Mercy High School announced two new recognition awards for students on October 10, 2019. To celebrate ACT achievements, Mercy inducted 14 students into the 30+ Club (for girls with a 30 or above on the ACT) and 13 students into the 3 Point Jump Club (for girls who increased their ACT score by three or more points).
Mercy is the only high school in the Omaha area that offers ACT preparation during all four years of high school free-of-charge through OnTo College with John Baylor This program has been made possible through a generation donation from American National Bank.
As new reports and scores become available, the school plans to acknowledge students for their ACT achievements throughout the year on a rolling basis.
One of the most beloved traditions at Mercy High School is Mercy Day, the day that 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 they visited Mercy Villa in Omaha where many of the retired Sisters now live. A highlight of the play was the unveiling of the seniors who portray Mother McAuley. This is 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 of Operation Others for two years. During her sophomore year, she was on the Nocturne Court and during her junior year, she was on the Prom Court. Madeline is a member of St. Gerald’s Parish. Her older sister, Makayla, graduated from Mercy in 2013 and her younger sister, Megan, is a current freshman. She hopes to go to veterinary school or study neuroscience in 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,” Madeline said.
Katie participated in Volleyball and Track. Last year, she set a new school record in discus, throwing 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 Singer and also plays the flute, sometimes accompanying the Mercy High Singers on her flute. She was also a princess on 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 Kuncl Geist, is a graduate of the Class of 1989 and her sister, Ellie, is a freshman. She is currently looking at attending a Catholic college and has not decided on 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,” Katie said.
Alumnae throughout the country shared pictures and comments on social media using the hashtag #OMercyDay2019.
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.
Mercy senior Claire Schweikert has been named a National Merit Scholarship Program Commended Student. She is being recognized for her exceptional academic promise demonstrated by her outstanding performance on the PSAT last fall. She joins about 34,000 Commended Students throughout the national being recognized.
On August 9, Mercy continued a time-honored tradition by welcoming new students amid cheers, shouts of welcome, and applause. Current students greeted a freshmen class of 107 and several transfers to join the nearly 400 girls in the student body. The class features students from 38 schools, all socio-economic levels, a diversity rate of 33 percent and girls from out-of-state.
“Out student body is reflective of the Omaha landscape and reinforces our belief that students learn best by being exposed to different perspectives. We are focused on each student’s success with an educational approach that differentiates to individual learning styles,” said Kristi Walters Wessling ’88, Principal.
Building on standardized testing and ACT prep offered through OnTo College with John Baylor, which is offered free to all students, Mercy will be expanding elements of a new initiative called Kaleidoscope. This immersive leadership coaching program, launched last year, is tailored to each high school year of development, and features strengths assessment, financial literacy, career exploration, skills opportunities and more.
Also new to the curriculum are several additional courses in technology focused on challenging students to explore how computing and technology can impact the world. Added to the world language program is another Spanish course that centers on Spanish in media and literature. Also new is a beginning piano course.
Mercy High School Senior Gina Troia will be attending The Sons and Daughters of Italy Foundation Student Summit in Washington D.C. August 1-4. Troia is among 20 candidates selected across the United States to attend the Student Summit.
The Student Summit of The Sons and Daughters of Italy Foundation offers students a unique opportunity to interact with their peers from across the United States and to learn about their rich Italian culture and heritage (including language and food), tour parts of our nation’s capital, and of network with others.
Troia’s selection was based on her commitment to Omaha and her involvement in the Italian community. She was the Queen of the 2018 Santa Lucia Festival and was recently accepted in the Greater Youth Omaha Council Bluffs Youth Salute and chosen to be a part of the Faces of Catholic Education. She is a member of the Sons and Daughters of Italy Colombo Lodge, Santa Lucia Festival Committee, and The Italian American Heritage Society. Troia also attended the Friends National Stuttering Conference and in March, she volunteered her time at Misericordia Home in Chicago through Mercy.
At Mercy, she is in the top third of her class, is a member of the speech team, cross country team, and track team. After graduation, she plans to pursue a degree in exercise science and study speech pathology.
Students were recognized at this year’s Honors Convocation in a variety of academic categories. Departments gave honors for outstanding achievement, service hours and attendance were recognized, members of National Honor Society and Student Council as well as leadership representatives were spotlighted and community awards given. A highlight of the ceremony was the presentation of scholarships from donors and external groups.
A complete program is available here.
Mercy students Jordan “Jojo” Fett and Katherine “Kate” Tietjen were named Outstanding Seniors at the school’s May Crowning on May 6th. The annual award winners are chosen by the senior class, faculty, and administration and must represent the class in an outstanding way. Honorees are considered by their peers and leaders to be loyal, trustworthy, spirited, compassionate, generous, and dedicated while also being involved in school activities.
Fett has been on Student Council and Golden Girls for four years, as well as Operation Others, serving on the Core Team the past two years. She is treasurer of Student Council this year. As a Mercy athlete, she has played soccer throughout high school. A member of the National Honor Society (NHS), she also serves as a Student Ambassador and was on the Speech Team her sophomore year. She is a two-time winner of UNICEF’s Courage to Care Award for her work on the Mercy Girl Rising mission project. She also attended the Mercy Leadership Conference in Philadelphia in June of 2018. The Mary Our Queen parishioner plans to attend Benedictine College to study biology. She received Benedict Scholar award to attend Benedictine.
Tietjen has been the Vice President of Student Council the past two year and has been a member since her freshman year. The student-athlete has been on the soccer and cross-country teams throughout high school serving as captain of those teams this year. A member of NHS and Golden Girls, Kate has also served as a Student Ambassador. Last year she went on the service immersion trip to the Dominican Republic, and she is a Eucharistic Minister. She is a two-time winner of UNICEF’s Courage to Care Award for her work on the Mercy Girl Rising mission project. She also attended the Mercy Leadership Conference in Philadelphia in June of 2017. Kate is part of a Mercy legacy; her mother is Mary Ann Wieberg Tietjen ’90 and her grandmother is Ann Bendon Wieberg’57, this year’s recipient of the Distinguished Woman of Mercy award. Also from Mary Our Queen, the Runza Student of the Week plans to attend Creighton University next fall majoring in business on a pre-medicine track. She received the Creighton University’s Founders Award, Jesuit Scholarship and Hixson Scholarship.
Kenneth Brannagh, a famous actor and director, once said. “I come from the theatre; my bones are in the theatre. It's as natural as breathing to want to be in the theatre.” The same might be said of graduating senior Audra Pflug ’19. Mercy and Theatre are a family legacy and part of her DNA.
Audra has been in every theatre production during her four years at Mercy. Her three sisters, Molly ’04, Monica ’09, and Jenny, who attended the school for two years, all were involved in theatre. In fact, Audra’s mother Kathleen Murnan Pflug ’81, met her husband Martin while performing in The Music Man at Mercy. Audra’s grandmother, Claire Riley Murnan SM ’45, can be seen at every production. Several of Audra’s aunts and cousins also attended Mercy.
“Ever since I was a baby I would come to shows at Mercy. At the family dinner table conversations about plays and our love of the stage were the norm,” she said.
This year, the senior played Jack in Into the Woods and John Adams in 1776, The Musical during last year’s theater season.
She enjoys the creativity the stage brings to her life. She is also a member of the award-winning Mercy High Singers, National Honor Society (NHS), Nebraska Thespians 6395, and was on the Nocturne Court her junior year. Her other great passion is sustainability.
“In Theology we learned about sustainability as a Critical Concern of the Sisters of Mercy. This cause resonated with me and I want to make an effort to stop climate change and what it is doing to the planet,” she said.
Audra will study Environmental Science with a concentration in sustainability at the University of Nebraska Omaha. She received several scholarships to attend college.
“Mercy shaped me into who I am today. From the moment I stepped through those front doors, I felt I belonged. The people here are caring and empathetic, and they pass those qualities on to you,” she added.
Because she loves theatre, Audra most likely will continue to be part of stage productions in college.
“It is a huge part of who I am and something I can share with family members,” she said.
Sixty-six students will graduate from Mercy High School on Wednesday, May 15th. The 7:00 p.m. ceremony will take place at the Joslyn Witherspoon Concert Hall. Seventy-five percent of the graduates have earned more than $6 million in scholarships and as a whole, the class has been accepted at 59 higher education institutions.
This year’s valedictorian is Emma Weis. She is a Senior Class officer, Student Ambassador, member of Mock Trial, National Honor Society (NHS), and Yearbook. She also serves as President of the Baking Club and Math Club. She has played soccer all four years and is a current co-captain of the varsity squad. Emma volunteered at the Munroe Meyer Institute, where she is now currently employed, and attended the service trip at Misericordia in Chicago her junior year. Emma is part of a Mercy legacy. Her mom, Francie Riedmann Weis '81, and her grandmother, Rita Ostblom Weis SJ ’54, and four of her aunts attended Mercy. She has received numerous academic honors and seven scholarships from various colleges. She plans to attend the University of Nebraska at Kearney, majoring in Biology on a Pre-Medicine track. She has also signed a letter of intent to play soccer there.
Alexia Rains is this year’s salutatorian. She has been a member of Student Council for three years, NHS, served as a Student Ambassador, and was in Future Business Leaders of America (FBLA). The student-athlete has played soccer all four years and has been a co-captain of the varsity squad for two years. Alexia was the Mercy Day Director her senior year and has participated in service-related projects including Operation Others. Alexia’s sisters Kaleena ’14 and Malia ’16 graduated from Mercy. She plans to attend the University of Nebraska Omaha and major in Biotechnology. She received nine scholarships from several colleges.
Congratulations to the Mercy High Singers for their award-winning performance at District Music! The Mercy High Singers Treble Choir received a 1+, the highest possible score, for their performance. Watch it here: https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PL-pxmq6CXpNaE7ZmXaJIE0E9-JtfuNvbu .
The following students received a Division I ranking:
• Vocal Ensemble (led by Hanna Stec and Megan Oswald) - Megan Oswald, Katie Hawkins, Abby Rinkol, Emily Rimington, Erin Hardy, Hanna Stec, Ellen Veys
• Solo- Anna Buck
• Solo -Megan Oswald
• Solo-Victoria Nimneh
• Solo- Katie Hawkins
• Solo- Emily Rimington
• Solo-Hanna Stec
• Solo-Jordan Schaffer
• Piano Solo- Claire Schweikert
• Flute Solo- Katie Geist
• These students received a Division II ranking:
• Vocal Ensemble (led by Audra Pflug, and Jordan Winquest) - Anna Buck Rachel Poteat, Audra Pflug, Jordan Winquest, Lauren Jackson, Kate O’Brien, Jo Charbonneau, Sena Djidjoho
• Vocal Ensemble (led by Jordan Schaffer and Allie Marasco) - Jordan Schaffer, Jasmine Franklin, Allie Marasco, Meghann Plumb, Claire Schweikert, Victoria Nimneh, Katie Smith, Alice Long
• Solo- Erin Hardy
• Solo- Rachel Poteat
• Solo-Jordan Winquest
• Solo-Jasmine Franklin
• Duet- Lauren Jackson and Audra Pflug
• Piano solo-Emily Rimington
One of the most meaningful traditions at Mercy High School is May Crowning. It was held May 6 . The ceremony honors Mother Mary by selecting a senior who exemplifies the qualities of Mary as May Queen, and having her crown Mary’s statue with a circlet of flowers. The May Queen is accompanied by the May Court, which includes representatives from each class.
This year’s May Queen was Allison Vana who is President of the Senior Class. She has been a class officer all of her four years at Mercy, run Cross Country since sophomore year, and is in Track. A member of the National Honor Society her junior and senior year, she has also participated in Art Club and Math Club and was on the tech crew for Alice in Wonderland. She was chosen to the Nocturne Court as a sophomore. Her service activities include volunteering at St. Gerald Elementary School, participating in the JDRF One Walk, and helping with FIESTA. Vana belongs to St. Gerald Catholic Church and is joined at Mercy by her sister, Ann, who is a sophomore. Vana is making final plans for college and is hoping to major in education.
When asked about being chosen, Vana expressed gratitude for her role models that have sacrificed for her, especially her mother.
“I am extremely honored and somewhat taken aback that I was selected. It is thanks to the wonderful people around me that I am receiving this recognition,” she said.
Joining her on the May Court were:
- Seniors: Jennifer Carpenter and Claire Fink
- Juniors: Kayleen Gruhn and Gianna Jergovic
- Sophomores: Kateri Pantoja and Kelliaine Villalava
- Freshmen: Cecilia Galardi and Aluel Mareng
The ceremony includes class processions and a blessing from Father Mike Eckley, Board of Trustees member and Servant Minister of the Archdiocese of Omaha. Each class recited a decade from the rosary. Then, the final decade was led by faculty, staff, and the May Court. In addition, seniors wore their caps and gowns for the first time.
Two Outstanding Seniors were announced at the conclusion of the ceremony. They are kept secret until that evening.
Students from the Poetry for Life Club love to read and write poetry and have been visiting a local retirement home to share their passion with residents there. Enjoy this photo essay!
$18,093.36 was raised by the students at Mercy High School during Mission Week, a week-long effort to support educational efforts in third world countries. This year funds will provide basic necessities for misplaced, Syrian refuges living in camps in Lebanon. Sisters of Mercy are on the ground there providing help.
Sponsored by the Student Council, activities included a class penny war, “glow dance,” dodgeball tournament, and a special pizza luncheon complete with booths and sale items of T-shirt sales, raffle tickets and an auction of lunches provided by the teachers and staff. Students also wrote postcards and made friendship bracelets for refugees.
Mercy High School participated in the annual National History Day competition for Douglas County, along with several other high schools in the metro area, on February 27. Held at The Durham Museum, 34 girls attended the event.
The Mercy students who earned a top spot in each category are listed below. The top four qualifiers in each section are now eligible for the state competition on April 6. The teacher/sponsor was History Teacher Brooks Humphreys.
2nd Place- Anna Youell
2nd Place- Abigail O’Connor, Sabrina DeGeorge, Caici Barnhart, and Carina Muse
Salem Witch Trials
Tuskegee Institute Syphilis Experiment
The Battle of Alesia
Senior Group Exhibit
Japanese Brutality Against the Chinese in WWII
3rd Place- Clare Euteneuer and Elizabeth Walsh
2nd Place- Carolyn Klein and Carlee Lee
The Great Fire of London
The Price of Being Poor in Victorian England
Mercy High School senior, Hanna Stec, has been named a Finalist in the 2019 National Merit Scholarship Program.
Stec is a member of National Honor Society, Show Choir, Mercy High Singers, and the Thespian Board at school as well as serving as a representative on the state board. She will play the Witch in Into the Woods, the spring musical, was the Red Queen in the fall production of Alice in Wonderland, and has had major roles in 1776 the Musical, Girls of the Garden Club, Macbeth and Wizard of Oz. She also played club softball during her early years of high school and has received numerous academic and performing arts awards. Her favorite subjects are Math and Calculus and she plans to major in aerospace engineering in college.
A member of St. Vincent de Paul Parish, she is in the midst of determining her final college plans.
Stec was named a semifinalist in the fall and is now amongst those eligible for 7,500 Merit Scholarships nationally.
Mercy High School presented Into the Woods, the James Lapine and Stephen Sondheim Tony-Award winning musical that takes everyone's favorite storybook characters and brings them together for a timeless, yet relevant, piece... and a rare modern classic. The play was April 26-28 at the school.
Close to 50 students were involved in this production from the cast to the crew. The cast list is available here. The show featured an ensemble performance requiring strong acting and singing throughout the production.
According to Theatre Director Joshua Von Kampen Mercy benefits from having strong actresses able to play the roles required.
“We have seasoned upperclassmen with years of experience along with promising underclassmen,” he said.
The story follows a Baker and his wife, who wish to have a child; Cinderella, who wishes to attend the King's Festival; and Jack, who wishes his cow would give milk. When the Baker and his wife learn that they cannot have a child because of a Witch's curse, the two set off on a journey to break the curse. Everyone's wish is granted, but the consequences of their actions return to haunt them later with disastrous results.
The set design, a collaborative effort between von Kampen and a team of students, was flexible, allowing the ability to flip from small settings like individual houses to new locations in the woods created on the back. To add dimension, there were levels and ramps to give the stage depth. The perimeter of the stage was transformed into a forest by and outline of trees.
The Mercy High School Treblemakers, the school’s show choir, will hold their annual fundraiser, One Sweet Concert, Friday, February 1 at 7:00 p.m. in the school’s gym at 48th &Woolworth. Admission is $10 for adults and $5 for students and Free to children under 5. Sweet Treats will be sold for $1 and Shout outs to performers are $2.
The Concert will consist of solos, small group performances, and the finale consists of the Treblemakers’ competition pieces.
Mercy High School has many traditions, from Mercy Day to May Crowning. One of its newest traditions is Day of Discovery, which began about 20 years ago. On October 15, the day designed by Student Council and made possible by faculty, features activities and trips that leverage opportunities for students to learn outside the traditional classroom setting.
The list of activities ranges from and includes experiences such as exploring the culinary treasures of the Old Market, traveling to Oklahoma City to experience the memorial dedicated to the lives lost in the domestic terrorist bombing of the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building in 1995, visiting local farming and cheese operations, discovering Fontanelle Forest, and meeting with artists and theatre professionals.
Day of Discovery is not merely recreational; all trips have a clear learning objective. That being said, all offered experiences are fun, too!
Mercy High School senior, Hanna Stec, has been named a Semifinalist in the 2019 National Merit Scholarship Program.
Stec is a member of National Honor Society, Show Choir, Mercy High Singers, and the Thespian Board at school as well as serving as a representative on the state board. She will play the Red Queen in the fall production of Alice in Wonderland, and has had major roles in 1776 the Musical, Girls of the Garden Club, Macbeth and Wizard of Oz. She also played club softball during her early years of high school and has received numerous academic and performing arts awards. Her favorite subjects are Math and Calculus and she plans to major in aerospace engineering in college.
A member of St. Vincent de Paul Parish, she is thrilled by this honor and is hopeful that it will help her stand out as she pursues college and her career dreams.
“We are so proud of Hanna! In addition to being extremely bright, Hanna has shared her gifts and talents with us all through her creative outlet of theatre and music,” said Kristi Wessling, Principal, Mercy High School.
More than 1.6 million junior students in 22,000 high schools entered the National Merit competition by taking the PSAT. Stec was among the 16,000 students that earned the semifinalist title.
Mercy Day is September 24. This annual Mercy High School event honors the day when the foundress of the Sisters of Mercy, Mother Catherine McAuley, opened the first House of Mercy in Dublin. Today’s celebration included a Mass and program by seniors educating other students about McAuley’s life. This year’s play began with Catherine on her deathbed with her sisters gathered around her. She flashes back to important events she remembers in her life. A highlight of the program is 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.
This year’s two Catherine McAuleys were Anne Laferla who served as the narrator of the play and Shacty Alvarez-Hurtado who portrayed Catherine on stage.
Anne knew after she shadowed at Mercy that she wanted to attend the school. She has had a job for most of her high school years and works at a child care center four days a week. She has found time to be a Eucharistic Minister, a member of Board Club, and Girls State her junior year. Her favorite classes are Guitar and English. She plans to study photojournalism in college.
“I hope I live up to the honor my classmates have given me in portraying Catherine,” she said.
One of the reasons Shacty decided to attend Mercy was because it was a school, “that let me experience my faith throughout the school day.”
She is currently the Vice President of FBLA, a member of the Pastoral Council and Pro-Life Club. She was a Nocturne princess freshman and sophomore year, a May Court member freshmen year, and Class Secretary sophomore and junior year. She is on the tennis team and hopes to be part of the stage crew for the spring play. Her current college plans include majoring in either theology or public administration.
“When I found out I was named Catherine, I was really surprised. I hope I can represent Catherine for what she was—a great example of the Mercy mission in action,” she said.
Mercy Day was also a special day for alumnae and members of the Mercy community. The school reached out to former students who played Mother McAuley to share reflections on what the honor meant to them. Their reflections are featured here.
At the same time, alumnae throughout the country shared pictures and comments on social media using the hashtag #OMercyDay2018. A Facebook Live of the play garnered about 600 viewers.
At the end of the play, seniors showed a video of several Sisters of Mercy and Mercy Volunteer Corp members talking about the impact Catherine McAuley has had on their lives.
Pictures from the day are available here.
Every September the Mercy community worldwide celebrates Catherine McAuley, the founder of the Sisters of Mercy on Mercy Day. That tradition has been celebrated at Mercy High School for more than 60 years. In honor of the Mercy graduates who have portrayed Catherine through the years, we asked past recipients to reflect on the honor they received.
Here are some of their reflections:
Mary Jo Pitzl ’75 shared her thoughts.
“Being selected Mother McAuley was, of course, a great honor from my classmates. I am hopeful that I have exemplified Catherine McAuley's spirit of giving in my life (perhaps to a fault: I keep a sign at my desk that says, "Stop me before I volunteer again"!). And I have striven to be kind to people, even when my profession as a journalist calls for me to ask the tough questions and take the impertinent stand. You can be a "nice person" and still do the tough work -- why, often, it's more effective that way.”
Sheila Greave ’83, from Omaha, Nebraska shared the following reflection.
“I was very surprised when my classmates "kidnapped" me to tell me about it. The vote took place while I was at debate camp, so everyone knew but me! It meant the world to me. It meant that in my years at Mercy I not only grew, I blossomed into the woman of Mercy I was striving to be. What a blessing it was to have a school that fostered that in me.”
Tammie Nussrallah '86 shared her thoughts on being Catherine McAuley. "Being named Catherine McAuley was humbling to me. Mercy is a precious gift to all who come into contact with its traditions, as well as its students, faculty, staff and families. Continue forward Class of 2019. Show the world the Spirit of Mercy in all that you do!"
Jackie Lee ’02 portrayed Catherine during the 2001-02 academic year and still lives in Omaha.
“Being named Mother McAuley meant I was able to honor a woman who embodied much of what I wanted to become in the world. Mother McAuley was an inspiration to me because she was able to accomplish so much, which was especially remarkable when you considered that a majority of women during her era were not afforded the opportunity to be a leader. As a high schooler I felt that if she could do it, why not me? Her life demonstrated that we can each cause positive changes in the world, and it is our duty to strive towards this in ways both big and minuscule. She trusted in her community and inspires me to do the same.”
Coley Mixan ’08, was Catherine during the 2007-2008 academic year. She now lives in Seattle, Washington. She said:
“Being named Catherine McAuley offered me an opportunity to frame the focus of my life's work from the beginning of my young adulthood. I had to ask myself (and as I continually ask myself now), how does the legacy of Catherine McAuley's work (lovingly giving alms and attention to the most vulnerable in our society) show up in the way I treat others in my day to day interactions? Catherine McAuley's spirit remains alive and well in 2018 when we work to dismantle the varying systematic oppressions that give advantageous power to white/wealthy people. Being named Catherine McAuley meant that I needed to strive to become an active listener in my life's work: to listen the lives and issues of cis-and-trans black women and women of color–and then acting through nonviolent means to correct the injustices of our culture. It’s a framework of love that I am humbly honored to challenge myself to everyday. “
Monica Keenan ’12 was a Mother McAuley honoree from the Class of 2012. She said
“Behind every strong woman is a strong woman, is a strong woman, is a strong woman.” These words hung upon my wall as I completed my second year of service as a Jesuit Volunteer in the Northwest and they have stuck with me here in graduate school as a Trinity Fellow at Marquette University. I was reminded daily of the strength, beauty, and power that comes with being a woman. Catherine knew this and dedicated her life to building up strong women in order to change the world- and change it she did. Countless lives have been affected by Catherine’s work and the work of so many strong women of Mercy that have come after her. Being selected to be Mother McAuley is an honor and a privilege, but each of us have the responsibility to be more like Catherine every day. Our world needs people of Mercy; people who see the dignity of others; who stand against racism, sexism, income inequality and other forms of hatred, bias, and discrimination. Stand against these things, and I promise you won’t stand alone. My dear Mercy sisters: “This is the time for which you were created” (Esther 4:14). You are strong women. I stand in awe of who you are, what you’ve done, and what you have yet to do and become. Enjoy your cup of tea today, but maybe love your neighbors a little extra too. I like to think Catherine would approve this adaptation to her message. Sit at a new lunch table, give that compliment you thought would be too random to say, talk to people who have different interests, and get to know each other a little more. You won’t regret that, and you may just begin to see more similarities than you imagined. Don’t forget to be gentle with yourself too. In case no one has told you recently: you are enough, just as you are. You are loved and lovable and you are all things good. Yes you, right there. Bonus challenge- try saying that to your neighbors. Look them in eye: “Christine, you are enough, just as you are. You are loved, and you are lovable. Christine, you are all things good.” (Heyo- shout out to Ms. Gonderinger). Use your life in a good way to build up others like Catherine did. You are the newest wave in this legacy that Catherine started, and I am so honored that I get to stand beside and live in a world with people like you. Happy Mercy Day fam.
Jamie Jacobsen’14 currently resides in Sioux City, Iowa and said:
“My time at Mercy High School sowed the seed of service in my heart. Catherine McAuley inspired me to become a social worker. Being named Catherine McAuley was one of my proudest moments. To me, that meant that those around me recognized my commitment to pursing Catherine's mission in my life.”
Abi Jones ’18 who was one of the students who portrayed Catherine last year said:
“Being chosen to represent Mother Catherine McAuley was the biggest honor I have ever received. It was really an amazing experience to memorize the script of Mother Catherine's life and to perform in front of an audience and to be chosen to represent the founder of our school. But the entire experience was not so much about the tradition itself or the play put on by my class. It wasn't even about reaching the important Mercy milestone of putting on successful a Mercy Day play or singing our class song and reciting our class prayer. Those were some beautiful moments shared with my classmates that I will never forget. But for me, the honor I felt was more centrally focused on gratitude. I had the beautiful opportunity to celebrate the gratitude of all women of mercy. If it were not for Mother Catherine listening to the Lord's call to her heart, we would not have been celebrating Mercy Day at all. I am so honored that my classmates elected me to represent Mother Catherine. Her life is such a beautiful example of listening to the Lord and living in his love. Because of Mother Catherine's yes, we get to come together every year and celebrate the foundation of our beautiful Mercy community in that little house on Baggot Street. I am so beyond grateful for Mother Catherine's beautiful mission to spread God's love through immediate help for the poor women and children of Dublin. It is an indescribable experience to be chosen among my classmates because they see qualities of Mother Catherine in me. I was chosen to represent advocacy. Mother Catherine showed no submission to the face of fear. She said yes to becoming a sister, though she didn't want to. She did not let anything stop her from spreading God's love and advocating to help God's people. To know that my classmates see that quality in me is insanely sweet and amazing and it brings tears to my eyes. I see many of the qualities of Mother Catherine when I look at them. And I see those qualities when I look at all women of Mercy. The beautiful mission that the Sisters of Mercy follow has affected so many lives. The impact is so clear and so true. Mother Catherine set a beautiful example of living life for the Lord, and Mercy Day is such a precious time to celebrate our gratitude for Mother Catherine's yes to the Lord.”
Molly Bartek-Miller'18 also portrayed Catherine last year.
" I felt proud to be chosen by my classmates. It also gave me joy that I am able to brighten someone's day and to make them laugh. Being named Catherine McAuley meant and still means a lot to me even to this day. Mercy helped me become the women I am today. Not only did the student, teachers, and Sisters help give me courage and strength but I also had Catherine McAuley to look up to."
Many people often describe Mercy High School as a family; a community of students, faculty and staff committed to educational excellence. But the love of Mercy is also passed down through generations of family members. Many of our students are legacies—their great grandmothers, grandmothers, mothers, aunts, cousins, sisters and more attended the school. Emma Weis ’19 is a member of such a family.
Emma, a senior, is a Student Ambassador, a Senior Class officer, a member of Mock Trial, National Honor Society (NHS), Yearbook, Math Club, Baking Club, and plays soccer. She also was a student council representative her freshman year. Her older sister Lauren 17 went to Marian but Emma’s parents gave her the choice of Catholic schools to attend. She chose Mercy.
“What I love about Mercy is the sense of community. I came to the school knowing no one and in two weeks I was voted to be a Student Council representative,” Emma said.
Emma’s choice was not surprising. Her mom, Francie Riedmann Weis ’81 attended as well as her four of Emma’s aunts. Francie was active in the yearbook and newspaper and was a member of NHS, Concert Choir, and the Speech team. She was also Senior class president and was named Outstanding Senior. Francie is currently a judge on Nebraska’s Court of Appeals and helps coach Mercy’s Mock Trial Team.
While Jayne Riedmann Mollner ’70 was at Mercy she was a member of the Sodality, Government and Mother McAuley Clubs. She recently retired from Blue Cross, Blue Shield where she worked in customer service.
Jayne also said traditions are an important part of Mercy, even though they have morphed over time. She recalls when she went to school there was also a spring and winter uniform.
“However, when you hear the terms PA or Mercy Day or laddies you immediately recall those good times,” she added. Jayne said, “Mercy lets you be you and I have kept ties to my classmates over the years. I still have lunch with four of my classmates each month.”
Her daughters Katie Baumker ‘94 and Anne Mollner Stanley, ’05, a Spanish teacher at Mercy, also graduated from the school. And her granddaughter Jessica Baumkeris a freshman this year. She and Emma compared notes before she enrolled.
The other Riedmann girls who attended Mercy include Kathleen Riedmann Kemler ’78, Mary Pat Riedmann Greene ’73 and Margie Riedmann Sobczyk ’67. Their aunt, Margie Farrell Nicola SM ‘52, is also a Mercy graduate. In addition, Francie married into a family of Women of Mercy. Her mother-in-law Rita Ostblom Weis ’54, SJ and her mother Mary Caito Ostblom ’29, SJ also went to the school.
In all more than 12 grandmothers, mothers, aunts, cousins, sisters and in-law family members went or are going to Mercy.
“Mercy lets you, be you even to the outside world, it is a tie that binds us all,” said Francie.