Carlow students continue a longstanding tradition on Mercy Service Day

PITTSBURGH – It was a sunny day on Carlow’s 92nd anniversary as first-year students stepped out to give their time and service to local community partners in the Pittsburgh region on Sept. 24. Mercy Service Day takes place each fall to help first-year students immerse themselves in Carlow’s long tradition of service and to connect community organizations around southwestern Pennsylvania to the Carlow community.  

The University’s commitment to service began with Catherine McAuley, who founded the Sisters of Mercy in 1831. In 1843, Frances Warde and six other sisters from Carlow, Ireland traveled to Pittsburgh where they founded the first American congregation of the Sisters of Mercy.  

These seven Sisters established and staffed numerous schools, an orphanage, Mercy Hospital (now UPMC Mercy), and Mount Mercy College, which is now Carlow University. 

On the eve of Mercy Service Day, Carlow University President Kathy Humphrey, PhD, made a visit to the Convent of Mercy, where she spent time with several Sisters who in years past were involved on campus as professors, trustees or administrators. The Sisters had the opportunity to share more in-depth details about Carlow’s mercy tradition with President Humphrey. In turn, President Humphrey shared her vision for Carlow as the University’s 11th president. 

“Dr. Humphrey is a dynamic, enthusiastic leader who has wonderful hopes and plans for Carlow University and the energy and force to make things happen,” said Sister of Mercy Susan Welsh, who is a Carlow board member and retired president of Pittsburgh Mercy.  

This year, the Office of Mercy Service wanted to focus on the concerns that speak to the intersection of racial and environmental injustice. Kate O’Brien, director of Mercy Service organized the entire day, reaching out to each community partner and setting up all 12 of Carlow’s student teams. 

“These community partners where Carlow visited reflect some of the real ‘big picture’ needs of our community,” said O’Brien. “Our students served in these locations where a lot of them are connected to food sovereignty and the environment – either directly or indirectly.”  

Students, faculty and staff served the Pittsburgh community in several different ways depending on where they were located. Some helped sort donations, while others picked up trash or restored and tended to gardens in local neighborhoods. 

“Carlow has some of the best students I’ve met who are committed to service,” said Maleea Johnson, director of equity & inclusion, who led a group of students at Black Urban Gardeners in Homewood. 

Junior and Early Childhood and Special Education major, Alyssa Raynovich, served as a student leader with her team at South Hills Interfaith Movement (SHIM). “I love being a part of Mercy Service Day!” she said. “It is a way to build friendships and truly see the value of service. This year, in particular, I learned how much can get done in a short amount of time with so many people helping out. I’m grateful to be a part of a university that has service in its values.” 

Lisa Sharfstein, Carlow’s assistant director for the Center for Academic Achievement, served alongside Raynovich at SHIM as the faculty leader. There, they cared for several overgrown, weedy flowerbeds. 

“I was excited at how wholeheartedly the group engaged, and we were impressed when the executive director of SHIM weeded right alongside of us for the first hour or so,” said Sharfstein. “It was nice to make that connection as we served.” 

Catherine McAuley, founder of the Sisters of Mercy, has been quoted as saying, “The poor need help today, not next week.”  

By contributing acts of generosity throughout Pittsburgh, Carlow’s students, faculty and staff worked to ensure that this quote rings true, honoring the legacy and tradition of Mercy Service Day. 

If you are a student, alumni, faculty or staff member and are interested in getting involved with serving, Carlow has several opportunities. Visit our website to learn more

Thank you to all our 2021 community partners. This year Carlow served at the following locations:

  • Black Urban Gardens 
  • Grounded Strategies 
  • Millvale Library 
  • Gardens of Millvale 
  • Millvale Eco District 
  • Operation Safety Net 
  • South Hills Interfaith Ministry 
  • Sojourner House 
  • Saint Vincent De Paul, Monroeville  
  • Saint Vincent De Paul Recycling Center  
  • Saint Vincent De Paul, Penn Hills 
  • Uptown Partners

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