Misericordia’s Winter Commencement Keynote Speaker Tells Graduates to Find “Who” They Are
Mary Jo McGinley, R.S.M., a Sister of Mercy and CEO/Executive Director of Global Health Ministry, encouraged graduates to search within themselves to find, “Who are you today? Who will you be tomorrow?” during her address at the 11th Misericordia University winter commencement held Sunday, December 18th at the Anderson Sports and Health Center on campus.
During the program, the University presented Sister Mary Jo with an honorary Doctor of Humane Letters degree, and conferred degrees on 326 students hailing from 15 states, including Connecticut, Delaware, Florida, Indiana, Kansas, Massachusetts, Maryland, Michigan, New Jersey, New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, Texas, and Virginia.
Sister Mary Jo’s message advised the graduates to look deep within themselves to assess who they truly are. “Only you can answer that question. I challenge you to ask yourself who you are now at this critical point in your life and again each time you come to a decision point or crossroad in your future.”
Sister Mary Jo has been the CEO/Executive Director of Global Health Ministry (GHM) since January 2004. GHM is a nonprofit member of the Trinity Health system, one of the nation's largest not-for-profit Catholic healthcare systems. GHM serves in partnership with in-country leaders in Latin America and the Caribbean, assisting them in building healthier communities. To achieve its goals, GHM recruits and prepares US volunteers to serve on short-term medical and surgical missions, inviting participants to be personally transformed and embrace their role as global citizens. In addition, GHM oversees the provision of all outpatient services for the citizens of the Marshall Islands in the South Pacific.
Prior to her time with GHM, she served as a health care administrator for many years, and for 19 years in the education ministry of the Sisters of Mercy, including as a junior high teacher, adjunct professor at Gwynedd Mercy College, elementary school principal, and Sisters of Mercy Education Supervisor with administrative oversight of 45 elementary schools along the East Coast.
Sister Mary Jo shared her moments of important self-reflection with the graduates. “I can identify a few pivotal moments in my life, and one of the most important was in 1997 on my first visit to Haiti, the poorest and most distressed country in our hemisphere. I was in Haiti as part of a Sister of Mercy group invited to listen and learn about the struggles of Haitian women and bring their stories to our communities back home. On our last night there, after everyone else had gone to bed, I stood on a balcony overlooking Port-au-Prince and talked with God in a way I had never done before. I distinctly remember saying: ‘God, what am I supposed to do with this experience?’ I knew this trip was not just something to write about...it would change WHO I am. It was the beginning of the rest of my life. And now, 25 years later and over 100 international trips with US medical and surgical volunteers, there are times I still find myself asking who I am.”
The ceremony also featured an opening invocation from Trustee Carol Rittner ‘67, R.S.M., Ph.D.; remarks from Daniel J. Myers, Ph.D., president; Deborah Smith-Mileski, Ed.D., board chair; and the traditional performance of the Sabbath Prayer by Monsignor John Bendik, trustee, as the ceremony’s closing benediction.
Student speaker Ashlie Madison Kohr, from Mount Wolf, Pa., earned the honor of addressing her fellow graduates. She outlined the shared journey most took during their time at Misericordia, "We can all think back to the first time we came here freshman year; it was like coming into an unknown world. We were no longer living in our childhood homes with familiar faces around us. However, because of the friendly people that fill this university, it did not take long for Misericordia to be known as our second home. Friends were made instantly, professors were there with open arms, and memories started to form.”
Kohr continued, “Even with this in mind, we have all had a rollercoaster of a ride making our way to this point, but we have done it together. It hasn’t all been sunshine and rainbows, especially with COVID putting a damper on our spring semester of freshman year and the years after. However, it taught us all how to adapt, learn new skills, and come out on top of the pandemic.”
Misericordia University’s core values or charisms, Mercy, Service, Justice, and Hospitality, will perpetuate within this group, according to Kohr. “These charisms are not only important to embody as an individual or as a university, but they will be carried along with us as we continue to grow and move through our futures. Everything that is Misericordia University embodies these charisms, and we will always and forever have a part of this university in our hearts.”
In her concluding remarks, Kohr said, “The friends we made here at Misericordia are one of a kind and some of the most amazing people we’ll meet in life, always able to put a smile on our faces and make us feel loved. They would build us back up when we were feeling down and would be great at making us laugh and forgetting about what was going on around us.” Kohr graduated summa cum laude with a Bachelor of Science degree in Occupational Science.
The 326 degrees awarded during the 11th winter commencement include undergraduate, graduate, and doctoral degrees spread over three colleges: The College of Arts and Sciences; The College of Business; and the College of Health Sciences and Education.