In a virtual ceremony infused with emotion, prayer, and song, 17 Mercy colleges and universities made or affirmed a covenant with the Sisters of Mercy of the Americas, the Catholic women’s religious order that founded them.

The covenant represents a renewed commitment of these institutions to the mission of the Sisters of Mercy amid the pandemic and other challenges—from fewer students and resources, to skepticism about the value and place of the Catholic Intellectual Tradition. The colleges and universities are members or affiliates of the Conference for Mercy Higher Education (CMHE), an organization dedicated to sustaining and promoting the values and traditions of the Sisters of Mercy.

“This covenant is about relationships,” said Sister Patricia McDermott, president of the Sisters of Mercy. “It speaks to a collective, a circle of Mercy, where leaders of these treasured institutions join with the Sisters of Mercy, all in service to deepening our ownership of a common mission.”

The mission—what Sister Pat called “our enduring concerns”— concerns “the Sisters of Mercy commitment to accompany those who are poor, especially women and children, and to address the systemic causes of such poverty.” These concerns, which also include overcoming racism, walking with immigrants and refugees, protecting the Earth, and embracing nonviolence, are “critical” to Mercy higher education, she explained.

“This Covenant reflects a desire to strengthen a shared vision and mission of Mercy colleges and universities, standing firmly in the spirit and ethos of the Sisters of Mercy and the rich heritage of the Catholic Intellectual Tradition,” Sister Pat declared. “A Mercy-sponsored college or university has the obligation to keep the Mercy heritage and Catholic identity of the institution robust and credible among conflicting worldviews, and to engage with peer CMHE institutions on the means to do so.”

“Our Mission and heritage with the Sisters of Mercy ties us not only in a deep way with our local history but into a much wider story as well. This ceremony reminds us of the interwoven community that makes up Mercy Higher Education, and grants guidance on how we will participate in that spirit both now and in the future,” said Bo Bonner, Chapel SessionMercy College senior advisor to the president for mission initiatives and spiritual health and the director of the Center for Human Flourishing.

One by one, presidents and board chairs/representatives of the Mercy-sponsored, co-sponsored, or affiliated colleges and universities verbally assented to the covenant. Tom Leahy, interim president, represented Mercy College of Health Sciences and expressed gratitude for the opportunity to share the common heritage with other Mercy colleges and universities.

About Mercy College of Health Sciences
Mercy College of Health Sciences is the only private Catholic college in central Iowa and is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission (HLC). Located in downtown Des Moines, Mercy College prepares graduates for service and leadership in the healthcare community with a wide range of bachelor, associate, and certificate programs. Visit or call (515) 635-1133 to learn how you can start Charting Your Course.

About the Sisters of Mercy
The Sisters of Mercy—an international community of Roman Catholic women—dedicate their lives to God through vows of poverty, chastity, obedience, and service. For more than 190 years, motivated by the Gospel of Jesus and inspired by the spirit of their founder Catherine McAuley, they have responded to the continually changing needs of the times. Upon arriving in the United States in 1843, Sisters of Mercy opened schools for immigrant children and others in need. Within a few years, the sisters founded academies of higher learning that eventually became colleges and universities throughout the country.

About the Conference for Mercy Higher Education
The Conference for Mercy Higher Education (CMHE) was established in 2002 to ensure that colleges and universities founded by the Sisters of Mercy have a strong and innovative Mercy and Catholic identity in the 21st century. It provides oversight, guidance, and programming to the institutions of higher learning that the sisters lovingly founded and continue to nourish and support.