Mercyhurst University this week marked the anniversary of its founding Sisters of Mercy by installing six historic Irish and Mercy crosses in the classrooms of Old Main – the original facility those Sisters built in 1926.
More than 11,000 Sisters of Mercy and their friends and associates around the world celebrated Mercy Day on Sept. 24. It was on Sept. 24 in 1827 that Catherine McAuley opened the first House of Mercy on Baggot Street in Dublin, Ireland, and dedicated it to Our Lady of Mercy.
Sister Lisa Mary McCartney, RSM, Ph.D., vice president for mission integration, said Mercyhurst’s All-University Mission Committee has planned this art and image project to visibly represent the Catholic and Mercy heritage of the founding Sisters. The unique crosses were donated (and several were created) by members of the Mercyhurst community. Accompanying plaques describe the significance of each cross and recognize its donor. Chaplain Fr. James Piszker blessed the crosses on the eve of Mercy Day. The various forms of the crosses on display include:
- The Mercy Cross. Thomas Hubert, professor of art and chair of the Mercyhurst Art Department, crafted a pair of Mercy Crosses in clay and donated them in memory of his parents, Frank and Jean Hubert. Artist Maria Josephine D’Angelo, RSM, designed the modern cross for the Sisters of Mercy in 1972 when they ceased wearing habits. Since 1991, the cross has been stylized as the logo of the Sisters of Mercy of the Americas.
- The Penal Cross. This short-armed cross is one of the few pieces of peasant art that remain from penal times when religion was suppressed in Ireland. The cross was embellished with symbols of the Passion of Christ. Hand-carved in 1969 in the Fergus O’Farrell Workshops of Dublin, Ireland, the cross belonged to the late Sister Maria O’Connor, RSM, Class of 1950, who taught theology at Mercyhurst from 1958 to 1976.
- Saint Bridgid’s Cross. The first equilateral, rush-woven cross is attributed to Saint Bridgid in 6th century Ireland. It’s believed to protect the home and animals from evil and want, and some Irish people still make the crosses on Feb. 1, Saint Bridgid’s feast day and Ireland’s first day of spring. The cross was handcrafted in Longlord, Ireland, and donated by Sister Patricia Whalen, RSM, Class of 1963, now the university registrar.
- The Celtic Cross. The ringed, high cross is the chief stone house of early carved ornaments in Ireland dating back to the 5th century. This particular cross is made of turf cut from an Irish bogland, recreated by Brian McGirr in Ireland and purchased there in 2012 by the donor, Heidi Hosey, Ph.D., professor of English and director of international education.
- The Mercy Rosary Cross. Mercyhurst carpenter Daniel Barricklow created the rosary cross, which is double the size of the cross on the five-decade side rosary worn with the traditional habit of the Sisters of Mercy from 1900 until they adopted modified dress in 1967. The original rosary cross was made of ebony wood inlaid with an ivory cross.
The Mission Committee is also installing student-created posters that illustrate Mercyhurst’s core values in the classrooms of the Audrey Hirt Academic Center.
PHOTO: Father James Piszker, Sister Lisa Mary McCartney