From October 18-19, educators and administrators from Mercy schools and others associated with Mercy educational ministries gathered for the 2019 Mercy Education Conference in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma. The 182 attendees included representatives from 42 schools in Argentina, Belize, Honduras, Jamaica, Philippines and the United States as well as members of the MESA Board of Directors. The conference is sponsored by the Mercy Education System of the Americas (MESA) and was hosted this year by Mount St. Mary Catholic High School.
“It’s Going to Take the Best in Each One of Us”
This year’s conference focused on the Critical Concern for immigration. “We are living in an alarming time,” said Sister Kathleen Erickson, RSM, in her keynote address. “It’s going to take the best in each one of us to face it.” Kathleen emphasized our need and responsibility to overcome “moral oblivion” and raise our individual and collective conscious about the structures that have created the crisis we have today. She shared strategies for raising awareness and emphasized our oneness with all humanity. “It is not only to love your neighbor as yourself, but to love your neighbor as actually being yourself,” she said.
Ingrid Valeriano, educator from Instituto María Regina in La Ceiba, Honduras, joined Kathleen at the podium, sharing her firsthand experience of the realities Kathleen had described. Ingrid’s witness sparked lively discussion on how Mercy students could connect on these issues, which would assist in building relationships and gaining global perspective.
Sessions Both Informative and Hands-On
Participants engaged in breakout sessions that provided information on Mercy immersion programs at the U.S.-Mexico border; sample projects from schools that offer students ways to embrace Mercy Critical Concerns through service and advocacy; and an overview of services that assist families and individuals immigrating to the United States. A fourth session invited participants to experience a refugee simulation through “Walk a Mile in My Shoes,” a program from Jesuit Refugee Services. At a nearby park, conference attendees could experience for a few moments the daily struggles faced by refugees around the world.
“Take the Challenge”
To act on the learnings from this conference is the next step, urged Sister Rosemary Welsh, RSM, in her keynote address. She reminded educators by what authority they must act, citing the MESA mission statement and Catholic Social Teaching. Stories from her ministry in Laredo, Texas, stressed the life-and-death decisions that compel immigrants to leave their homelands and the responsibility of Catholic schools to “take the challenge” of affecting change.
The conference concluded with a liturgy, celebrated by Archbishop Paul S. Coakley, followed by traditional Oklahoman fare – including chicken-fried steak and fried okra – at host school Mount St. Mary Catholic High School. Attendees enjoyed student-led tours of the school and a performance highlighting the history of Oklahoma and the Mercy charism. The audience joyfully joined in the closing number, “Oklahoma!” from the Broadway musical by the same name.
The Mercy Education Conference Committee is excited to announce that next year’s event will be held October 15-16, 2020, in Kingston, Jamaica, hosted by all our Jamaican Mercy schools, and will explore the Critical Concern for Earth.
MESA expresses gratitude to the following individuals and groups for their contributions to the event:
- The Mercy Education Conference Committee: Kimberly Baxter, MESA; Karen Calta, Mount Saint Mary Academy (Watchung, New Jersey); Whitney Faires, Mount St. Mary Catholic High School (Oklahoma City, Oklahoma); Anne Knapke, Gwynedd-Mercy Academy Elementary School (Spring House, Pennsylvania); Holly McCoy, committee chairperson, Mercy High School (Omaha, Nebraska); and Sarah Peace, Mercy Academy (Louisville, Kentucky).
- Administration, faculty, staff and students at the host school for this year’s event, Mount St. Mary Catholic High School.
- Keynote speakers, Sisters Kathleen Erickson and Rosemary Welsh.
- Panelists: John Baldridge, Mount St. Mary Catholic High School (Oklahoma City, Oklahoma); Michael Brooks, Oklahoma State Senate; Elizabeth Decosse, Our Lady of Mercy School for Young Women (Rochester, New York); Buff Easterly, Mount St. Mary Academy (Little Rock, Arkansas); Robin Larkins, Spring Community Partners; Kari Sims, Mercy Academy (Louisville, Kentucky); Jean Stokan, Sisters of Mercy Institute Justice Team; as well as the faculty and staff from Mount St. Mary Catholic High School who facilitated “Walk a Mile in My Shoes.”
Resources from the 2019 Mercy Education Conference are available on the MESA website.