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A Place for Mercy in Our Schools

Wednesday, February 10, 2016 by Melodie Wyttenbach, Ph.D.

In our broken world, Pope Francis consistently lights flames of hope and love in the hearts of others, making him one of greatest transformational leaders of our day. And like a great leader, he challenges us.

During this Jubilee Year, Francis challenges us to try to understand Jesus's most profound message of mercy. We are invited to get to know the maternal side of the church, the side that “does not wait for the wounded to knock on her doors, she looks for them on the streets, she takes them in, she embraces them, she takes care of them, she makes them feel loved.”  

As we begin this season of Lent, I invite you to reflect on a few words Pope Francis recently published in The Name of God is Mercy.  

"I have often said that the place where my encounter with the mercy of Jesus takes place is my sin. When you feel his merciful embrace, when you let yourself be embraced, when you are moved—that is when life can change, because that’s when we try to respond to the immense and unexpected gift of grace, a grace that is so overabundant it may seem even ‘unfair' in our eyes.”

To admit our own sinfulness—our own imperfections—is a very humbling experience. In our schools we may lose patience, criticize, judge, or get frustrated with colleagues, parents, or students. As much as we may try to keep those thoughts, actions, or words at bay, they creep in. When we reflect on our sinfulness, taking time to admit where we went wrong, the change process can begin. When we apologize, we’re able to feel God’s merciful embrace and it is in that space that we transform ourselves. Begin this Lent by embracing the Lord’s mercy. In doing so, you may just find you change some of your ways at school or in your home. Mercy awaits and grace abounds.

fb mercy“By welcoming a marginalized person whose body is wounded and by welcoming the sinner whose soul is wounded, we put our credibility as Christians on the line. Let us always remember the words of Saint John of the Cross: 'In the evening of life, we will be judged on love alone.'"

A second lesson to draw from Pope Francis’s message is that he realizes as a leader that he can’t go about this work alone. Just like Jesus, we need to draw our friends close to us to support us along the way and we see Pope Francis doing the same. To help others understand what it means to be merciful, Pope Francis has invited 1,000 priests during this Holy Year to be Missionaries of Mercy. One of these priests sits in the office next to me: ACE’s own Fr. Joe Corpora, C.S.C.  Fr. Joe is one of the most humble servants I know. His heart bleeds for immigrants, the marginalized, the poor—those most often cast aside in our society. I have never met a priest who understands and is drawn to heal the struggles of the Latino community more than Fr. Joe.  

Earlier today, Fr. Joe celebrated Ash Wednesday with the Holy Father and from there, he was commissioned to spread the message of mercy and help bring healing to our world. This Lent, join him and his brother priests in sharing this message by praying for others, encouraging others to know God, or simply listening to someone as they share their struggles. 

May your Lenten journey be one of renewal—full of grace, where you make every moment of mercy count—and, like Fr. Joe and Pope Francis, may you become a Missionary of Mercy, bringing about healing in your school and, in turn, in our world.

About the Author

Melodie Wyttenbach, Ph.D.

Melodie Wyttenbach, Ph.D.

Wyttenbach brings a rich array of experiences from her time as president and principal of a high-performing urban Catholic school serving a Latino community in a school choice environment. At Nativity Jesuit Middle School in Milwaukee, she oversaw the implementation of a blended learning program while doubling the size of the school. Wyttenbach also served Catholic education at the national level as director of mission engagement for the NativityMiguel Network of Schools. In addition to her role teaching within RLP’s Executive Management course sequence, she is developing and piloting a "good-to-great" institute for sitting principals, and will support the principals of the Notre Dame ACE Academies.