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McAuley Reflections

September 19, 2018
By Deb Daley

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."