Authors S - V

Sanders, Susan, R.S.M., and Joy Clough, R.S.M. “Centers and Institutes for the 'Resource-Challenged' Catholic University.” Journal of Catholic Higher Education 30, no. 2 (2011): 221–238.

In this article the founding and succeeding directors of the Center for Religion and Public Discourse at Saint Xavier University (Chicago) offer an example of how “a mid-sized, tuition-driven university can enhance its Catholic identity and expand its service to society through a creatively led center.”  (221)  The authors trace the founding, goals, funding, activities, and hazards of a center that situates itself in the landscape of a Catholic institution striving to fulfill its academic mission amid the swirling winds of simultaneously seeking to advance human knowledge, enhance Catholic identity, respect academic freedom, and serve the common good.  Despite challenges, the authors maintain that a center such as the one they describe “can generate the type of value-added discourse and learning that make the Catholic intellectual tradition and Catholic social teaching accessible, understandable, and meaningful to both the academic and the local civic and religious communities.”  (238)

Application:  While this article focuses on one center at one Mercy university, it offers a host of ideas that might be useful at other institutions interested in a fresh, even entrepreneurial approach to enlivening Catholic identity.  The article is also quite practical, from its grounding references to Ex corde Ecclesiae and institutional mission documents to its presentation of specific strategies, activities, and even controversies attendant on the development of such a center.


Sanders, Susan, R.S.M., and Michael O'Keeffe. “Being a University, Being Catholic, and Being in 'Good Standing' - The Catholic Identity Issue.” The MAST Journal 16, no. 2 (2006): 56–61.

What do Catholic and Mercy institutions of higher education “need to do or avoid doing in order to be ‘in good standing’ with the Catholic Church” and their Mercy sponsors? (56)  This article offers several models of educational institutions’ adherence to their founding faith tradition as a means of prompting discussion about where, how, and why a particular institution does or might position itself vis-à-vis its Catholic identity and Mercy heritage.  The authors assert that the need for such discussion and positioning is of growing importance as Catholic higher education faces a number of significant pressures, including religious diversity among students, faculty, and staff; the declining presence on campus of sponsoring congregational members; directives and expectations of local bishops; and the “drift toward secular criteria of judging a university’s performance.” (56)

Application:  While this article seems to have lost some of its coherence in the editing process from conference presentation to published paper, its survey of models across “a faith-based continuum” opens the door to interesting conversations among all those responsible for an institution’s identity and mission. (57)  Such conversation, especially among trustees, administrators, and faculty members, might clarify a particular institution’s understanding of its Catholic and Mercy identity in ways that would inform practical decisions on matters from hiring to guest speakers to core curriculum.

NOTE:  Until The MAST Journal is available on-line, individual copies of an article can be requested from the Mercy Heritage Center.  Contact the archivist Grant Gerlich at


Sanders, Susan, R.S.M. “Charisms, Congregational Sponsors, and Catholic Higher Education.” Journal of Catholic Higher Education 21, no. 1 (2010): 3–18.

This article draws on multiple academic and religious sources to define and describe “charism” as a vital force shaping religious congregations and their ministries, including institutions of higher education.  The author discusses both legal and cultural aspects of charism, noting how it both grounds stability and instigates change in the life of a religious congregation and of the institutions it sponsors.  The author examines several facets of the relationship between an institution’s distinctive charism (e.g., Dominican, Mercy, Lasallian) and its Catholic identity.  Noting that Church documents identify charisms as gifts of the Holy Spirit  conferred “not only on religious congregations but also ‘among the faithful of every rank’”  (9), the article outlines challenges to the transmission of charism as a key element in the governance, programs, and ethos of higher education institutions.  Underscored is the need for lay trustees, administrators, and faculty members to “understand, respect, and even savor the role that charisms could and should play in institutions of Catholic higher education” (17). 

Application:  For potential and actual trustees, administrators, faculty members and staff leaders, this article provides a clear explanation of charism, its relation to an institution’s Catholic identity, and both the challenges and the opportunities charism affords a ministerial institution.  The importance of preparing, supporting, and then recognizing the competence of laypersons to carry the charism of a sponsoring religious congregation is stressed.  This is an article about the what and the why of charism for the future of religiously sponsored Catholic colleges and universities.


Scott, Maureen, R.S.M. “The Idea of a Mercy University: A Conversation Between Catherine McAuley and John Henry Newman.” Chicago, IL, December 03, 2008.

Citing “Scott Appleby’s notion that ‘the metaphor of the Catholic university is conversation,’” (2) this author brings into dialogue John Henry Newman, with this emphasis on “liberal learning,” and Catherine McAuley, with her attention to “compassionate service,” (1) in order to explore the nature of a Mercy college or university.  The result is an interesting collision of perspectives which the author brings into “rapprochement” (5) through reflection on aspects of each of their personal and professional lives, as well as on their shared conviction about the importance of education.  “The sharp intellect of Newman and the compassionate tender pity of Catherine” (7), the author asserts, reveal the real character of a Mercy-inspired institution of higher education.

Application: For anyone wondering about the place of and/or the relationship between the liberal arts and professional programs at a Mercy-sponsored college or university, this presentation is both insightful and creatively engaging.  Originally an address at Saint Xavier University (Chicago) for its annual Founders’ Day celebration, the text has relevance well beyond that institution.


Snyder, Mary H., Alice Edwards, and Richard W. McCarthy. “At the Intersection of Catholic and Mercy: There's an Elephant in the Room.” Journal of Catholic Higher Education 33, no. 1 (Winter 2014): 63–74.

From the perspectives of their different roles within the university community, each author discusses aspects of the intersection between “Catholic” and “Mercy” in their institution’s identity.  Characterizing that intersection as “impasse,” Snyder considers the role of prayer, humility and compassion as Mercy institutions “pursue the merciful behavior so characteristic of Catherine McAuley.” (66)  Citing such practical realities as employee benefits, annual evaluations, and tenure, Edwards addresses the difficulty of articulating a Catholic and Mercy identity in ways that provide guidance “with regard to the boundaries between academic freedom and commitment to a Catholic mission.” (68).   Drawing on examples of hierarchical censure of scholars at Catholic universities, McCarthy warns against yielding to “an inquisition of orthodoxy” and suggests that Mercy values such as dignity, excellence, and justice – themselves reflective of basic Catholic principles – may help Mercy institutions rebut “the idea that ‘Catholic identity’ is one that breeds absolutism and intellectual subservience.” (72) 

Application:  This very readable article could be used to open or further reality-based faculty/administrator/trustee discussion of the contours of “Catholic” and “Mercy” in the life of RSM-sponsored colleges/universities.  The authors do not propose solutions, but do suggest that fidelity to an institution’s living Mercy heritage may contribute markedly to retaining a Catholic identity faithful, not so much to tests of orthodoxy, as to the time-tested realities of the Catholic intellectual tradition and Catholic social teaching.


Sproles, Karyn, Elizabeth McClintock, and Christopher Meaner. “Setting a Mercy Curriculum in Motion: The First-Year Learning Community as Campus-wide Collaboration.” Journal of Catholic Higher Education 33, no. 1 (Winter 2014): 33–45.

In this article, one Mercy institution (Carlow University) shares its experience of addressing retention issues by revising its program for first year students with an emphasis on mission.  “By building the mission into the curriculum,” the authors conclude, “we have not just taught it, we have enacted it.” (45)   Mission aspects of the integrated curricular and co-curricular first year program are identified as core Mercy values – personal dignity, academic excellence, holistic education, compassion and justice.  A wide variety of strategies introduces students to the institution’s Mercy heritage as an on-going reality and engage them in actions and reflections based on that heritage.  Assessments have shown not only increased retention rates and strengthened connections with the University, but also have identified areas for further development in pursuit of a collaboratively created “education for the whole person: body, mind, and spirit.” (45)

Application:  Because it is reality-based and frank in its presentation, this article could be a source of encouragement and creative ideas for those addressing retention issues or revising first-year programs.  In particular, it offers practical insights – what worked, what didn’t – about ways of integrating the Catholic and Mercy character of an institution’s educational mission into such efforts.

Stevens, Maryanne, R.S.M. “Mercy Higher Education: Culture and Characteristics” (2004).

Asking how trustees, administrators, and educators at Mercy-sponsored colleges and universities will know if their institution is faithful to its Catholic and Mercy identity, this document identifies four interdependent hallmarks of a Mercy education:

     1.     “regard for the dignity of the person;

     2.     “academic excellence and life long learning;

     3.     “education of the whole person: body, mind, and spirit; and

     4.     “through action and education, promotion of compassion and justice towards those with less, especially women and children.” (1)

The paper briefly discusses each of these characteristics in the context of the history and mission of the Sisters of Mercy.  It then names three assumptions about the future of Mercy institutions’ Catholic and Mercy identity, outlines characteristics that would “permit an institution to claim the name ‘Catholic’ and ‘Mercy,’” (7) and provides two mission assessment tools.  Though structured differently, both assessment tools  – a matrix model and a reflective question model – move systematically through the four hallmarks named above.

Application:  As its description as a “discussion paper” suggests, this article could serve institutions, or units within them, that are interested in understanding, assessing, and strengthening the Catholic and Mercy nature of their identity.   A launching rather than a final word, the assessment tools “can and should be modified” (11) to reflect a particular college’s or university’s specific mission and core value, as well as the evolving priorities or emphases of the Catholic Church and the Sisters of Mercy.  Mercy-sponsored institutions going through accreditation processes, including CMHE mission assessments, may find in this article some helpful material for the mission-focused portions of such processes.


Sullivan, Mary C., R.S.M. “[Untitled]: The Charism of Mercy as Yeast in the Life of a Mercy College or University.” Pittsburgh, PA, August 18, 2010.

This presentation introduces the metaphor of yeast to discuss the Mercy charism and its potential impact on a Mercy-sponsored college or university.  Charism, the author maintains, “is not a static inheritance, locked safely in the university archives, and…put ceremoniously on guarded display from time to time.” (9)  Rather, charism is “the vital, dynamic energy and purpose long embedded in the history of [a] place and in all the people who freely work and study [there].” (9)  The author then explores how that “energy,” like yeast, is shaped by and shapes those who people a Mercy institution.  She also raises an aspect of the Mercy charism not frequently addressed – “cheerfulness, and even playfulness,” a quality of encouragement flowing from “gratitude of heart.”  (11-12) Kneaded into the flour of an educational institution’s daily life, the “yeast” of attention to Catherine McAuley’s priorities, the spiritual and corporal works of mercy and the Sisters of Mercy Critical Concerns will “raise” the distinctiveness of any college or university which claims the name Mercy.

Application:  Seemingly addressed originally to faculty, this presentation about the Mercy charism is nonetheless equally relevant for administrators and staff members of a Mercy educational institution.  Clear and practical, encouraging and challenging, the author urges both individuals and institutions to “do something to address the wider implications of a commitment to the mission of Mercy through ‘instructing the ignorant.’” (6, emphasis in the original)


Sullivan, Mary C., R.S.M. “[Untitled]: Mercifulness as the 'Value Added' at a Mercy College or University.” Chicago, IL, December 01, 2011.

This presentation posits that Catherine McAuley’s importance to “the role of Mercy higher education today” is “the world’s past and present need for mercifulness.” (2, emphasis in the original)  Underlying Catherine’s understanding of mercifulness were her beliefs in God’s mercy revealed in Jesus Christ and in his invitation to live merciful lives that evince solidarity with others near and far.  In that context, the author describes Mercy higher education as “a field in which good seed can and must be sown,” seed that implants “a desire to…know and live by what is importantly true” and that grows into “capacities and skills for personal, lifelong studiousness.” (6, emphasis in the original) At Mercy institutions, this article argues, what is “importantly true” and deserving of “studious pursuit” reaches beyond careerism to a concern for “each other’s goodness and basic human dignity” (8) and “a humble willingness to alter one’s views, if necessary.”  (6)  Such seeds take a lifetime of personal responsibility to mature, but the planting and early nurturing are worthy of an education rooted in the Mercy tradition. 

Application:  Anyone wondering about the “value added” that an institution’s Mercy heritage might bring to a collegiate education will find food for thought in this article.   In addition to describing Catherine McAuley’s understanding of mercy and connecting it to higher education, the article teases out her understanding’s potential impact on both civic and faith communities.  Those reflections suggest some interesting implications for institutional ethos as well as possible connections to coursework in various academic disciplines.


Sullivan, Mary C., R.S.M. “Catherine McAuley and the Characteristics of Mercy Higher Education.” The MAST Journal 16, no. 2 (2006): 18–26.

This article probes in “concrete language what Catherine McAuley would now mean by the abstract words ‘Mercy mission and values,’ ‘Mercy heritage,’ ‘the tradition of the Sisters of Mercy,’ and ‘the prevailing values of the Mercy charism.’” (18)  A pre-eminent Catherine McAuley scholar, Sullivan brings Catherine’s own written words into a 21st century context to outline and discuss six characteristics that she regards as essential for a Mercy college or university that intends to embody and convey “Catherine’s enduring educational values.” (18)  The author challenges – by expansion and addition – four “hallmarks of Mercy higher education” (24) previously offered by CMHE.  She concludes with a characteristic she deems most demanding, namely the need to teach “by modeling, personally and corporately, all the values [a Mercy college or university] seeks to promote through its educational and other endeavors.” (26)

Application:  Administrators, trustees, faculty and staff members, students – all interested in the Mercy heritage of their institution will find much meat for conversation, even debate, in this article.  Well documented and argued, it both affirms and challenges on such aspects of Mercy education as the dignity of persons, the centrality of “Christian learning and spiritual development,” (18) an emphasis on practicing and teaching mercifulness, and particular regard for those who are poor, especially women and children. 

NOTE:  Until The MAST Journal is available on-line, individual copies of an article can be requested from the Mercy Heritage Center.  Contact the archivist Grant Gerlich at


Sunderman, Marilyn, R.S.M. “Dream Shaping/Dream Sharing: The Educational Vision of Catherine McAuley.” The MAST Journal 6, no. 2 (1996): 52–56.

This article provides a brief, readable overview of the development of Catherine McAuley’s “vision of education, and then describes educational principles and values delineated in her writings.” (52)  It probes Catherine’s spirituality as the source of “qualities of the Christian educator,…discusses the social justice dimensions of her educational vision, [and] concludes with…some challenges [that Catherine’s] vision poses for the future of Christian education.”  (52)  A brief biography of Catherine McAuley introduces the article’s focus on educational vision and values.  The author concludes with an exhortation to contemporary Mercy educators, urging them to extend Catherine’s “spirituality and timeless pedagogical principles” by exploring “innovative ways to meet learning needs.”  (56)

Application:  For those unfamiliar with Catherine McAuley’s life or commitment to education as a work of mercy directed to “the betterment of both individuals and society,” (52) this article provides an accessible introduction.  While its assertions about Catherine’s educational vision are not always illustrated by examples, the article’s presentation of key principles might open interesting conversations among contemporary Mercy educators.

NOTE:  Until The MAST Journal is available on-line, individual copies of an article can be requested from the Mercy Heritage Center.  Contact the archivist Grant Gerlich at

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