The work of the Institute for Mercy & Catholic Studies includes an innovative effort to enhance both the mission and Catholic identity of Mercyhurst University.

To this end, it will highlight the breadth and depth of the Catholic intellectual tradition, as well as the five critical concerns of the Sisters of Mercy of the Americas:

  • Caring for the poor, especially women and children
  • Caring for immigrants
  • Caring for the earth/creation
  • Promoting nonviolence
  • Combating racism

The Center will also collaborate with the Diocese of Erie to provide educational opportunities that can vitalize faith/reason through public scholarship and hospitable dialogue.


The William C. Sennett Institute for Mercy and Catholic Studies has sponsored a variety of public events and lectures, including:

“Be Fearless for Me: Courage and the Gospel of the Marginalized"
Fr. Gregory Boyle, SJ
Sept. 23, 2021

"Wounded Grace and the Vulnerable Among Us"
Speaker: Cecilia Gonzalez-Andrieu, Ph.D.
Sept. 25, 2019

"The World Will Be Saved By Beauty"
Speaker: Kate Hennessy
Oct. 9, 2018

"Spirituality and Gender"
Speaker: Dr. Gregory Baker
Oct. 4, 2017

“Professing Faith in a Post-9/11 World” 
Speaker: Richard Rodriguez
Sept. 29, 2016

Religious Life: Crossroads or Crisis?
Panelists: Daniel P. Horan, OFM; Sister Anne Curtis, RSM; Brother Anthony Weber, OCSO; Sister Charlotte Zalot, OSB
Sept. 24, 2015

Is Economic Solidarity Bad Economics?
Reflections on Pope Francis and Catholic Social Thought
Speaker: Christine Firer Hinze, Ph.D.
Oct. 1, 2014

Opening of the Helen Boyle Memorial Archive in honor of Joan D. Chittister, OSB
Speaker: Tom Roberts, author of the biography Joan Chittister: Her Journey from Certainty to Faith
April 30, 2014

Aquinas and Natural Law: Resources for Women’s Equality
Speaker: Dr. Lisa Sowle Cahill

Faith and the Cosmos: Exploration into God, Evolution and the Mystery of the Universe
Speaker: Dr. Ilia Delio

The Future Church 
Speaker: John Allen, National Catholic Reporter

The Catholic Intellectual Tradition 
Speaker: Dr. Terrence Tilley, Fordham University

Institute History

The Institute for Mercy and Catholic Studies owes its birth to the generosity of two Erie Catholics and college trustees: William C. Sennett and the late Charles A. Dailey, Jr.

Dr. Mary Hembrow Snyder, Professor of Religious Studies, was the first person to serve as Director of the Institute of Mercy & Catholic Studies. A member of the faculty of Mercyhurst University from 1986 to 2020, Dr. Snyder has a doctorate in theology from St. Michael's College, University of Toronto, and has authored/edited four books, the most recent being Joan Chittister: Essential Writings, edited with Mary Lou Kownacki and published by Orbis Books in July 2014.

Joan Chittister Archive

Mercyhurst partnered with Penn State University and the Erie Benedictine Community to preserve the literary archives of Sister Joan, a 1962 Mercyhurst graduate. While the archive will be housed on Penn State’s main campus, both Mercyhurst and Mount St. Benedict will maintain permanent archive rooms with access to her books, articles and other memorabilia. In addition, Mercyhurst will host the annual lecture series.

Visit the Sister Joan Chittister Archive


Graduate Course Catalog​​​​​​​

Contact Us

Elizabeth Pyne, Ph.D.
Director, Institute of Mercy & Catholic Studies
Office: Preston 207
Phone: 814-824-2298
Email: epyne@mercyhurst.edu