Mercyhurst Magazine Spring 2014

PATRICIA WHALEN, RSM Mercyhurst Registrar Sister Patricia Whalen, RSM , works in a frst-foor ofce in Old Main – on the same corridor she walked as a high school student back in the ‘50s, at what was then called Mercyhurst Seminary. She stayed on to earn her degree in elementary education at Mercyhurst College. And, except for a few years teaching in diocesan schools and a year at Pitt to earn her master’s degree in reading, she’s been here ever since. Sister Pat had her frst teaching experience while she was still in college. With just a year of classwork under her belt, she was asked to teach the sixth grade at neighboring St. Luke School. She returned to full-time studies after that year, but working so closely with the Sisters of Mercy had planted a seed. “I was struck by their intelligence, their warmth and welcoming, their dedication to education, and it gradually emerged in me that I’d like to join this group of women and serve.” By her senior year, she was a postulant with the Erie Community. She taught at St. George School in Erie and St. Patrick School in Franklin, and spent a semester as principal at St. Patrick before beginning her graduate work. She joined the faculty in 1970, developing and teaching courses in elementary curriculum and methods and coordinating the Pre-Teaching Internship Program from its inception through Spring 1996. She also oversaw Mercyhurst’s Cadet Teaching Program. The cadet teachers spent their junior and senior years teaching in diocesan schools, and she made sure they were ready, creating a two-year sequence that gradually increased their responsibility for students. She also put a lot of miles on her car to observe cadets in schools all over the Erie Diocese. In 1987, Sister Pat gave up her regular teaching load when she was elected to the leadership team for the Erie Community, but she continued to supervise the cadets and their pre-teaching experiences. When her term ended in 1996, she came back to the college as assistant academic dean. She took over the registrar’s job three years later, running the ofce during a critical period when Mercyhurst was steadily growing and adapting to new technology. She says her dedicated staf and their close partnership with Information Technology staf have been the keys to her success there. Education hasn’t been Sister Pat’s only vocation. She’s also been part of Mercy ministries in Erie’s inner city, like Hope House, a residence for women and their children that evolved into the Mercy Center for Women. Today she lives at the House of Prayer, a center for spirituality run by Sr. Rita Panciera, RSM. For more than 30 years, she’s also regularly visited inmates at the Erie County Prison. “Every ministry I’ve had has prepared me for the next one,” she says.

She then headed to the University of Notre Dame to pursue a master’s degree. Encouraged to set her sights higher, she stayed on for fve years, working as a teaching assistant while she earned her doctorate. She joined the faculty at Mercyhurst in 1982, when the English department had only three full-time teachers and a handful of majors. She chaired the English department and the humanities during some of those years. There were 11 full-time English faculty and about 70 majors and minors by the time she left in 2004 to become vice president of the Erie Regional Community of the Sisters of Mercy. In a sad milestone, she was the last Sister of Mercy to teach full time at Mercyhurst.

Over the next four years, she and President Sister Bernadette Bell prepared the Erie community to

consolidate with Mercy communities in Bufalo, Pittsburgh, Rochester and the Philippines. The move was prompted by the dwindling numbers of women religious – an issue that Sister Lisa Mary is still confronting today as Mercyhurst’s frst vice president for mission integration. She took the post at Dr. Tom Gamble’s invitation in 2008 and has been working to ensure that the legacy of the founding Sisters of Mercy continues to fourish on The Hill, for she and Sister Pat Whalen are the only Sisters working full time at the school today. One of her goals is to ensure Mercyhurst “hires for mission,” interviewing new faculty and administrators to discover whether they’re ready to participate in the Mercy mission. “The question isn’t just about whether they’re Catholic,” Sister Lisa Mary notes. “Today, it’s more about whether they can appreciate, respect, understand and participate in our Mercy and Catholic mission.” She cautions that her position – though important – is only a step toward a solution. Preserving the mission isn’t a job for just one person. Instead, she hopes a larger “mission community” will evolve on campus, with many people sharing the responsibility (see next page) .


Made with FlippingBook - professional solution for displaying marketing and sales documents online