What does it mean to be a Catholic, Mercy University?

By Russell Clark

Mount Mercy College was founded by the Sisters of Mercy in 1929 as a place to educate Catholic women in Pittsburgh. Since then, we’ve become Carlow University. Despite major changes having occurred since our founding, Carlow University keeps alive its strong Catholic identity and devotion to Mercy. I spoke with Sister Sheila Carney, Special Assistant to the President, and the Director of Mercy Heritage and Service, and Siobhan DeWitt, Director of Campus Ministry, who embrace the Catholic Mercy identity as part of their everyday lives.

“We were founded by the Sisters of Mercy, and their deep story is our deep story,” said Sister Sheila. “As far as being Catholic, it means two different things. We were founded in the tradition of the Roman Catholic Church and we honor their teachings. The word ‘Catholic’ also means universal, so everyone is accepted here. Whether you’re male or female, gay or straight, Catholic or non Catholic, Carlow accepts the whole of who you are.”

I talked with her about raising awareness, and how we could go about getting more people to understand our Catholic Mercy identity. She said that we already have a lot of focus on our Mercy identity with events like the Jubilee of Mercy, and Mercy Service Day. “A lot of people may fear our Catholic identity, but it is not something to be feared. It is something to be celebrated, something to add to your rich heritage.” The Jubilee of Mercy is a Roman Catholic period of prayer. It began on December 8, 2015, and will end on November 20, 2016. Mercy Service Day is a well known day on Carlow’s campus. Every September, hundreds of Carlow students, faculty, and staff participate. Mercy Service Day’s purpose is to connect Carlow University to a number of community organizations through service. Sister Sheila said that the best way for students to show what it means to be a Catholic Mercy University is to love and support each other, and to become a strong community that welcomes everyone to Carlow University.

Siobhan DeWitt agrees it’s important that everyone feels accepted and loved here, and she’s always willing to listen to students’ ideas as far as allowing others to feel more included on campus. “Personally, I’ve found that something as simple as greeting someone, or holding the door for someone showcases our Mercy identity on campus.” As a Carlow University student, there is a love on this campus I don’t think you can find anywhere else, and it’s because of our Catholic Mercy identity.

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