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Creating Carlow Mercy Leaders

October 11, 2011

By Sister Sheila C.

When a group of eight students and three staff members from Carlow University prepared to travel to Ireland this summer, we reflected on the meaning of pilgrimage and began considering founding a new student organization when we returned home.

The students in the group attending the Young Mercy Leaders Conference at Mercy International Centre in Dublin were chosen from among applicants who committed themselves to founding this new organization. The draft purpose statement indicated that this new group would promote the history, spirit and Critical Concerns of the Sisters of Mercy within the student body. The heart of our planning, however, would wait for our return and be done in light of the experience.

During our first three days in Ireland we had the privilege of staying in Catherine McAuley’s own house and learning more about her, her values and her ministries. Next we travelled to Carlow, the town after which our university is named. There we visited with the sisters who live in the house that Frances Warde and her six companions left when they came to Pittsburgh in 1843. From Carlow we had two days to simply be tourists before returning to Dublin and joining about 140 other students from Ireland, England, Australia, New Zealand and the U.S. who also had travelled to attend the Conference.

Carlow student Leah Scott describes her experience in these words:

Attending a Mercy University, I learned all about the Sisters of Mercy, Catherine McAuley, Frances Warde, the house on Baggot Street, and serving the poor, but Young Mercy Leaders brought all of these things to life for me. I was so fortunate to travel to Dublin and learn about my college’s heritage and beginnings.  Having experienced thoughtful workshops, meeting people from all over the world, and thinking in depth about what mercy really means, I realize I am not only just a student of mercy, but a person of mercy as well.

Rachel Blonski puts it this way:

I thought it would be a lot easier to describe my experience in Ireland and at the Young Mercy Leaders Conference.  However, once I began thinking about it, I was at a loss for words.  I just couldn’t think of a great way to explain what an awesome experience it truly was.

Catherine McAuley’s house, where we stayed, was completely beautiful! On our 10 day stay, we travelled to many different places, including: Knowth, Glendalough, Blarney, Kinsale, and many more. It was so beautiful.

At the conference, we got to meet many students from different areas. It was such a wonderful conference, and I know I learned a lot from it, not only about the Sisters of Mercy but also about myself.  The speakers were phenomenal and are truly amazing role models for all of us!

This experience was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, and I am so thankful to be a part of it.  The Carlow Mercy Leaders are a new organization forming on our campus, and I am so proud to say I am a member of it.  I can’t wait to share the story of Catherine McAuley along with my experiences with the rest of campus!

Now we are home, and the work of creating the Carlow Mercy Leaders has begun. We are writing a mission statement and charter and refining our hopes for how this organization will take shape and influence our campus. But we have been touched by an incredible Mercy energy that suffused the Young Mercy Leaders Conference, and touching back into it will fuel our efforts. By second semester we hope to “Go live” and start inviting other students to be Carlow Mercy Leaders.

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