Ash Wednesday, the beginning of the Catholic liturgical season of Lent, is a week away. Many of the students here will be seen with an ashen cross marked on their forehead, symbolizing the beginning of this season of repentance and sacrifice.
However, Mercyhurst will also be celebrating Mercy Month, a month of activities designed to call to mind a current issue of social justice. This Mercy Month’s theme is immigration.
“The theme came out of this year’s core value, which is compassionately hospitable,” said Colin Hurley, director of Service Learning. “When we think about the roots of this country and how it began, there’s a constant misunderstanding about who are these people. And if you look at the city of Erie, there’s a rising immigrant-centered population. While the issue can be divisive, I think there is some civility we need to address and Mercy Month is something that brings together a lot of opportunities.”
One opportunity is examining how the needs of immigrant communities can differ from city to city. Bethany Brun, AmeriCorps VISTA for Mercyhurst, is leading a group of students through Chicago, Cleveland, and Detroit for Spring Break as part of a trip called “Just Mercy.”
“Some of these cities [in the Rust Belt], particularly Chicago and Cleveland, are definitely immigrant cities. And within each city, there’s a specific population we’ve been called to be a part of,” she said.
There are different types of service in which students will be engaging over the trip.
“We’re kind of doing service that goes along with the city,” Brun said. “When the factory work left [the Rust Belt], we’ve seen each of the cities severely hurt by leaving factory work. And how each city dealt with is what we’re exploring.”
Brun gave the example of Cleveland’s turn to Education and Healthcare (“Eds and Meds.”)
“And the site where we’re serving is called MedWish. And they live in the shadow of the healthcare system, collecting medical supplies for overseas communities,” she said.
Students will be sorting medical supplies and preparing them to ship overseas. Another project in Detroit will take place at the On the Rise Bakery, where recently-released prisoners get a second chance, learning work skills in a bakery. The project for Chicago is still in the works.
However, for those students who can’t go on a spring break trip or get directly involved during Mercy Month, Colin Hurley said they can still get involved.
“…Whether they are here or on trips, I think they can be involved. And I know students in clubs and organizations are doing things, but if they could be more open about sharing that, I think that spreads an image. And creates a culture, that I think sometimes is lacking, because we have our silos and groups.”
Overall, the students who are involved should share what they’re doing, in order to help Mercyhurst spread a culture of service to others.
Other opportunities which fall during the season of Lent, but do not necessarily have any direct links with the liturgical season or Mercy Month, come through Habitat for Humanity.
They will be having an event called “Rent-A-Habitater”, a fundraiser for the group.
The idea of it is to allow professors or Mercyhurst employees to have students help out with projects around their homes. Kathryn Adams, head of the campus chapter of Habitat gave a statement about the fundraiser: “Well this is the second time we are holding this fundraiser for our club. Students will be assigned to work in 2 hour shifts in pairs…[the event] is a great way to meet people, network with professors, and help us as a campus chapter.”
The fundraiser will be April 12-13, and if any are interested, please contact Kathryn Adams (firstname.lastname@example.org).