The value of Mercy’s ‘pillars’

The Gazette Opinion Staff
Published: September 21 2012 | 12:01 am - Updated: 1 April 2014 | 12:46 am in

By Christopher Blake

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On the eve of Mercy and Mission Week, an occasion celebrated by Mercy schools nationwide, I would like to reflect on the meaning and value of Mercy.

When the Sisters of Mercy arrived in Iowa with a desire to follow in the footsteps of Catherine McAuley, they focused on the needs of the sick and the poor and providing education to improve lives. They created three pillars of this city: Mercy Medical Center, the Catherine McAuley Center and what eventually became Mount Mercy University, now celebrating 85 years of service.

What they left behind, however, created a value that cannot be measured by institutions alone.

As a Catholic Mercy University and a member of the Conference for Mercy Higher Education, Mount Mercy shares a rich heritage with our partner institutions that enables us to provide a distinctive education. When the sisters first established Mount Mercy Junior College in 1928, they served a calling to help fill needs in the community and teach others to do the same. The mission to serve the common good influenced every decision as this institution grew — whether it was establishing community service programs that brought together the heads of local businesses and industry leaders; initiating evening classes that led to our current adult programs; transitioning from a junior college to a four-year college to educate teachers who needed baccalaureate degrees; or re-designating as a university to serve the diverse needs of traditional, adult and graduate students, now with a range of bachelor’s and master’s degrees.

Today, Mount Mercy’s programs are steeped in service learning and community outreach. Our students devote 12,000 hours on average every year to serving Cedar Rapids. Our faculty and staff share a similar drive to address need wherever they find it. Our alumni literally walk a path of advocacy and mercy every day of their lives. They bring change on a large scale, such as Michael Kutcher ’08, a national advocate raising awareness of cerebral palsy. They also work locally, like Peggy Detweiler ’92, who gives time to the Iowana Camp Fire board.

The value of Mercy then is embodied by the efforts and dedication of all those who come into deep contact with it. As Mercy and Mission week provides our community with opportunities to experience a deeper connection with our mission, we are reminded that our Mercy heritage is a living, breathing thing capable of bringing the right kind of change to our communities and our world.

More than 7,000 of our graduates in Eastern Iowa exemplify that value on a daily basis.

Christopher Blake is president of Mount Mercy University, Cedar Rapids. Comments: president@mtmercy.edu

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