Jean Messaros, RSM, retired vice president for Mission Integration at Misericordia University, received the Catherine McAuley Medal during the University’s Opening Convocation ceremony on August 26, 2021. The McAuley Medal is awarded by the Board of Trustees and is Misericordia’s highest honor. It recognizes significant service to others in the spirit of Catherine McAuley, the founder of the Sisters of Mercy. The award also notes a lifetime commitment to the ideals and goals of the University and the values to which it aspires.
A member of the Religious Sisters of Mercy for 55 years, the Branchdale, Pennsylvania native began her service to Misericordia as assistant to the dean of students in 1975. After serving in a leadership role for the Dallas Mercy Community, she returned to Misericordia in 1990 as assistant dean of students and subsequently was appointed dean of students. Promoted to vice president of student affairs in 2006, she was responsible for overseeing all co-curricular student services, including student activities, orientation, athletics, judicial affairs, Campus Ministry, residence life, counseling services, and career services.
In 2013, Sister Jean assumed the role of vice president for mission integration, responsible for mission and mercy integration throughout the university community. She served in this role until her retirement and worked closely with faculty, staff, and students to strengthen the university’s commitment to and understanding of the institution’s Catholic and Mercy traditions. Misericordia was founded by the Religious Sisters of Mercy in 1924 and is one of 17 colleges and universities that comprise the Conference for Mercy Higher Education (CMHE).
In 2000, Sister Jean established the Women with Children Program, one of only eight programs of its kind in the country that provides academically qualified, single mothers with the opportunity to earn their bachelor’s degree while living on the Misericordia campus with their children. The program was renamed the Ruth Matthews Bourger Women with Children Program in 2011 and expanded to two homes through the support of the late Pauly Friedman and her family. A third home was added in 2016 with support from the Robert Y. Moffat Family Charitable Trust of Lackawanna County. The Friedman family has announced their support of a fourth home on campus.
The Bourger program has earned the accolades of Pennsylvania Governor Tom Wolf, who visited campus in January 2019 to announce he was modeling a new statewide “Parents Pathways” initiative after the Bourger Women with Children program, to use education to end the cycle of poverty in the commonwealth.
A resident of Dallas Borough, Sister Jean celebrated her 50th Jubilee as a Sister of Mercy in 2016. At that time friends and family established an endowment for the Sr. Jean Messaros ’73 Scholarship for Women with Children, which provides assistance to a student entering the program each year. In January, she announced her retirement from the university, effective June 30, 2020. It is estimated that she directly impacted the lives of more than 12,000 students throughout her career.
Sister Jean holds a bachelor’s degree in education from Misericordia University and a master’s degree in counseling from Shippensburg University. She served as a member of the Board of Trustees at Mount Aloysius College, Cresson, Pa., and the Board of Trustees at Gwynedd Mercy College, Gwynedd, Pa. She was a member of the American College Personnel Association, the National Association of Student Personnel Administrators, and the American Association of University Women.
Sister Jean received the Frances Warde Medal of the CMHE and the Reverend Jule Ayers Community Service Award of the Wilkes-Barre Kiwanis Club for her work to establish the Women with Children Program. She is also the recipient of the 2009 Sister of Mercy Award, presented by the Misericordia University Alumni Association. The award is given, from time to time, to a Sister of Mercy who has rendered exceptional service to the university and/or has demonstrated and sustained professional achievements.
Sister Jean was recently named a finalist in the WBRE-TV and Nexstar Broadcasting contest, “NEPA’s Most Remarkable Women,” one of four women honored for outstanding leadership and dedication to their communities.