Standing on Holy Ground
By Sister Deirdre Mullan, PhD, Executive Director
Partnership for Global Justice at the United Nations
I had the privilege of visiting Mercy High School in Omaha, Nebraska during the last days of February 2013. I had met some of the girls with their teacher Kristi Wessling at a workshop earlier in the year and they had invited me to “come and see.” I sensed their pride and feel blessed that I took up their invitation!
The minute I walked through the doors of this amazing school, I immediately sensed something different. My Mercy DNA went into high-alert mode. I was indeed standing on “Holy Ground.”
Catherine McAuley, foundress of the Sisters of Mercy, had a unique vision of education that encompassed educating the whole person. Here at Mercy High School, I witnessed that vision in action. I encountered in the classrooms and hallways, in the auditorium and in small group discussions, Mercy students who were:
Young Women of faith
Young Women of excellence
Young Women who respect themselves and others and
Young Women committed to compassionate service, who feel called to serve our world.
Having spent most of my adult life in the service of education, especially the Girl-child, what I witnessed here was significant ground-breaking insight and investment into the needs of adolescent girls.
The adolescent girl stands at the doorway of adulthood. Somehow the Sisters of Mercy who founded this school over 55 years ago knew that investing in girls is the right thing to do on moral, ethical and human rights grounds. They knew as Catherine McAuley knew, that no other segment of society either in 1955 or 2013 globally faced or faces as much exploitation and injustice, and we owe girls our support as integral, yet often overlooked, members of the human family.
I had the privilege and opportunity to talk to and engage with some of the seniors as they make plans to move to the next stage of their young lives and it was here that I found myself filled with hope and imagination knowing that, these young women will indeed leave a mark for good on our fragile – hurting world. I met aspiring doctors, engineers, journalist’s sportswomen and teachers who know that education is more than what you learn in text books. I met young women who have been encouraged to think outside the box, to reconsider solutions, who ask the hard questions.
The spirit of Catherine McAuley that fills the young women who walk these halls, often times passing a life-size statue of Catherine -the – Teacher, inspires them to do justice, to do right, using the education they have been privileged to receive to commit to make a difference. They know her and she knows them!
I salute the teaching staff and administration who promote a breadth of education and understanding at Mercy High school, enabling the students to be compassionate, caring individuals with a sense of responsibility towards themselves and others.
As I took leave of this “holy ground” to my world at the United Nations, I dream that one day some of the young women I had the privilege to meet over these past 48 hours will one day grace the corridors of the United Nations as diplomats and human rights experts. Then our world and especially young girls will find themselves in a world fit and fair for all!