Twenty rising seniors and eight faculty and staff chaperones from Merion Mercy Academy recently returned from three Mercy Immersion experiences that took them to Oil City, PA; Kensington, PA; and Alderson, West Virginia. Formerly known as Summer Service Trips, Mercy Immersions have provided students with educational and service opportunities for over 25 years. They engage participants in working collaboratively with community partners and in solidarity with people of diverse cultures, particularly with those who are materially poor. Volunteers live in community for a week or longer and are called to reflect on their roles as young women of mercy.
In Oil City, students led by Theology teacher Kyle Thompson and Campus Minister Mandy Carrier RSM worked with the organization Mustard Seed, which tackles small construction projects for those in need. They also assisted a local thrift shop and helped with painting at Catholic Rural Ministry’s office. One of the highlights of the week was hearing the history of the town firsthand from a 91-year-old community resident who recalled its prosperous beginnings and spoke of its more recent decline.
Over two separate weeks, groups of six students were accompanied by faculty to West Virginia where they worked at Bethlehem Farm, a Catholic community in Appalachia that transforms lives through service with the local community and the teaching of sustainable practices. There, the girls worked with students from other schools, forming new connections.
Closer to home, Art Department chair Maria Boyd led a group at St. Francis Inn in Kensington where they picked up donations of food and helped prepare and serve meals. Other teachers graciously stepped in to help on a day-to-day basis. Maria said, “The girls had a great time, learned about Franciscan spirituality, and heard about the Franciscan volunteer corps’ experience at the site.” Merion students also serve at St. Francis Inn periodically throughout the year.
“Mercy Immersions builds on a junior year Theology course in Social Justice, which ties into the critical concerns of the Sisters of Mercy” explains Sister Mandy. After reading See, Judge, Act: Catholic Social Teaching and Service Learning, the girls spend time learning about the communities they will visit. “They study the area’s history and its needs, which helps them form a connection and sense of community,” she says. Daily reflection and journal time are part of each Mercy Immersion experience.
- Merion Mercy Academy
- service learning