud of is the expectation that our students will be readily prepared for college” Sr. Delores explains. “We’ve expanded our counseling and SAT/ACT preparation, while faculty and staff have increased the expectations of what our students are capable of accomplishing. I have a very strong faith that the Mercy spirit continues to thrive through our students as they serve in their respective communities.”
Sr. Delores has been an educator for more than 40 years. She grew up in North English, Iowa on a mixed livestock farm, the only child of William and Mary Hannon. She joined the Sisters of Mercy in 1969 and quickly was tapped for leadership in schools. She became a principal at St. Matthew’s Grade School in Kalispell, Montana, in 1978 followed by a short stint at Our Lady of Grace School in Edina, Minnesota, from 1981-1983. From 1983-1995 Sr. Dee was the principal at several grade schools in Iowa. She moved on to serve as the Vice President of the Sisters of Mercy in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, and the President of St. Edmond Catholic School in Fort Dodge, Iowa before ultimately coming to Mercy High School in 2009.
The Board of Directors will form a search committee to begin the search process in the near
Mercy Welcomes Two New Faculty
Jim Mayberger is our new business and technology teacher. He comes to us from OPS where he was a curriculum specialist.
He managed the Business Marketing and Information Technology, Family and Consumer Science, Skilled and Technical Science, and Robotics departments.
“I am excited to teach in a faith-based school. I really enjoy being in the classroom and I look forward to being part of the Mercy community.”
Jenna Saraka joins our math department. She comes to us from Omaha Central, where she taught for five years.
“I am most excited about joining a staff and community that offers strong educational opportunities and many extracurricular activities for students that are centered around faith.
I am also excited to work with students who are eager to learn in and out of the classroom!”
Two New Hires for the Advancement Team
Sammie Emsick Becker ’05 has accepted the Director of Events position at Mercy High School and began her new role on June 13, 2022.
Since graduating from Mercy, Sammie earned a bachelor in elementary education, a certificate in Catholic School leadership, and most recently, a Master of Science in educational leadership. Outside classroom teaching, she has served as the athletic director for St. James for the past three years where, in conjunction with supervising all things athletics, annually planned the “Spring Fling” fundraiser where dollars raised went straight to the athletic program. Her most recent “Spring Fling” event set a record for money raised for St. James. She further has event planning experience by way of her time at Dundee Bank, where she was the community involvement coordinator and worked closely with various Omaha businesses to promote and grow relationships with key stakeholders of the bank via special events.
She’s married to Tyler Becker and has two boys Ty (12) and Drew (10).
Welcome back to Mercy Sammie!
Brian Altenhofen began his new position as Director of Marketing and Communications on July 5th.
He comes to Mercy with a wealth of knowledge having earned a doctorate degree in communication and technology studies from Texas A&M University and teaching at Truman State University for the past five years. He also served as the Director of the Truman Leadership Scholars, mentoring and programming leadership experiences for Truman Scholars. Prior to his academic career he spent five years as a Jesuit Scholastic.
He is married to Michaela Cullan Altenhofen who will return to Mary Our Queen Catholic School teaching 3rd grade. They have four children Dylan (16), Lily (9), Dominic (7), and Clara (3).
A Blast from the Past
Over Christmas break, new lockers were installed in the corridors of Mercy High. But in the crevices and cracks of the discarded lockers, memories and short notes from past Mercy Girls were discovered. Varying from 1981 fashion catalogs to absent slips dated back to August of 1978, these remnants of the past give us a sneak peak into the lives of Mercy girls decades ago.
Within these relics, two love notes were salvaged. Dated September of 1971, a young Mercy Girl received a letter from her college boyfriend. In his surprisingly beautiful handwriting, he wrote to the Mercy Girl about his early adventures in college and to check in on how his beloved was doing back home. After updating his girlfriend and inviting her to visit him at Blair College, he signed off with “Yours till next life”. The letter, now tattered and discolored, leaves us wondering where that couple is now.
Although Mercy Girls today may not have experienced receiving such a love letter, an old polio vaccination card proves that some things never change. In today’s world of COVID-19, many Mercy students are staying up-to-date with their vaccinations and booster shots. While it may feel like we will never overcome the effects the virus has caused on the modern world, a vaccination card for polio proves that there is still hope. Decades ago, Mercy girls were going through something similar to our current pandemic. They are proof that we will make it through this!
Meet Our New Teachers
Our new Spanish II and Honors Spanish III teacher is Ms. Sophia Dongilli. After obtaining her bachelor’s and master’s degrees from Kansas State University, Sophia taught for two years there. She then taught for a year International Language Center in Peru and five years at Skutt Catholic before coming to Mercy. Sophia is an avid reader, traveler, and music lover. She also loves spending time with her husband and her weenie dog, Alberto. “I am most excited to meet the wonderful Mercy Monarch ladies and to be a part of a community that fosters language learning and multiculturalism!”
Tom Tvrdy will be teaching Economics and U.S. History this year. A graduate of the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, Tom taught at Seward High School in Seward, Nebraska, for the past 20 years where he was the head girls basketball coach. During his tenure at Seward, they won 104 straight games and had undefeated state championship teams from 2009-2012. Tom is very excited to be joining the Mercy community: “The thing that most excites me is the opportunity to build great relationships with the students and staff at Mercy. I love meeting new people.”
Megan McCuen Witt
Megan McCuen Witt will be teaching English 11, AP Literature, and AP Language & Composition at Mercy this school year. Originally from Michigan, Megan previously worked at Roncalli Catholic before coming to Mercy. She graduated from Notre Dame then completed her master’s degree at Creighton University. She is also the proud owner of Philip, her corgi. “I’m so excited to learn about all the Mercy traditions and meet all my new students!” Megan said.
Join us in welcoming these new teachers to Mercy!
Class of 2021 Graduation
On May 19, 2021, 79 members of the Class of 2021 graduated at the Holland Performing Arts Center.
The ceremony began with Senior Class President Anou Akot leading the seniors in their class prayer. Then, the Class of 2021 vocal ensemble sang the "Suscipe" as is tradition. Clare Euteneuer was named Valedictorian, and Carolyn Hire was Salutatorian. Both spoke about the importance of a Mercy education and shared words of wisdom with their class.
Principal Kristi Walters Wessling '88 read the college scholarships that each senior was awarded, totaling in $9.67 million. To cap off the ceremony, Assistant Principal Holly McCoy read the names of the graduates as they walked across the stage to receive their diplomas from President Sr. Delores Hannon.
Watch the ceremony below.
Mercy Celebrates May Crowning
May Crowning is one of Mercy's long-standing traditions. For this celebration of Mary, students are chosen by their classmates to be members of the May Court. These honorees exemplify the grace and faith of Mary, the Mother of Jesus, in their day-to-day lives as students, friends, daughters, sisters and teammates.
Congratulations to this year's May Court:
May Queen - Anou Akot
Senior Court - Cecilia Martinez & Kelliaine Villalva
Junior Court - Willavena Tokporo & Ellen Veys
Sophomore Court - Sherlyn Alvarez-Hurtado & Elizabeth Geist
Freshmen Court - Kaylee Epp & Landry Lehan
This year, our in-person ceremony was also broadcast on Facebook Live and is available to watch on YouTube.
We're Going to State
Mercy's Varsity Soccer Team is going to State!
They defeated Elkhorn North 3-2 in the District Championship on May 8, 2021, to advance to State competition.
The first round game will be on Friday, May 14, at 1:00 p.m. at Creighton's Morrison Stadium. Tickets can be purchased here.
Shining a Light on Leadership
Seven of Omaha’s community leaders Zoomed in for our final installment of Kaleidoscope 2021. For our second Leadership Symposium, our virtual visitors spoke with the sophomores and seniors about their personal leadership styles.
We are so grateful to our visitors for joining us!
Rachel Fox is the founder and Executive Director of You Go Girl Omaha. In addition to owning Catapult Consulting Solutions, Rachel serves as a freelance instructor at the Metro Community College of Omaha, where she facilitates coding clubs and courses. She is also the president of Fox Flooring, a local flooring and remodeling company which she co-operates with her husband Brent.
In 2018, she founded You Go Girl, a non-profit organization dedicated to ending the cycle of self-doubt and low self-esteem in young women and girls by creating a vision for who they can be. She holds a bachelor’s degree in Multidisciplinary Studies from the University of Nebraska Omaha and is pursuing a master’s in Leadership at Oral Roberts University.
In 2019, she was named the Greater Omaha Chamber Young Professionals Changemaker, was a 2020 TOYO Recipient, and received the Leadership Award from the Leadership Africa Summit in 2019. She was also a top finalist for the Mrs. Nebraska pageant in 2019 and 2020.
Theresa Franco ’74, Vice President of Operations at Nebraska Medicine, is a member of Mercy’s Board and is the first-ever recipient of the Distinguished Woman of Mercy Alumna Award.
Her work responsibilities include inpatient operations of the Fred & Pamela Buffett Cancer Center, Pharmacy, Radiology, Interventional Radiology, radiation therapy and cancer ambulatory operations.
Franco, a native of Omaha, Nebraska, received a Nursing degree from Creighton University and a master’s degree from the University of Texas in Austin. Upon her return to Omaha, the University of Nebraska Medical Center (UNMC) hired her to work in Cancer Care Services, where she would later become its executive director. Under her leadership, the small bone marrow transplant program grew to become the Lied Transplant Center. She would later serve as vice president of Cancer Services and Radiology at Nebraska Medicine.
She has published, presented nationally and internationally on a variety of cancer program topics, and has served on several advisory boards to improve cancer care delivery. A member of the National Comprehensive Cancer Network (NCCN) Best Practices Committee since its inception and Franco also serves on its board.
She has received numerous awards including the Creighton University School of Nursing Alumni Merit Award, Leadership Development Award, University of Nebraska Medical Center, Carol M. Wilson Award for Quality in Nursing, and “Caring Kind Employee of the Year,” Nebraska Hospital Association.
Leah Georges, Ph.D., M.L.S., is an Assistant Professor in Creighton University’s Doctoral Program in Interdisciplinary Leadership.
As a member of the Association of Leadership Educators, Leah advises students and leadership educators in teaching and advising best practices, leadership theory and policy reform. She conducts research and presents to local and national audiences in the areas of millennial leadership and generations at work, the power of effective followership, and emotional and legal decision making.
As a graduate of Leadership Omaha Class 38, Leah is also actively involved in the Omaha community through several nonprofit organizations. She serves as President of the Nebraska Innocence Project, an organization dedicated to improving the criminal justice system through education and reform.
She holds a bachelor’s degree in Psychology from Creighton University, a Master of Legal Studies degree from the University of Nebraska College of Law, and a Ph.D. in Social Psychology from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln.
Colette O’Meara McKinney, Ed.D. is Associate Dean for Student Affairs at Creighton’s School of Dentistry. Prior to her current role, she served as Associate Vice President in the Office of the President and within the Division of Technology at the university. Her career has spanned roles in journalism, video production, academic technology and strategic planning. She served as an adjunct instructor teaching both educational technology and ethics at Creighton for over 10 years.
O’Meara-McKinney earned her bachelor’s in Mass Communications from the University of South Dakota in 1989 and a master’s in Educational Technology from the University of Missouri in 2003. She completed her doctorate in Interdisciplinary Leadership Studies in May of 2020. She is also a recipient of the Mary Lucretia and Sarah Emily Creighton Award and was co-chair for the Opus Prize, which was sponsored by Creighton in 2016.
Carolina Padilla, Executive Director of the Intercultural Senior Center, has been with that organization for more than 11 years. In that capacity, she is responsible for the overall operation of the Center which helps immigrants through networking, social activities, health and wellness support and much more.
She graduated from the Universidad Rafael Landívar in Guatemala with a degree in Science Communications.
Katty Petak, M.A., is the Senior Director of Alumnae Relations at College of Saint Mary (CSM) where she has worked since 2001. Prior to her current role, Mrs. Petak served as Director of Student Leadership & Organizations (2001-2003), Assistant Dean of Students (2003-2015) and Associate Dean of Students (20015-2020). She is also a Mercy parent.
Some of Mrs. Petak’s contributions to college include: Serving on the CSM task force that recommended the Common Reading and developed the Statement of Open Discourse, helping develop CSM’s retention efforts focused on Latina students and the establishment of the annual Latina Summer Academy for area high school youth, strengthening the college’s multicultural programming emphasis and facilitating the establishment of several culturally-based student organizations, and developing two of the signature leadership programs at CSM, “Leadership Launch” for first and second year students and “Step It Up” for upper-class students. She is currently establishing an alumnae mentoring program where current CSM senior students will be paired with an alumna of the university.
In addition to her work at CSM, Mrs. Petak has been involved with Heartland Latino Leadership Scholarship Committee, the Multicultural Coalition, the Barrientos Scholarship Foundation, the Conference for Inclusive Communities and she served as President of the Nebraska Women in Higher Education Leadership organization. Recently Ms. Petak served on the planning committee for “El Camino Latino Virtual Conference” for high school seniors.
A native of Chile, Petak moved to Nebraska as an exchange student during her senior year of high school. While attending University of Nebraska at Kearney for her undergraduate degrees in Teaching, Translation and Interpretation, she became very active in campus life. She received a master’s in Higher Education and Administration from Michigan State University and was the director of three residence halls at the University of Arizona before moving back to Nebraska.
Ellie Rohr ‘04 is the Senior investigator in the Office of Equity and Inclusion at Creighton University. She has been with Creighton since 2019. Before coming to Creighton, Ellie served as one of the first Associate Public Guardians for Nebraska’s new Office of Public Guardian and worked with the Nebraska Public Service Commission.
Ellie received bachelor’s degrees in Secondary Education and Speech Communications from the University of Nebraska Omaha. She coached Speech and taught at Mercy before returning to graduate school. Ellie received a Juris Doctorate from the University of Nebraska College of Law in 2014.
Mercy's FIESTA Soars
In the spirit of Mercy’s FIESTA 2021: Saints & Superheroes, hundreds of loyal supporters, families, alumnae and friends exemplified those roles in making the first-ever virtual FIESTA a great success. The inspirational online event on February 20, 2021, raised more than $350,000 for the school’s Negotiated Tuition Program, which provides tuition assistance to families who otherwise may not be able to attend Mercy. Close to $2 million in tuition assistance is distributed annually thanks to generous donors and fundraising events like FIESTA.
Highlights of the event include:
• Former school principal Sr. Corrine Connelly, RSM, ’58, received the Cor Misericordiae Award, the highest honor the school bestows. During her tenure, Sr. Corrine increased enrollment, invested in building and site upgrades, began a student recruitment program, and assisted with the first FIESTA, then named Twelfth Night, among many other accomplishments. She has been on Mercy’s Board for 20 years and has been a volunteer at the school since 2004.
• Student Council President Carolyn Klein ’21 thanked donors and shared how Mercy has personally impacted her as a person of faith, a leader and a soon-to-be college student studying Communications: “Mercy creates a home and a family. Being in an all-girls, diverse and empowering environment makes us all feel on top of the world every day.”
• During the “Raise the Paddle” segment, participants made gifts in honor of Sr. Corrine. Gene Wilczewski, Sr. Corrine’s old high school friend, generously provided a $25,000 matching grant to jumpstart the effort. Over $90,000 was brought in to support tuition assistance.
• Auction items included travel adventures, sports packages, dining experiences, gift baskets and certificates, collectibles and more. Participants also bought chances in a $10,000 raffle drawing.
• The FIESTA 2021 Chairs were Mercy parents Eric and Nicole Liebig Lakeman ’92. They were assisted by a large cadre of volunteers including parents, students and alumnae.
• Mercy is grateful to the hundreds of businesses and individuals who provided sponsorships, underwriting support and purchased advertising.
Next year’s FIESTA will be held on February 19, 2022.
Mercy Leaders on MESA Board
Four members of the current 17-member Mercy Education System of the Americas (MESA) Board have affiliations with Mercy High School. MESA is the organization that supports and challenges the educational ministries of the Sisters of Mercy of the Americas. MESA governs, stewards, and provides oversight and assistance to the local boards of Mercy educational ministries in support of their students, parents, and educators.
Currently serving on the Board are David Levy, professor and MBA Program Director, Bellevue University, Omaha, Neb., and former Mercy High School Board member; Carolyn Jaworski ’64, alumna and retired principal; Christine Basque Malloy ‘87, Freelance Facilitator & Conflict Specialist and a former member of the Alumnae Council; and Carrie Potter ’95, alumna and President & Owner of The Carrie Potter Group, LLC, Houston, Texas.
David was appointed to the MESA Board when it first began in July 2018. His wife, Mary Franco Levy ’70, attended Mercy. David has been a long-time supporter of Mercy and served on the school’s board for seven years. He is starting the second year of his second three-year term on the MESA Board.
Carolyn served as principal of Mercy for 25 years. She is now in her third year on the MESA Board and has served on numerous Mercy educational committees including as president of the Mercy Secondary Education Association and chairperson of the Board for the Network for Mercy Education.
Christine joined the MESA Board on July 1, 2020, and will serve a three-year term. The alumna was a member Mercy’s Alumnae Council for six years, serving as president during her tenure, and worked in Creighton University’s Campus Ministry prior to her current position.
Carrie recently served as Master of Ceremonies at Mercy’s FIESTA 2020 and is a long-time supporter. She is an award-wining executive who provides business consulting and financial planning to professional athletes and small businesses.
We are so proud of these members of the Mercy community who are serving on the MESA Board.
Sr. Stevens Named to Board
Sr. Maryanne Stevens, RSM, Ph.D. ’66 was appointed to the Mercy High School Board of Trustees by the Mercy Education System of the Americas in May 2020. Mercy High School is sponsored by the Sisters of Mercy the Americas.
The President of the College of Saint Mary since 1996, Sr. Maryanne began her ministry teaching high school math. Her leadership at the college has resulted in increased enrollment, expanded curriculum and improved fundraising. She also served as director of formation for the Sisters of Mercy from 1977-83 and taught at Creighton University for ten years. At Creighton, she was the first female to head the Theology Department.
Sr. Maryanne serves on several national and local community boards including the Association of Catholic Colleges and Universities, the Greater Omaha Chamber and the Tri-Faith Initiative. Sr. Maryanne has received numerous honors including the Omaha Business Hall of Fame, The Legacy Award for Women on a Mission for Change, and YWCA of the Midlands, Women of Distinction for Education. She has also been recognized with several teaching awards at Creighton as well as the Mary Lucretia and Sarah Emily Creighton Award honoring her support of women.
Sr. Maryanne received degrees in sociology and mathematics from the College Misericordia in Dallas, Pennsylvania, in 1971. She went on to get a Master’s in Theology from St. Louis University. She earned in Doctorate in Religion and Education from Boston College in 1987.
“We are thrilled that Sr. Maryanne is joining our Board. She brings a wealth of knowledge about administration, advancement and commitment to the education of women that will truly be an asset to Mercy High School,” said Nicole Hahn Jesse ’80 Board Chair.
The Story of the Chapel Chairs
Donations to Mercy High School come in all shapes and sizes. Some are monetary. Others come as gifts-in-kind, services, stocks, real estate, and more. In 2002, thanks to the efforts of then-Mercy President, Sr. Johanna, and a generous donation by Fr. Pat McCaslin, former pastor of St. John Vianney, Omaha, Mercy received an unusual donation of furniture. More than 300 chairs with attached kneelers would be given to the school for the Our Lady of Mercy Chapel. Today, they are worth well over $20,000.
“We were doing a major renovation at the church, and we decided to replace our chairs with pews. I put the call out to the Catholic community to see if there would be interest in our church chairs, and Sr. Johanna was quick to jump on board. I was happy to donate to the school because I knew they would be put to good use. I remember the glorious day when the chairs were picked up and transported to their new home,” said Fr. McAslin.
Fr. Pat’s association with Mercy did not begin with that donation. His mother, Elizabeth Mary O’Connor, was educated by the Sisters of Mercy during her formative years. She raised her large family to be individuals of faith, and six of her 10 children entered the religious life. Fr. Pat’s sister, Claire, is still a Dominican nun and his four brothers, Ed, Jim, Jack and Dick, all became priests. In fact, his oldest brother, Ed, who is now deceased, was chaplain for the Sisters of Mercy at the motherhouse at the College of St. Mary in the mid ‘50s.
Fr. Pat has also ministered at Mercy by presiding at Mass and Reconciliation.
“I also remember as a student at Creighton Prep we would go to dances with the students from St. Mary’s. That school eventually merged with St. John’s to form Mercy High School,” he said.
The now retired priest, who was ordained in 1961, has ministered at parishes most of his life. He also was the first Director of Diaconate for the Archdiocese of Omaha, a position that coordinates the training of deacons, for 15 years.
Dear Mercy friends,
It has been about a month since Covid-19 was determined to be a pandemic. Honestly, I had to look up the meaning of pandemic. I knew what an epidemic was but wasn’t exactly sure what pandemic meant. Now I know. It is a disease that is prevalent over the whole country or world. This is scary!
When I first heard that, I couldn’t help but think about a book I read many years ago in college, A Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens. I’m sure many of you have read it. I can’t say that I remember too much about it. But what has always stuck with me are the famous opening lines of this novel on the French Revolution: “It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness…"
It is easy to look at these times as the Worst of Times. We have to shelter in place. We can’t go to work. We can’t pay our bills. We can’t go shopping at our favorite stores. We can’t go to a movie. We can’t go out to eat. We can’t see our friends. Students and teachers can’t go to school and on and on. And every day on the news we see the horrors of this pandemic. We hear how many more deaths occurred in the last 24 hours and how many more cases of Covid-19 there are in the United States and the world. We hear that we don’t have ample supplies, hospital rooms, or health personnel. We hear Governors of many states begging for help.
But what I see happening is perhaps the Best of Times. This pandemic has brought out the very best in people. I see people praying. I see people helping their neighbors by shopping for groceries, calling them to see if they are okay or to see if they need anything. We see doctors, nurses, first responders and other health personnel working tirelessly to take care of their patients. We see retired doctors and nurses coming out of retirement to tend to the sick. We hear stories on the evening news of the good Samaritans who are doing extraordinary things to help others. Yes, these are the Best of Times. This is a time when we all can reach out to others especially the most vulnerable. What an opportunity we have been given! We can do this! We are Mercy!
I will close with this prayer sent to me by a friend.
A Prayer for Our Uncertain Times
May we who are merely inconvenienced remember those whose lives are at stake.
May we who have no risk factors remember those who are vulnerable.
May we who have the luxury of working from home remember those who must choose between preserving their health and making their rent.
May we who have the flexibility to care for our children when their schools close remember those who have no options.
May we who have to cancel our trips remember those who have no safe place to go.
May we who are losing our margin money in the tumult of the economic market remember those who have no margin at all.
May we who settle in for a quarantine at home remember those who have no home.
As fear grips our country, let us choose love.
And during this time when we may not be able to physically wrap our arms around each other, let us yet find ways to be the loving embrace of God to our neighbors.
“Let us pray well and never get weary of doing what is good.” Mother Catherine McAuley.
Sr. Jeanne's Journey
She is Mercy’s tea lady, the school’s Spiritual Companion, the coordinator of the Sisters of Mercy Mentoring Program, an educator, an administrator, an athlete, a pastoral minister and a person who brings a smile to all the girls at Mercy. Sr. Jeanne O’Rourke, RSM, has worn many hats in her life. This is not surprising for someone who “loves meeting and visiting with people of all ages.”
A native of Iowa, Sr. Jeanne was born in Missouri Valley and attended elementary school there and in Neola. Her high school years were spent at Mount Loretto, a former Mercy High School in Council Bluffs. She was a forward on the school’s basketball team, playing both her junior and senior years.
“My favorite sport is basketball. I have always enjoyed running and competing as a team. My nickname was ‘half pint’ because I was short but fast,” Sr. Jeanne said.
One of her favorite pastimes was running even though the school did not have a formal track and field team.
“I ran road races for 35 years, in 15 states and in hundreds of races. One of my favorite runs was a 10-mile run that included the Golden Gate Bridge. There were times I would come home from races with a medal and the Sisters living with me with would ask if there weren’t any other competitors in my age group. They kept me humble,” she said.
She also honed her leadership abilities by serving as class president during her junior and senior years, and as a senior, she was elected to a position likened to today’s Student Council President.
“Throughout my life, I have been motivated to make things happen. Being in a role of service is important to me. My desire and dream were to find a life’s work that allowed me to serve and be with people,” she said.
Sr. Jeanne graduated from high school in 1954 and entered the Sisters of Mercy at the College of St. Mary.
“I wanted that close relationship with God, and I desired to be involved in serving God and God’s people. At the same time, I also wanted to be married and have a family. It was not an easy decision. My vow day, August 15, 1957, was a high point of my life. Being with my Sisters in community is the joy of my life. It is wonderful to share our values, prayers, joys and sorrows, as Catherine McAuley said, ‘all mingled together’ as we make our journey together,” Sr. Jeanne said.
She spent several years in formation, taking theology and basic college courses. Sr. Jeanne began her teaching ministry in 1959. For 25 years she was an elementary teacher and principal in Iowa, Missouri and Nebraska. She also finished her bachelor’s degree in Education in 1963 from the College of St. Mary and received a Master of Arts in Education/Reading Specialist from the University of Missouri, Kansas City in 1972.
“I loved education but during that time I was also finding fulfillment in pastoral ministry. During summer months, I served as a hospital chaplain at Mercy Hospital, Council Bluffs, which led me to a year and a half of Clinical Pastoral Education at St. Luke’s Hospital, Kansas City, Mo,” she said.
Sr. Jeanne created an outreach ministry parish visitors’ program in Council Bluffs to help patients transition from Mercy hospital to home.
“This pastoral work was one more opportunity to be engaged and train others to be ministers to the sick and dying.” she said.
The Sisters of Mercy have also benefited from her administrative and leadership talents. From 1987 to 1992, she was Vocation Director for the Mercy Membership Team in Omaha and from 2008-2011, when she was the Sisters of Mercy West, Midwest Community’s Vocation Minister/Associate Director.
Sr. Jeanne first came to Mercy High School in 1992 when she joined the staff as Campus Minister. She also taught part-time and coached cross country. She held that position for 15 years.
“Some of my fondest memories revolve around the service trips I took with the girls. I wanted them to see the wider world outside of Omaha. One of the most impactful trips was one we took to the Women’s Intercultural Center near El Paso, Texas. We worked at the city dump in Juarez, Mexico, where we cleared the grounds for the children to play. Watching their parents forage for tin and plastic in that same dump as a means of livelihood, had a profound effect on the students,” Sr. Jeanne said.
For a second time, in 2011, she was asked by her Sisters of Mercy Community to be a Vocation Director, but the ‘spirit’ of the girls pulled her back to Mercy High School.
“There is an invitation of joy, a spirit of hospitality, love and community, which is a reciprocated at the school. The energy flow and lifting spirits make Mercy High School a home away from home!” she said.
Sr. Jeanne’s role is now Spiritual Companion. Upon her return in 2011, she went to then-principal Carolyn Jaworski and asked if she could have a room where she could share a cookie and tea with the girls. Sr. Jeanne got a tea pot and a few china teacups and Tea Time formally began at Mercy. Now it is a beloved tradition. Her idea came from Catherine McAuley, who on her deathbed told her Sisters “Make sure you have a comfortable cup of tea.”
“Students sign up for Tea Time. The room is filled with stories, laughter, tears and comfort. It is a safe and relaxing place of serenity where girls can hang out and have a respite from times of stress or just feel safe,” she said.
The program has grown. People in and out of the Mercy family have gifted her with more than 100 beautiful china teacups and 20 plus teapots. The welcoming room is adorned with hundreds of photos of students enjoying Tea Time.
Sr. Jeanne coordinates the Junior Mentoring Program with the Sisters of Mercy; which is intended to promote awareness of the Sisters of Mercy ministries and provide an opportunity for Sisters and students to share their lives, their stories and wisdom. The Juniors and Sisters meet four times a year. They get to know each other, dialogue about current issues, and have conversations centered on the Critical Concerns of the Sisters of Mercy including human trafficking, immigration, care of the earth, racism and more.
Sr. Jeanne has been a Sister of Mercy for 63 years; but she is very young at heart! Her love of people of all ages inspires her, and she in turn inspires our Mercy Girls.
You Are Never Alone
You are never alone.
It is early Saturday afternoon. The sun is shining! Our community has determined, rightly so, that we should remain inside, avoid all but absolutely essential errands, and practice social distancing. Many of the days these past two weeks have been so overcast that I haven’t been tempted to go out. People, friends, relatives, and teachers have been so generous in checking up on us that we truly want for nothing! Additionally, we have been able to stay more actively in touch with those for whom we are praying.
The atmosphere is heavy with the weight of people being out of work, of businesses closed, of people in quarantine in their own homes, of political blaming banter, and of so many people dying. And it is global!
Our hearts ache for families who are suffering financially. We pray for families who have members hospitalized with COVID-19. Our Mercy seniors, and seniors everywhere, are facing the possibility of never seeing their classes as a whole again; no prom; no year-end retreat; no farewell day; no graduation! How can this be happening?
Maybe the gloomy weather is just a reflection of the experiences so many human beings are undergoing right now—this very minute, this day, in this immediate lifetime. Even as the grass is trying to green, it just thundered!! The sun has gone into hiding—and the sky is grey again!
I am alone in my room as I write to you. But am I really alone? I know that our Triune God—the Father (our Creator), the Son (Jesus our Redeemer), and the Holy Spirit (our Sanctifier)—is right here, one with me. I know that the God who designed this planet to be home of us human beings will guide “us” to a new solution to this medical mystery of COVID-19. I know that thousands of people are suffering with the effects of the coronavirus; I also know those sufferings are embraced and endured by our friend and companion, Jesus. Most of all, I know that the power of the Holy Spirit will guide each of us on the path we have chosen to image for others the love of our God for each and every one of us.
So I am not alone. And, neither are you. My prayer for each of you is this global challenge, so personally touching each of our lives in such unique and individual ways, will lead us closer to our magnificent God, who cares so much for us that we are constantly surrounded by the loving-kindness of our Maker, our Savior and our closest Friend.
Let us pray for one another.
A Lent Like No Other
A Lent Like No Other: Turn Isolation into Thanksgiving, Love & Service
We are almost midway through Lent. What does that mean during this most unusual time? Our Churches are open, but only for private reflection. We cannot come together as the worshipping community, the Body of Christ. We cannot receive the gift of Eucharist! So what does that mean for you and for me? Perhaps, as a family, we can come together at least once daily to share another form of Eucharist…that is what the word Eucharist means.
THANKSGIVING. Here is the new Lenten challenge: for whom, for when, for what are we thankful? Could you or we find at least one reason each day, together, to say: Thank God for… Does this time of isolation and confinement now give us time as a family to gather around the dinner table, to eat together and share our thoughts, feelings, conversation? Could it be that our God is asking us to slow down, to notice to listen? I for one, surely ponder this question.
“LOVE one another as I have loved you,” Jesus. I hear stories even after one week of confinement, people going stir crazy. Students confined, learning online, no face to face social time. How can we remain patient and loving in this kind of environment? I am reminded of the story of the two prisoners. One looked out and saw mud while the other looked out and saw sunshine or stars. Loving kindness may well be a challenge. If we can think globally and how temporary this is for us, perhaps, just maybe this confinement, frustration, worry, can be our prayer for so many who are suffering. I just read a note from our friend, Sister Marylyn Lacey, Sister of Mercy, Mercy Beyond Borders Director. In the note she speaks of the students at St. Bakita’s, a boarding school, South Sudan, trying to protect themselves as they sleep three to one bed. Pray with loving kindness and love beyond ourselves.
SERVICE: As we look beyond our own household, are there people to whom we can extend a helping hand: grocery shopping, delivering a meal, a phone call or a written message. I include myself in this challenge and what I am realizing that I am making phones calls to folks each day that I ordinarily would not have called. Can limitations on our freedom imposed upon us be transformed into special Lenten offerings like no other we have ever experienced?
Finally, I believe one of the greatest challenges for each of us is to TRUST. When tempted to be fearful, can we realize that fear comes from the unknown. None of us knows what is in store for us. We don’t know what to expect from one day to the next.
During this time when Churches are closed and we are “enclosed” let us pray for open hearts—for trust in God’s loving providence for you, for me, for our country, for our world.
Catherine McAuley’s Suscipe has a line and a prayer that I believe is so appropriate for this time: “Teach me to cast myself entirely into the loving arms of your divine providence.”
Let’s DO IT!
A Reflection from Sr. Delores
Dear Friends of Mercy,
This Sunday morning, I am praying for all of you. We are all experiencing a week of rapid changes, a roller coaster market, concerns for health, for …. we don’t know what. Please remember that you are the people (depending on your age) who have lived through Y2K, the tragedy of September 11, the floods of 2019, and personal tragedies; we will be the people who LIVE through “the virus”. It is okay to be uneasy. You’re being in touch with reality.
Here are a few tips I am using to LIVE through these days:
Pray: Every day I start with the Catherine McAuley’s Suscipe. I do find myself focusing on the line “take from my heart all painful anxiety.” It helps me to remember our God is with us, and it helps me create the space to quiet myself and be centered on our loving God. Find that prayer time and space for yourself please.
Find beauty or something that makes you smile: Take a moment to find beauty in the day. It may be the smile of another person, artwork, or a piece of music. You know where you find beauty. Also, find that something that makes you smile or laugh. Around my house we have a dachshund. When he comes galloping into a room I have to smile, actually I laugh.
Others: You have the power to make other people's lives better right now. We can reach out to people who are shut in—drop a note, call or, in this day and age, Facetime them. Or do something radical like thank the clerk in the grocery store. It is worth the look of surprise on their face. You know what you good you can do.
Thank you for taking a moment to read this note. You are important to me. Please remember take care of yourself, remember all those you love and who love you, be adaptable and pray all of us.
FIESTA: A Leaping Succes
Mercy High School’s FIESTA 2020 was a record-breaker with the most money raised, $420,000, and the largest crowd, 561 attendees, since the event began in 1985. FIESTA 2020: Leaping into our Future took place on Leap Day February 29, 2020. Funds raised will support the school’s Negotiated Tuition Program, which provides tuition assistance to deserving students so they can attend Mercy. More than $1.8 million in tuition assistance is distributed annually thanks to generous donors and fundraising events like FIESTA.
Highlights of the event include:
• Sr. Johanna Burnell, RSM, former school president, received the Cor Misericordiae Award, the highest honor the school bestows. The crowd also celebrated her 60th jubilee as a Sister of Mercy by watching a heart-warming video that outlined her life.
• Joanne Stewart ’72 was named the 2020 Distinguished Woman of Mercy, an award given by the Mercy High School Alumnae Council.
• Student Council President Sophie Harvat ’20 thanked donors and reminded them of the impact their financial contributions have. “At Mercy, we are taught to spread love and kindness, grow in our faith, and to stand up for what is right and what we believe in. Mercy has taught me how to be the very best version of myself and to make no apologies for who I am,” she said.
• The FIESTA 2020 Chairs were Mercy parents Eric and Nicole Liebig Lakeman ’92. They were assisted by a large cadre of volunteers, including parents and students, that made the event successful.
• The “Fill the Monarch” segment allowed participants to make gifts in honor of Sr. Johanna’s 60th jubilee. The Lozier Foundation provided a $50,000 matching grant to jumpstart the effort. This gift was made in Sr. Johanna’s honor as she helped establish the school’s relationship with the foundation during her presidency. Close to $140,000 was raised.
• In addition to trips, concerts, gift baskets, sport tickets, collectibles, gift cards and a myriad of other auction items, a new category of items to bid on was the Teacher Wish List. These were items that teachers asked for to help make their classroom experiences more exciting and educational for students.
• Mercy is grateful to the hundreds of businesses and individuals who provided sponsorships, underwriting support and purchased advertising in the event’s catalog.
Next year’s FIESTA will be held on February 20, 2021.
Additional photos are here.
Board Adds Four
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.
Sr. Johanna to Receive Cor Misericordiae Award
Sr. Johanna Burnell, RSM, provided vision and leadership to Mercy High School as President from 1988-2009. In 2020 she will celebrate her 60th year as a Sister of Mercy. Sr. Johanna will receive the highest award Mercy bestows, the Cor Misericordiae Award, at FIESTA 2020.
Sr. Johanna’s passionate belief in Catherine McAuley’s mission and a conviction that private, faith-based education should be affordable to all young women were motivating factors for her successes at Mercy.
“I was brought in as President during a challenging time in the history of the school. An extremely popular and well-loved principal, Sr. Corrine Connelly, RSM, ’58, was leaving. As a result, enrollment was down, and there were conversations among leadership, about closing the school. Arriving at Mercy, I discovered a wonderful spirit, some excellent teaching, and expert leadership in Principal Carolyn Jaworski. I firmly believed that closing was not an option,” she said.
As Mercy’s first President, co-leading the school with Principal Carolyn Jaworski, the distribution of authority allowed Sr. Johanna to concentrate on externals rather than the academics, on parents rather than students, on the board rather than teachers.
Nationally, the concept of negotiated tuition had failed in private schools. It was not working because there were no sustaining funds to support the program. Thanks to the encouragement of the Sisters of Mercy and the money that Sr. Corrine saved through fundraising, an endowment was established.
She also laid the foundation for more strategic leadership and more aggressive development by realigning positions and hiring a Recruitment Director. Board makeup also needed serious attention. The school’s low tuition led to misconceptions about the quality of education. Sr. Johanna recruited savvy business leaders as well as dedicated and committed alumnae who were “not afraid to take action.”
She also recruited Gene and Marilyn Spence in late September of 1988 to act as chairs for the 1989 Twelfth Night Ball held in February. They set the bar for Mercy’s major fundraising event as chairs responsible for the entire event.
“I was fortunate because great people were surrounding me, from board members to the Spences and the exceptional Mercy staff,” she said.
During her 21 years at Mercy, Sr. Johanna’s achievements were many, including:
• Growing enrollment from 216 to close to 390 students.
• Undertaking numerous capital campaigns that included renovating science labs, administrative offices, and computer labs; replacing the roof; renovating the chapel; remodeling the dining hall and much more; building the Catherine McAuley Athletic Center, and Franey Hall and expanding the Sheehan Library.
• Developing a Minority Enrollment Initiative to recruit minority girls more aggressively, with 19 percent diverse enrollment during her tenure.
• Increasing faculty salaries, upgrading computers and other equipment, while continuing to expand fundraising to support tuition assistance.
Her strong foundation of service was honed early in life. As one of nine children, Sr. Johanna knew as a young child that she wanted to be a Sister. "I graduated from Cardinal Glennon High School (a Mercy school) in Kansas City at 16. My father asked me to wait to enter community because he thought I was too young. I am so glad I did!”
Rita Burnell entered the community in 1960 at College of Saint Mary where she earned a degree in Elementary Education and was given her mother’s name, Johanna. She also went on to get a Master’s in Administration at the University of Missouri, Kansas City.
As an educator, Sr. Johanna taught at elementary schools in Omaha and Kansas City for seven years. She then became the Principal at St. Peter’s Grade School, Kansas City, from 1971-1984 and Associate Superintendent of Schools at the Chancery Office, Kansas City, from 1984-1988.
“I have always loved to do what I am doing at the time I am doing it. When I came to Mercy, my entire previous career was on the academic side of the house, but I knew this was what I was called to do. And that was not to let this school close, to try to make a difference at Mercy High School,” she said.
Sr. Johanna has served in several capacities for the Sisters of Mercy from being the Development Director for the Mercy Volunteer Corps., to a past member of the Mercy Secondary Education Association and serving on several community committees and groups. She has also lent her talents to many boards, including College of Saint Mary and Mount Saint Mary Academy in Little Rock.
When asked about receiving this latest honor, she talked about how the award was created. “Ingrid Kalinowski Borghoff ’65 developed the Cor Misericordiae Award during my time at Mercy. I never once dreamed I would be one of its recipients,” she said.
Hancock Named Finance Director
Timothy C. Hancock has been named Director of Finance at Mercy High School effective October 23. In that capacity he is responsible for providing financial management for Mercy’s leadership through planning, organizing, and directing the overall financial and business functions to assure the school’s financial well-being. He also serves as cash manager and investment officer.
Hancock was most recently the Finance Director at St. Gerald’s Church and School. Prior to that he was the Business Manager at St. Edmond’s in Fort Dodge, Iowa, where he worked with current Mercy President, Sr. Delores Hannon, RSM. During his tenure there he received the Good Shepherd Award from the Archdiocese of Sioux City, which honors outstanding staff members.
The 1982 graduate of Creighton University holds a Bachelor’s Degree in Psychology and Business. He and his wife Diane have five children and are members of St. Margaret Mary’s church. He replaces Tim Rooney who retired. Mercy wishes to thank Tim for his service and wishes him blessings on his future journey.
“We are fortunate to have someone with Tim’s experience and commitment joining our Mercy community, “ said Sr. Delores Hannon, RSM.
Open House November 3
Mercy High School’s annual 6th, 7th & 8th Grade Open House is Sunday, November 3 from 1:00-3:30 p.m. Students and their parents receive guided tours and information presentations with administrators.
The schedule includes:
Negotiated Tuition & Financial Aid
1:30 p.m. 2:00 p.m. 2:30 p.m.
Life at Mercy: Academics & Activities
2:00 p.m. 3:00 p.m.
Cheerleaders and Dance Team
1:45 p.m. 2:30 p.m.
With newly renovated science labs and a rigorous curriculum, Mercy focuses on each student's success. Learn the benefits of a right-sized, all-girls high school and meet current Mercy students and faculty.
For more information contact Mrs. Anne McGill ’00, Admissions Director at firstname.lastname@example.org or 402.553.9424.
Show Choir Camp
Mercy High School is hosting a show choir camp. Come to Mercy and learn how to sing and dance in a show choir, meet new friends, have some fun and PUT ON A SHOW!!!
Who: 4th-8th grade girls
When: Saturday, November 16 from 8:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. (short performance at 3:30 p.m.)
Where: Mercy High School
Cost: $35 Lunch and snacks are included in the cost. Lunch will be two slices of pizza, drinks and a dessert.
Performance: Camp participants will perform their show, followed by a partial performance of the 2019-20 Treblemaker’s first official performance of their new show!
What to Wear: Wear comfortable clothes that you can move in and tennis shoes.
Registration: Go to https://www.mercyhigh.org/events/ to sign up!
Drop-off directions: Check-in at 8:30 a.m. We will rehearse in the Mercy music room. Please use the Woolworth Street entrance, door #2 (the single door on the north side of the building).
Pick-up directions: Parents can arrive starting at 3:10 p.m in the gym (Pine Street Entrance – south side of the school). Performance for family and friends is at 3:30 p.m.
Questions? Contact Mrs. Mindy Graff, Mercy Music Director at Graffm@mercyhigh.org.
Lakemans Named FIESTA Chairs
Mercy parents Eric and Nicole Liebig Lakeman ’92 have accepted the invitation of Sr. Delores Hannon, RSM, President, Mercy High School, to be the FIESTA chairs for 2020. In that capacity, they will be responsible for organizing and running the largest fundraiser for the school on February 29, 2020 at the Omaha Marriott Downtown at the Capitol District. The dinner-auction is managed by hundreds of volunteers and features items to bid on including vacation packages, concert and event tickets, collectibles, gift baskets, gift certificates, and much more.
The Lakemans have been married for 22 years. Their daughter, Macy, is a sophomore, a member of the Dance Team and a Student Ambassador. Their son, Colin, is a sophomore at Creighton University and is studying Business on a pre-dental track.
Eric is general contractor and owner of L&L Custom Builders, a residential construction and remodeling company. Nicole manages the financial and administrative side of L&L and is also employed at Creighton in the Department of Mathematics.
Although the family is busy with work and school activities, they enjoy boating and entertaining family and friends.
“ As a Mercy alumna, I greatly value the education I received at Mercy and thought being the chairs of this prestigious event would be a wonderful way to get involved, meet others and give back so that other young women may receive all that Mercy has to offer,” Nicole said.
Honoring Catherine McAuley
One of the most beloved traditions at Mercy High School is Mercy Day, the day which celebrates the life of Catherine McAuley, the founder of the Sisters of Mercy, and the 1827 opening of the House of Mercy in Dublin. On September 24, there was a Mass, seniors presented a play to the student body depicting Catherine’s life and visited the Villa in Omaha where many of the retired Sisters now live. A highlight of the play was the unveiling of the seniors who portray McAuley. This is considered one of the biggest honors students can receive and is voted on by the senior class. The event was streamed live on Facebook and Mercy graduates throughout the country watched the broadcast and celebrated the special day.
This year’s two Catherine McAuleys were Madeline Riesberg who served as the narrator of the play and Katie Geist who portrayed the younger Catherine on stage.
Madeline is a member of Student Council, National Honor Society, Pastoral Council, and runs Track and Field. She has been on the Core Team for Operation Others for two years. Her sophomore year she was on the Nocturne Court and her junior year on the Prom Court. A member of St. Gerald’s Parish, her older sister Makayla graduated in 2013 and her younger sister Megan is a freshman now. She hopes to go into veterinary school or study neuroscience at college. She works part-time at a vet clinic.
“This is one of the biggest honors I have ever received in my life. I am humbled by the fact that my classmates chose me,” she said.
Katie has participated in Volleyball and Track. Last year she set a new school record in discuss throwing it 111 feet and 7 inches. She is a Student Ambassador, a member of National Honor Society, Pro Life One Club and Board Game Club. Katie is a Mercy High School Singer and also plays the flute, sometimes accompanying the group on her flute. She was also a princess in the Nocturne Court. She recently was inducted as an EMHC and is a member of Pastoral Council. The Mary Our Queen parishioner is also part of a Mercy legacy. Her mother Sandra Kurcl Geist ’89 is a graduate and her sister Ellie is a freshman. She is currently looking at attending a Catholic college and has not decided upon a major.
“I was in complete shock when I was chosen. I hope I can live up to the honor my classmates have bestowed on me,” she said.
Alumnae throughout the country shared pictures and comments on social media using the hashtag #OMercyDay2019.
To learn more about Mercy contact Admissions Director, Anne McGill at email@example.com
Comfortable Cup of Tea
When many people think about tea, they recall a famous tea party that took place in Boston. For the Mercy community, one of our treasured traditions is sharing a comfortable cup of tea. Upon her deathbed, Mother Catherine McAuley, the founder of the Sisters of Mercy, asked her community of sisters to “be sure to have a comfortable cup of tea for them when I am gone.” The comfortable cup of tea has become of symbol of hospitality and kindness for Mercy.
Mercy events often feature cups of tea. Each fall, women who have celebrated their 50th reunion from Mercy, St. John’s and St. Mary’s attend the Golden Guild Tea to celebrate their golden jubilees. On Mercy Day, September 24, many alumnae across the country gather to have a cup of tea and celebrate their comradery and connection to Mercy. At the school, Sister Jeanne O’Rourke, RSM, Spiritual Adviser, holds teatime periodically and invites student to talk about school, personal struggles and whatever else is on their mind over pastries and cups of tea in a special room on the second floor. In fact, the teacup symbol is depicted on one of the stained-glass windows near the front of Mercy’s chapel.
Being around Women of Mercy is a warm place to be—just like a comfortable cup of tea.
Golf Fest Raises Nearly $60K
Nearly $60,000 was raised at Mercy High School’s 28th annual Driving for Excellence Golf Fest on September 9. The event supports the school’s Negotiated Tuition Program, which provides tuition assistance to students based on each family’s unique needs and income. More than 82 percent of families benefit from this program, and $1.8 million in tuition assistance is distributed annually.
With 156 golfers, the tournament featured a four-person scramble with a noon shotgun start. To help offset costs for the event, 40 generous sponsors and patrons provided support. J. Skinner Baking Company sponsors the annual golf outing. Other premiere sponsors are PI Midwest, the Heider Family Foundation, the Sisters of Mercy and TD Ameritrade.
Sr. Delores Hannon, RSM, President of Mercy High School, thanked the group for their participation and reminded them about the importance of raising money for the Negotiated Tuition Program.
“Your investment in Mercy has an impact. Our graduates are confident, compassionate Women of Mercy who will make an impact in our community,” she said.
First place finishers in women’s, mixed, and men’s teams were: [left to right in the pictures below]
Women’s: Jesse Gonderinger Sullivan ’05, Emily Gonderinger ’09, Christine Gonderinger ’12, and Jackie Roseland.
Mixed: Patrick Bresnahan, Kathy Burnham, Bobby Knowles and Annie Messersmith.
Men’s: John Tischer, Chris Tischer, James Tischer, James Tischer and Borck Partlow.
To see photos from this year’s tournament, check out https://flic.kr/s/aHsmGT3hG5.
Art Teacher Chosen for Exhibit
Jane Langenfeld, Mercy’s Art Teacher, is one of 34 art educators throughout the state to be accepted into the 2019 Nebraska Art Teachers Association Educator Exhibit. This is a juried exhibit on display at the Kimmel Harding Nelson Center for the Arts in Nebraska City, NE through September 28. Selected artworks showcase a wide array of subject matter and media including photography, painting, printmaking, sculpture, and batik. Langenfeld’s digital photography work depicts the Grand Canyon and is titled “Layers.”
The Nebraska Art Teachers Association (NATA) was founded in 1923 with a mission to advocate for and advance art education in Nebraska to fulfill human potential and promote global understanding. NATA’s Art Educators exhibition is presented in conjunction with their annual conference.
To learn more about Mercy contact Admissions Director, Anne McGill at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Three Staff Join Mercy
Two new faculty and one new staff member have joined Mercy High School for the new academic year: Athletic Director Bethany Kowal ’02, math teacher Kathryn Albertson, and Spanish teacher Madeline Barla.
Bethany Kowal is coming back to Mercy after working at Nathan Hale Magnet Middle School as the Girls Physical Education and Human Growth and Development Teacher for five years. From 2009-2012, Bethany was Assistant Athletic Director and Biology, Math and Physical Education Teacher at Mercy. As Athletic Director she will be responsible for managing nine sports, coaches for those sports, as well as all athletic events. A teacher since 2008, she has also coached swimming, basketball, and softball and holds certificates in athletic training and lifeguard/professional rescue.
Bethany earned a Bachelor of Science in Secondary Education and Biology from Briar Cliff University. She also has a Master of Arts from the School of Health, Physical Education, and Recreation at the University of Nebraska Omaha.
Katee Albertson has been a math teacher since 2008. Most recently she taught Algebra 1-4 at Burke High School. She has also taught math on a college level and at an Air Force base in Germany. Katee is an active runner and played soccer in college. She graduated from Loras College in Dubuque, Iowa, with a Bachelor of Science in Mathematics and Secondary Education. She earned her Master of Arts in Mathematics from Saint Louis University. While there she received an award for Outstanding Teaching Assistant in 2011.
Madeline Barla will have her first teaching assignment at Mercy High School. She most recently student taught at Millard North High School. She studied abroad in Cusco, Peru, during her college years and received her degree in Secondary Spanish Education from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. She is an active volunteer in Launch Leadership, a group that facilitates leadership development for middle school and high school students.
Paladino Joins Mercy’s Advancement Team
Sarah K. Paladino has been named Director of Events at Mercy High School effective August 5, 2019. In that role she will be responsible for coordinating all events at the school including fundraisers such as FIESTA and the annual Golf Fest, to alumnae gatherings like the All-School Reunion and Golden Guild Tea, to internal faculty and staff gatherings.
Paladino most recently served as the Director of Operations at Eddie’s Catering. She was with the firm for more than 20 years and was responsible for managing parties and events, training, logistics, sales and promotion and human resources.
She received her Bachelor of Science from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. Paladino is also a member of the National Association for Catering and Events and was a volunteer for Head Start.
Current Director of Events, Katy Butts ’03, is moving to York, Neb.
“We would like to thank Katy for her time and dedication she has displayed during her time at Mercy both in the office and on the soccer fields coaching her squads to victories!” said Nate Driml, Vice President of Advancement.
More than 200 alumnae, family and friends attended this year’s All-School Reunion on June 2. The annual event began with Mass celebrated by Fr. Steve Ryan, Chaplain at Creighton University’s Dental School. He reminded the audience that “prayer is simply a conversation with your beloved, your God.” The Mercy High School Alumnae Choir led participants in song and Sr. Delores Hannon, RSM, President, welcomed the group back to school. More than 35 members of the class of 1969 also received their Golden Guild pins.
After Mass, attendees gathered in the gym with many classes sitting at tables together. Kaylea Dunn ’96, Alumnae Council President presented Ann Bendon Wieberg ’57, the 2019 Distinguished Woman of Mercy Alumna. Ann shared how Mercy connections have impacted her through the years and how the school has been an integral part of her family’s life.
Fr. Schneider Appointed to Board
The Sisters of Mercy West Midwest Community have appointed Fr. Kevin Schneider, S.J., to Mercy High School’s Board of Trustees. He has been the Director of Adult Spirituality programs at Creighton Preparatory High School since 1998 and serves as the assistant chaplain for many athletic teams.
Fr. Schneider was born and raised in Green Bay, Wisconsin, and is the second oldest of six boys. He graduated from Creighton University in 1982, the Weston School of Theology in 1993 and was ordained in 1994. He is also a lifelong Green Bay Packers and Creighton Bluejays fan. He often says Mass at Mercy.
Three Sisters of Mercy with ties to Mercy High School are celebrating their jubilees this year.
Sister Kathleen Erickson, RSM, has been involved with Mercy efforts for justice since the 1970s. She went to Nicaragua in the 1980s on a “witness for peace” delegation, an experience which changed her focus and resulted in decisions to learn Spanish and become involved in immigration issues. She has participated in several delegations to Central America, and spent nearly 20 years living at the US/MX border (1991-2008) where she organized Border Awareness experiences and helped to found a learning center for immigrant women.
Having traveled to Honduras several times, Sister Kathleen is committed to raising awareness about “root causes” of people fleeing to the United States. She has offered spiritual assistance to detained immigrants in Federal Detention Centers, Family Detention Centers and county jails. “Through ministry, I am learning that everything is connected,” she says. “My view of life and my spirituality have been changed by ministering with so many who suffer discrimination and the effects of economic inequality and US policies and business practices.”
Sister Kathleen began her ministry in education, spending four years teaching at St. Joseph in Williston, South Dakota (1964-68) and four years at Mercy High School, Omaha, Nebraska (1968-72). She was the dean of women and director of the PACE program at Central Catholic High School in Denver, Colorado (1973-80). She then served as parish adult education minister at St. Joseph Parish, Devils Lake, North Dakota (1980-82).
Her ministries include serving the Sisters of Mercy Community on the Provincial Leadership Team (1982-86) and as Assistant Provincial (1986-90).
She has a Bachelor’s Degree in English from College of Saint Mary, Omaha, Nebraska; a Master’s degree in Religious Education from Seattle University and a Master’s Degree in Secondary Education from the University of Northern Colorado.
Sister Delores Hannon. RSM, entered the Sisters of Mercy in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, on September 8, 1969, knowing that she would want to minister in education. A math aficionado, Sister Delores spent the first six years of her ministry teaching at schools in Iowa: Regis High School (1972-74) in Cedar Rapids, St. John School (1974-76) in Waterloo, and All Saints School (1976-78) in Cedar Rapids. A move to Kalispell, Montana, began her ministry as a principal at St. Matthew School (1978-81). Then she was principal in Edina, Minnesota, at Our Lady of Grace School (1981-83), Sacred Heart School (1983-88) in Oelwein, Iowa, and St. Joseph School (1988-95) in Marion, Iowa.
Sister Delores spent the next eight years (1995-03) as vice-president of the leadership team of the former Cedar Rapids Regional Community of the Sisters of Mercy.
In 2003 she was able to return to serve students as president of St. Edmond Catholic Schools (2003-09) in Fort Dodge, Iowa. She currently serves the nearly 400 students as President of Mercy High School in Omaha, Nebraska.
“I have enjoyed all of these opportunities with their joys and challenges. One of the greatest accomplishments is each year at graduation. It is a reminder of why I do what I do — support students in being their best selves,” she said.
Sister Delores has a Bachelor’s from Mount Mercy College (now University) in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, and a Master’s from the University of Northern Iowa in Cedar Falls, Iowa.
Sister Mary Jeanne Ward, RSM, ‘59 (religious name Sister Mary Madonna), began working with the Sisters of Mercy at St. James Orphanage in Omaha, Nebraska, when she was in sixth grade. She continued this through high school which confirmed her desire to be a Sister. She entered the Community after graduating from Mercy High School in 1959.
Sister Jeanne spent much of her early years in ministry working with children. She served at St. James Home in Omaha (1964-65); taught at St. Joseph Grade School, Denver, Colorado (1965-66); Holy Cross, Omaha (1966-68); St. Thomas More, Omaha (1968-70); St. James, Kansas City, Missouri (1970-71) and Madonna School, Omaha (1971-72).
In 1972, Sister Jeanne moved east and became the principal at St. Maurice School in Bethesda, Maryland. She stayed in this position until 1980 when she became the project director for Mercy National Center (1980-81), also in Bethesda.
From 1982-90, Sister Jeanne ministered in housing. First as an intern at Warren Village, Denver (1982-83), and then at Mercy Management Services in Boise, Idaho (1983-90).
She returned to Omaha in 1990 to serve on the Omaha Leadership Team of the Sisters of Mercy, a position she held until 1998. She continued to serve her Community as the retirement coordinator (1998-07) and then the archivist (2008-13). She continues to serve as a volunteer at Mercy Villa. “Being a part of our beloved senior Sisters lives is a privilege,” she said.
Sister Jeanne has a Bachelor’s Degree from College of Saint Mary, Omaha, a Master’s Degree from Saint Louis University, and advanced certificates from Loyola University, Baltimore, Maryland, and University of Nebraska Omaha.
Clash of the Classes April 16-17
Mercy High School will host its 14th annual “Clash of the Classes,” Varsity Soccer Invitational April 16 and April 17 at Creighton University’s Morrison Soccer Stadium.
Teams included in this year’s event are: Burke High School Bulldogs, Marian High School Crusaders, Mercy High School Monarchs and the Lincoln Pius X Thunderbolts.
The match schedule is:
• Game 1, Tuesday, April 16 at 5:30 p.m.: Marian vs. Burke
• Game 2, Tuesday, April 16 at 7:30 p.m.: Mercy vs. Pius X
• Loser Game 1 vs. Loser Game 2, Wednesday, April 17, 5:30 p.m.
• Championship Game Wednesday, April 17, 7:30 p.m
Admission is $6 for adults; $4 for high school students or younger. Center Trophy is providing the tournament awards.
A Journey of Discovery
Dr. Fred Jervzalski Kader, an orphaned child of the Holocaust, spoke to Mercy students during a special assembly on March 26. His talk was part of the Week of Understanding, an annual educational initiative created by the Institute for Holocaust Education and Omaha schools. He recalled a journey of revelation, where through chance meetings, conversations with people at conferences, discussions with family members, and insights from other survivors, he discovered his past and how he survived the Holocaust.
His story is chronicled through an article in the Omaha Jewish Press. One of the strongest lessons he learned is that without people helping him throughout his life, he would not be alive today.
“That is why I decided to become a doctor. It was my destiny to help others because so many helped me,” he said.
Dr. Kader worked at the University of Nebraska Medical Center before entering private practice. He retired last year.
Sr. Dee: A Zeal for Education, Life and Mercy
She has been described as an adventurous, creative visionary with a heart of gold, committed to service with personality to spare. She is also a Sister of Mercy who is celebrating 50 years with her community and is currently serving as President of Mercy High School. Her name is Sr. Delores Hannon, RSM and her story is a fascinating journey of helping others and supporting students as an educator and administrator for more than 40 years.
She grew up on a mixed livestock farm in North English, Iowa, the only child of William and Mary Hannon. Much of Sr. Dee’s time was spent outdoors playing or doing chores, like milking cows. She went to small rural public schools until college and was involved in the local church attending vacation Bible camp and studying the Catechism.
Sr. Dee loved school and had a special aptitude for math, deciding to attend Mount Mercy University in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, to earn a degree in math. Thanks not only to her mom and dad but to many of her extended family who provided financial support, she was able to attend college. She also received a math scholarship.
“Sputnik was in the news and encouraging a young woman to go to college and study math was highly desirable, so I received a substantial scholarship,” she said.
While at the university, Sr. Dee was inspired by the Sisters of Mercy who ministered there including Sister Agnes Hennessy, the president, and one of her teachers, Sister Gladys Daly, who lived on her dorm floor.
Sr. Dee knew she wanted to live a life of service and even considered the Peace Corps.
“Mount Mercy changed the course of my life,” she said. “It was where I met the Sisters of Mercy, and I entered the community my sophomore year. The concept of service was very appealing. Sometimes in vocation reflections I will tell people that I was too afraid to join the Peace Corps, so I joined the Sisters of Mercy. I have stayed with the community because of the Sisters I met, and it is the best place for me to be,” she added.
After graduating, Sr. Dee was tapped by senior leadership from the Sisters of Mercy to serve as a principal, and she was encouraged to obtain her Master’s Degree in Education.
She became a principal at St. Matthews Grade School in Kalispell, Montana, in 1978 and went on to be principal at Our Lady of Grace School in Edina, Minnesota, in 1981. From 1983 to 1995 Sr. Dee was the principal at several grade schools in Iowa. She’s also been the Vice President of the Sisters of Mercy in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, and the President of St. Edmond Catholic School in Fort Dodge, Iowa. She became President of Mercy High School in 2009.
“One of my greatest joys is to see what students have become -- when I knew them as kindergarteners and then the fine men and women they are today,” she said.
Always one to dive right in, Sr. Dee as she is affectionately known, has tried many things from skydiving, (where she earned the nickname “Flying Nun”) to whale watching to horseback riding to participating in pie throwing and dunk tanks.
As one of her colleagues said, “Dee has a zest for life and is not afraid to put herself out there.”
Since she arrived at Mercy High School, she has become the “face of Mercy” and has a long list of accomplishments. Some highlights include:
• Keeping the mission of Mercy at the forefront of the school’s educational commitment.
• Providing prudent fiscal management. She has sustained the school’s Negotiated Tuition Program, which distributed $1.8 million in tuition assistance to deserving students, and she has helped Mercy make significant infrastructure improvements including a new HVAC system and renovated science laboratories. Sr. Dee accomplished all of this while not incurring additional debt.
• Enhancing the awareness of and support for the school. The school has refined its brand and increased its advancement activities.
She has also lent her considerable educational and administrative talents to several other groups and received a number of prestigious awards. Sr. Dee is a Board member of the College of St. Mary, a Trustee of Mount Mercy University, Cedar Rapids, and a member of the Financial Advisory Committee of the Sisters of Mercy West Midwest. Last year, she received Creighton Preparatory High School’s Sword of St. Ignatius, an honor given to a person who has striven to demonstrate exemplary service for the greater glory of God. In 2015, Mercy High School received the Greater Omaha Chamber of Commerce Business Excellence Award. Mercy is the only high school to receive this award.
When asked to reflect on celebrating 50 years with the Sisters of Mercy, Sr. Dee said, “This commitment is a journey. You have to continue to reflect on it and review it. One of the greatest accomplishments is each year at graduation. It is a yearly reminder of why I do what I do: support students in being their best selves.”
She is especially excited about recent efforts by the school to support students as they plan for college, and she is looking forward to developing the next phase of the Strategic Plan for the school.
Sr. Delores Hannon will be honored at the school’s annual FIESTA on February 16, 2019.
Mercy Couple to Receive Cor Misericordiae Award
A love of Mercy High School’s mission and a dedication to giving others an opportunity for that education are the inspiration behind Nicole Hahn Jesse ’80 and John Jesse’s long-term commitment to the school. The couple has lent their considerable talents to Mercy as leadership volunteers, Donors of Distinction, parents, and business advisors. In honor of their dedication, Mercy High School will recognize the couple at its 2019 FIESTA on February 16, 2019 with its highest award: the Cor Misericordiae Award. The award reflects the Heart of Mercy: the core values of faith, knowledge, and service that shape each Mercy student.
Their Mercy story began with Nicole who attended Mercy and was active in Student Council, theatre, music, speech, and debate. In fact, she credits Mercy with helping to define who she is.
“When I entered Mercy, I was not very confident. The school helped me find myself. I truly believe students become confident women there. My husband and I are committed to making sure other young girls have the opportunity for a Mercy education,” said Nicole.
Powerful women were an integral part of Nicole’s formative years both at school and in her personal life. Her family founded La Casa Pizzaria, where she now serves as General Manager and Co-Owner. Her mother and aunt operated the business for many years until they retired. Nicole has worked at the business all her life and met her husband, John, there when she was a junior and he was a sophomore at Creighton Prep. They dated throughout college, wed in 1986, and both earned MBAs at the University of Nebraska Omaha. They have three children.
Nicole was asked to serve on the Mercy's Alumnae Council shortly after she graduated from college. She also sent her daughters, Madeleine ’12 and Genevieve ’14, to Mercy. The couple were active parents while their daughters were in school, running FIESTA’s live auction for four years, chairing the 2010 fundraising campaign, and endowing two student scholarships. Those scholarships honor two former teachers: Sr. Rosemary Floersch RSM, SM ’52 and Sr. Catherine Marie Franey RSM, Mount St. Mary '29.
John, who is the Associate Vice President for Finance at Creighton University, has also served as an Endowment Trustee at Mercy for the past ten years. Nicole joined the Board of Trustees in 2015 and currently serves as its Chair.
“My wife and daughters, as graduates, are examples of what Mercy brings to the table: an excellent, faith-based education that gives students the opportunity to reach their full potential and make a difference in the world,” said John.
“The Jesses are a remarkable example of members of the Mercy family who give of themselves. They truly deserve this award,” said Sr. Delores Hannon, RSM, President, Mercy High School.
Alumna Potter to MC FIESTA
Mercy High School has named Carrie Potter ’95, alumna and president of The Carrie Potter Group, LLC, Houston, Texas, the Master of Ceremonies for its largest, annual fundraiser, FIESTA (Friends In Earnest Supporting Tuition Assistance). The event, February 16, 2019 at the Omaha Marriott Downtown at the Capitol District, features a dinner, silent and live auction and other activities to benefit the school’s Negotiated Tuition Program. Potter is an award-winning executive who provides business consulting and financial planning services to professional athletes and small businesses. Previously she was Vice President at PMG Sports in Washington, D.C. She also serves as an Adjunct Lecturer with the Rice University Department of Sport Management.
No stranger to the limelight, Potter serves as the Immediate Past Chair of the Houston Area Women’s Center Board of Directors and has served on the Board for ten years; President of Women in Sports & Events (WISE) Houston; and President-Elect of Texas Executive Women. She earned two degrees in business, B.B.A.’ 99 and M.B.A.’01, from The George Washington University in Washington, D.C. and serves on the Executive Committee of the School of Business Board of Advisors, chairing the Student Experience Committee. Carrie is a Senior Fellow from Class XXXIV of the American Leadership Forum and after participating in Class 34 of the Center for Houston’s Future, co-chaired its 2018 Leadership Campaign. She was named a 2016 Women on the Move by Texas Executive Women, a part of the Houston Business Journal’s 2017 40 Under 40 class and honored as a STEAM Role Model by the Greater Houston Women’s Chamber of Commerce in 2018.
Carrie was also valedictorian of her class at Mercy, the first female president at The George Washington University and a writing assistant for The Babe Book: Baseball’s Greatest Legend Remembered. Her three sisters, Katie Potter Peterson ’99, Julie Potter Richt ’01 and Mary Jo Potter ’04, also attended the school.
“This year’s FIESTA theme is Destined to Shine and Carrie is a shining example of an accomplished alumna with amazing talents and skills. Her understanding of Mercy’s mission and how the teachings of Catherine McAuley have affected her approach to business, are very inspirational,” said Sr. Delores Hannon, RSM, President, Mercy High School.
Registration for FIESTA will be open soon on Mercy’s website, www.mercyhigh.org/fiesta/.
To learn more about Carrie’s inspirational story click on https://www.mercyhigh.org/alumnae/acting-with-courage/.
Renovated Labs Dedicated
Mercy High School honored donors and dedicated two renovated science laboratories on October 23. More than 150 supporters generously donated over $800,000 to this project. Lead donors included the Mammel Family Foundation, Dr. C. C. and Mabel Criss Memorial Foundation, and The Lozier Foundation. In addition, Mercy received a $40,000 federal grant to purchase science equipment.
The renovated labs are designed to facilitate interactive experimentation and collaboration and are packed with technology to best complement the transfer of information.
Specific enhancements include updated workspace islands, integrated projection systems for sharing of knowledge, upgraded gas, water and electrical infrastructure, digital analysis enhancements and improved lighting and ventilation.
These labs are critical to the delivery of STEAM (science, technology, engineering, arts and math) curriculum. As part of its Strategic Plan, Mercy continues to embrace and enhance its STEAM programming that integrates these areas of study, leverages the school’s educational expertise, instills critical thinking through the practical applications of knowledge and raises awareness of career choices in these fields.
Mercy offers a variety of science, chemistry and physics courses including Biology, Honors and AP Biology, Chemistry, Honors and AP Chemistry, Human Anatomy and Physiology and Physics as well as Foundations of STEAM in the renovated spaces.
Mercy has embraced the commitment to STEAM and its principles, reinforcing to its students the job opportunities that are available to women in these fast-growing fields. Although women fill close to half of all jobs in the U. S. economy, they hold less than 25 percent of STEAM-related jobs.
“These donors understand how their generous investments in these laboratories will help our students reach their full potential, helping us build leaders to make a difference in our community,” said Delores Hannon, RSM, President, Mercy High School.
Alumnae Shadow Day Oct. 10
More than 17 Mercy High Seniors will be shadowing with Mercy alumnae on October 10 to get a feel for possible careers after high school. The 2nd Annual Shadow Day is a half-day event from 8 a.m.-noon, and includes the students looking at positions in health care, law, pharmacy, education, engineering, law, marketing and communications, nursing, teaching, pharmacy, and more.
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