Mercyhurst Magazine Spring 2022

Traditions through the ages

By Deborah W. Morton

What mid-20th century Mercyhurst alumna doesn’t remember the grandeur of May Day? Who doesn’t wax nostalgic over Father-Daughter Weekend, or the Big-Little Sister Program of the ‘30s, ‘40s, and ‘50s? Many of those early traditions have given way to popular new ones including Hurst Day, Day of Service, and SpringFest. Others, like the Mass of the Holy Spirit, are so deeply embedded in the university’s culture that they seemingly have no expiration date. Each generation of students observes time-honoerd traditions that de f ne the college experience in ways few other circumstances can. Traditions provide a sense of identity and community and engender school spirit. They also can be a ilttle spooky. Plenty of colleges have legendary tales of paranormal activity. Mercyhurst’s hallowed halls are home to so many ghost stories that the university hosts occasional tours to provide glimpses into the world of our very own Haunted Hurst. One of the more popular tales, no doubt lost in translation over many generations of storytelling, goes like this: A beautiful young female student became engaged to the love of her life just before he went off to war. She kept vigil, waiting patiently for his return, until one day she received word that he had died in action. Devastated by the loss, she gave her life to God and joni ed the convent. Some years later there came a knock at her door. It was her beloved. He was alive! While the reunion should have been joyful, it was immensely painful for the young woman who had pledged her life to the Lord. So confused and con f icted, it is said she lapsed into a deep depression. At some point, she placed her engagement ring on a statue in the college chapel and, shortly thereafter, passed away. What happened to the ring? No one can be sure, but legend has it that it mysteriously reappears from time to time in the chapel, and that’s enough to give believers the chills. Many will remember the annual Commencement March on State Street in downtown Erie, which took place from 1990 to 200 7. It was a grand procession of university leaders and faculty in colorful academic regalia and graduating seniors outfi tt ed in heavy black caps and gowns. One year, the weather was threatening, and umbrellas stood at the ready. For some reason, though, they never were distributed, and just as hundreds in the entourage lined up to take thei r f rst steps south on State, the sky opened up. The rain was unrelenting, and the entire graduation ceremony, held inside the historic Warner Theatre, was marked by a most u n c o m f o r t a b l e c a c o p h o n y o f s q u i s h y s h o e s , s o p p i n g r o b e s , a n d d r i p p i n g mortarboards.

Surely, there exist many more memorable moments, and we’d love to hear yours. Meanwhile, here’s a brief acounting of some current Mercyhurst traditions: Legend of the Anchor – The Mercyhurst anchor serves as a source of good luck for the Lakers and a reminder to hold strong in di Today, anyone who touches the anchor is said to be given good luck and strength in whatever storm may lie ahead. Day of Service – For new students, the academic year begins with a bonding exercise during which they board a dozen buses and travel to di f erent sites across Erie County to perform a morning of community service. Homecoming Weekend – This fall event welcomes alumni of all generations back to campus. Always popular is the opportunity to reconnect at the biggest tailgate of the year. Hurst Day – This is the best-kept secret of the year, when students awaken t o f nd that all classes have been canceled. The campus takes on a carnivallike atmosphere with a scavenger hunt, in f atable slides, jumps, obstacle courses, a dunk tank, rock walls, a mechanical bull, music, food, and prizes. Mass of the Holy Spirit – This is perhaps Mercyhurst’s oldest tradition, although it has evolved over time. Originally, the Sisters of Mercy held an opening day Mass to mark the spiritual start of the academic year; however, the actual Mass of the Holy Spirit, a Jesuit tradition, did not begin until 1996. Mercy March for Anti-Racism – Nowin its secondyear,thismarchis part of the university’songoingeff o rts in supportof diversity,equity, inclusion, and justice on its campus. Reunion Weekend – This popular event fetes alumni of all generations in celebration of landmark reunions, a highlight being the 50th anniversary class. SpringFe st – Always the highlight of spring, this campus-wide dance party, complete with a headlining music act, signals the close of the academic year. Senior Class Gift – Since 1989, the senior class has raised funds to leave its legacy to the college in the form of a gift, more recently, an endowed scholarship. Sister Damien Spirit Bell – Located in Trinity Green, the Sister Damien Spirit Bell commemorates Sister Damien Mlechick, a Sister of Mercy and devoted fan of Laker athletics known for boisterously ringing a cowbell at every big game. Now, after every athletic win, the team gathers in Trinity Green to ring the bell and sound out its victory.

f cult times.


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