McAuley’s mission lives on in sisters’ work

BY Claire Hardy



Because the Jesuits live on campus, many students know more about them than they do the Sisters of Mercy, the University of Detroit Mercy’s other co-sponsor.

Catherine McAuley, the founder of the Sisters of Mercy, lived in Ireland in the late 1700s.

McAuley believed in nurturing women and children, as well as the poor, sick and people in need.

This is why the Sisters of Mercy’s charism, which is like the “theme” or “gift” of their work, is based on hospitality (mostly nursing and education).

Sr. Sarah Ruth Foster, RSM, a tutor and mentor in the Student Success Center, recalled how McAuley got started.

“She bought a property and made a home to take in poor women and children,” Foster said.

Sr. Katherine Hill, RSM, a minister with the university, said McAuley purposely put the home on the edge of rich and poor communities to encourage the poor and to show the rich how to help people who are not like them.

Soon after, McAuley and two other women founded the Sisters of Mercy, which spread rapidly throughout Ireland, England and eventually over to America.

Although the UDM sisters didn’t follow McAuley’s initial actions, they do carry out the Mercy mission in their own ways.

Hill helps young women discern which sisterhood, if any, is right for them.

She helps educate young girls about the different chapters of sisters, as well as guide them to the sisterhood that best fits them and their desires for helping people.

Foster taught for 20 years before working at the university.

“(Now) I work with students that are having difficulties turning grades around and having success in school,” Foster said. “Education has been a very important service of ours.”

Another way these sisters carry out their vocation is by sharing what keeps them motivated to stay with the sisterhood. 

“I’ve always been perplexed by the God Quest,” said Hill. “I get to be with a community that encourages me.”

Foster describes the sisters as a group of people who are all about the same thing, and have a powerful voice.

Foster’s motivation is the “wonderful work that as a group we can accomplish.”

But it’s not only the sisters who are carrying out McAuley’s good work.

McAuley stood for “empowering the powerless” and UDM students are doing just that by helping the community around them.

Many classes offered have service-learning requirements, where students go into the surrounding communities and serve the people around them.

Sarah Casnovsky, a senior English major, knows all about helping people.

What helps motivate her is all the good she can do in the community, and how much on an impact it can have on someone.

As an administrative coordinator for Campus Kitchen, Casnovsky helps make sure everything is in order to serve the people in need.

She is also an active member of Alpha Phi Omega, a service fraternity on campus.

“I am very interested in helping people and doing what I can to make the world better,” Casnovsky said.