I was on the road for a couple of weeks promoting the social justice and environmental sustainability work of the Sisters of Mercy, for whom I work.
First stop: Cedar Rapids, Iowa, and Mount Mercy University. I gave presentations to 19 classes in 4 1/2 days. I offered 4 subjects: health care for all (the most popular one for the professors, who had signed up for what they would like presented to their students); the Faithful Budget (a moral look at priorities in the federal budget); Catholics Vote for the Common Good (a moral framework for assessing candidates this election season); and Awakening the Dreamer (a workshop promoting environmental sustainability, spiritual fulfillment and social justice). It was a lot of fun, even though the response from students varied from dull stares in some classes to active engagement.
This was all for Mercy and Mission Week on campus, where the university celebrates its heritage as having been founded by the Sisters of Mercy. So other events included tea and scones (foundress Catherine McAuley was Irish) and people posing with a life-sized cut-out representing her (you can see me having fun in that role here).
Also that week, I was invited by one professor there to present to his wife’s healthcare management class at the University of Iowa, about a half-hour away. It was very intimidating, being at this huge state university and addressing a classroom full of people already working in healthcare settings, but it was good learning for all of us, I think. Afterward, this very fun couple — they’re living in a trailer while their new home is being built — took me out to a fine restaurant that features locally produced meats and veggies and bread with “blended butter” (butter whipped with maple).
The next stop: Cincinnati for the Mercy Secondary Education Conference, an annual gathering of administrators and teachers from high schools sponsored by the Sisters of Mercy. I was invited to be on a panel talking about engaging students in social justice issues. It was gratifying when teachers came up to me later to get more information about programs, sign up for our email advocacy network and talk about how we might provide resources to their classes.
While there, I had a lovely walk across the Purple People Bridge, a pedestrian crossing of the Ohio River into Kentucky, which was cool. I also tasted yummy Graeter’s ice cream (they make chocolate, too, so most of their flavors have homemade chocolate chips or chunks). And at a reception at one of the local high schools we sampled local beers and foods (German appetizers, chilli, barbecue and pizza).
It was fun to get out and meet other people in our Mercy family, but it’s really good to be home now, too.