A Note from Mercy Leadership
Our Lady of Mercy is a school for young women, but learning doesn’t stop when you walk out our doors, and this past week has been a learning experience for all of us. After hearing from many passionate alumnae, we’ve come to realize that our initial response to the murder of George Floyd and the racism that plagues our country was inadequate. In an effort to try to be responsive to these alumnae, we decided to reply to them personally but did not share that message with our entire community. Not sharing the message was a mistake and we apologize. Mercy’s commitment to taking action to end racism, to listen to and elevate Black voices in our community, to identify our contributions so far, and to admit to the work we still need to do, is something all of us within the Circle of Mercy need to know. We would like to share the message that President Baker and Principal Kilbridge sent to those alumnae who contacted us. Please do not let the lateness of this message diminish its meaning, or cause you to doubt Mercy’s commitment to do what is right and to work as hard as we can to make sure that everyone feels respected, safe, and valued in our community. Although we may stumble and have a lot more to learn, never forget that Mercy is an ally in this universal fight. We remain committed to doing everything we can, including but not limited to those steps mentioned below, to address racism in our own community.
This is the message that was sent to those alumnae mentioned above:
Thank you for reaching out to us and sharing your thoughts and concerns regarding race and race-relations at Our Lady of Mercy School for Young Women. We so appreciate and respect the outpouring of emails and phone calls from alumnae like you these past two days. Both of us are inspired by the passion that you and others have expressed! We thought it would be best to share with each of you a common response.
Since we sent our email and posted to social media on Monday evening, we have both learned there is much more work we need to do to help end racism and work toward nonviolence – all of us need to be agents of change. It is at this time we recall the words of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.: “The ultimate measure of a man [woman] is not where he [she] stands in moments of comfort and convenience, but where he [she] stands at times of challenge and controversy.” Through these challenging days, we have learned we can do better and are committed to do so for the future of our beloved OLM.
One of the Critical Concerns of the Sisters of Mercy is ending racism. We are sickened by the murder of George Floyd and the countless men and women who have died as a result of the systematic racism that plagues our country. At Mercy, our mission to help end racism is woven throughout our entire curriculum and is instrumental in our decision-making. We may be new leaders at Mercy, but we want you to know we have spent much time and great energy focusing on the need for greater attention to enhancing diversity and relationship-building within our school. In fall 2019, we proudly launched the Cheryl Speranza Leadership Institute (www.mercyhs.com/SperanzaInstitute) and developed a 9th grade leadership course with a focus on women leaders and leaders of color. In addition, we have introduced restorative practices training to our faculty and staff, conducted workshops on microaggressions, and soon we will be conducting unconscious bias training. We’ve also modified our staffing recruitment strategy to attract minority faculty and staff. This is only the start; we know we still have a long way to go.
This past fall, one of our proudest new developments was the introduction of our African American History course, which has been the focus of most of the communications we have received since yesterday. Rest assured, this course will be offered again for the 2020-2021 academic school year. We are both so grateful for your expression of support for this valuable course. While it is a wonderful and long overdue addition to our offerings, this course does not stand alone as the sole means by which race is addressed in our curriculum. Our departments have been actively rewriting curriculum for the last few years to better incorporate discussions of race, and our teachers have been receiving training in how to conduct such discussions sensitively. Again, we know there is much more to accomplish.
Despite our work, we recognize we can do more, and with your help, we will… starting with listening better. We will be conducting remote listening sessions with our current students to hear their concerns and ideas for change and action. In addition, within the next few weeks, we will host an alumnae listening session. We will also be establishing a Diversity and Inclusion Committee to look at strategic initiatives we can take to accelerate our school’s need to change. These are only some initial action items; there will be more, and we look to you for additional suggestions. Every actionable step we take is critical if Mercy is going to be a leader in our shared quest to help end racism. As our foundress Catherine McAuley said, “We can never say, it is enough.” In the spirit of Mother McAuley, let us pray – and act – to end racism and promote peace.
Pam Fennell Baker ‘74 P’12, President
Marty Kilbridge, Principal