Detroit Mercy is Jesuit & Mercy

In mid-2019, Assistant to the President for Mission Integration Catherine Punsalan-Manlimos was appointed to succeed John Staudenmaier, S.J., former assistant to the president for Mission and Identity.

Punsalan-Manlimos' new Office of Mission Integration (OMI) will continue to reinforce the importance of Detroit Mercy's Catholic, Mercy and Jesuit identity with students, faculty, staff and alumni.

Detroit Mercy embodies the Mercy and Jesuit traditions

The Sisters of Mercy 1827

Catherine McAuley, founder of the Sisters of Mercy in 1827, articulated a core insight that has inspired the works of the Community ever since: “No work of charity can be more productive of good to society or more conducive to the happiness of the poor than the careful instruction of women.” That societies fail when women are perceived to be lesser citizens is an insight still in manifestly short supply around the world. Educating women is more than a domestic kindness. To Catherine McAuley, the good of society as a whole requires it.  

Catherine also recognized that the Dublin that she had learned to live in as a well-off citizen was not the whole of Dublin. When, in 1827, she invested her notable inheritance to purchase land in the prosperous heart of Dublin, she built what is still known as "the House of Mercy." The house was designed as living places for desperately poor women and their children. By the location of the House of Mercy, Catherine demonstrated her own radical new understanding that she must learn to live in the terrible places of Ireland's Industrial Revolution, and not only in parts of the city with clean drinking water, fresh meat and vegetables and good health care. From that day until now, her choice of the place for the House of Mercy poses the same question for every Sister of Mercy location: which parts of our world do we fear and tend to avoid?

Her commitment to poor women opened her and her sisters ever since to an awareness that God does not reside only in the well tended parts of society.

The Jesuits 1540

Ignatius Loyola founded the Society of Jesus in 1540 out of a mystical conviction that loving Jesus means following Jesus to anywhere in the world. In the words of Ieronomo Nadal, S.J., Ignatius’ personal representative: one of  the primary houses of  Jesuits is “the journey” by which “the whole world becomes our house.” Jesuits see their love of Jesus as a love of the wide world in all its complexity and beauty and violence.

The call of Ignatius in the 16th century to follow Jesus into the whole world reverberates throughout the world of the 21st century, and sounds remarkably close to the challenge of Catherine McAuley to her Sisters in 19th century Ireland and today.

How did they get to Detroit?

The Mercy Sisters and the Jesuits came to Detroit in the late 19th and early 20th centuries for much the same reasons. They understood their work — schools and hospitals, parishes and retreat houses — as part of the Church’s commitment to millions of immigrant Catholics who came to America looking for jobs in the industrial cities. Until after World War II, Catholics in America existed mostly in ethnic neighborhoods as marginal members of U.S. society. They worked in the unforgiving and dangerous bottom of the industrial world of work. They needed health care and their tightly knit communities needed professionals — doctors, dentists, lawyers, etc. — who would treat immigrant Catholics with respect. Such were the origins of the University of Detroit in 1877 and Mercy College in 1941. These schools consolidated in 1990 to become University of Detroit Mercy.