History of MPS

Mercyhurst Preparatory School is a ministry of the Sister of Mercy, New York, Pennsylvania and Pacific West (NyPPaW):
www.sistersofmercy.org/new-york-pennsylvania-pacific-west

Mercyhurst Prep is also a member of the Mercy Network for Education:
www.netmercyed.org

Through Mercy International Association, the Sisters of Mercy use their resources to respond to issues related to global poverty:
www.mercyworld.org

Sister Catherine McAuley
Mercyhurst Seminary/Preparatory School traces its heritage to the foundress of the Sister of Mercy, Catherine McAuley.  Catherine was born in 1778 into a financially secure family.  Her father James, a devout Catholic, taught the fundamentals of faith by his good example of reaching out to the poor.  Catherine’s comfortable life changed drastically after the death of her parents.  She was sent to live with a Protestant family where she experienced poverty firsthand.  She was able to retain her Catholic beliefs through her own strong will and the role modeling of her father.

Catherine accepted a position to serve as nurse companion to Mrs. Catherine Callaghan.  The Callaghans were Quakers and encouraged service to the poor.  Catherine was free to practice her faith, thus fertilizing the seeds planted by her father.  The Callaghans adopted Catherine as their daughter and eventually converted to Catholicism.  Upon their death, she inherited the equivalent of $1,000,000 in today’s dollars.

Catherine continued her service to the needy while studying educational methods.  She opened the House of Mercy on Baggot Street in Dublin, Ireland in 1831 with the goals of spiritual advancement, and service to the poor, sick and uneducated.  Two hundred girls were enrolled in the school its first year with 12 women living and working in the building.  The women began to call each other “sister” and were encouraged to begin a religious order.  Catherine began her novitiate at the age of 52.  In 1831, three novices professed their vows, giving birth to the Sisters of Mercy.

Within the 10 years of beginning her order and her death, Catherine McAuley established a total of nine convents in Ireland and England.  She died in 1841 and was laid to rest in the ground with the poor.

VIDEO: The Life of Catherine McAuley: Part I

Sisters of Mercy came to the United States in 1842 at the request of Bishop Michael O’Connor of Pittsburgh.  While the sisters were en route from Ireland to the United Sates, they met Tobias Mullen, a seminarian.  This chance meeting affected the education of young women years later.  Tobias Mullen was later named Bishop and invited the Sisters of Mercy to the Erie Diocese in 1870 since he saw a need for Catholic education.  In 1871, they opened Saint Joseph Academy, a private school for girls in Titusville, Pennsylvania.  By the 1920s, the order and the school were growing rapidly, so the sisters set their sights on opening a school in Erie.

Bishop John Mark Gannon suggested to Mother M. Borgia Egan, the Superior of the Sisters of Mercy in Titusville, that she raise $150,000 and come to Erie to found a school in 1921.  Mother Borgia purchased 75 acres of farmland in remote southeast Erie.

Mercyhurst Seminary, an educational institution for college, high school, and grade school women opened in 1926.  Hurst is old English for wooded hilltop, and seminary in Latin means a place where seeds are planted to grow.  The Seminary was located on the first floor of Egan Hall, giving some 50 students total access to the facility.  One lower grade was dropped each year until all students were graduated from eighth grade, leaving the seminary a high school and college institution.

VIDEO: The Life of Catherine McAuley: Part II

When the Seminary was only three years old, the Great Depression hit the country.   The school needed a fundraising project.  According to Margaret McMahon, a 1933 Mercyhurst Seminary graduate, “The nuns produced and directed three musical comedies with college girls taking the main speaking and singing parts and the rest of the girls dancing and singing.  The plays were three nights each year at a different theatre.  I believe the Erie people were tired of all the sadness and enjoyed the live theatre.”

Although Mercyhurst Seminary and Mercyhurst College originally shared the same facilities, plans for a separate building were set in motion in 1952. The Sisters, acting on a Middle States Association recommendation, broke ground on East Grandview Boulevard. The new building, now called Mercyhurst Preparatory School, opened its doors in 1963 to 170 women.

In 1974 Mercyhurst became coed, providing a private school alternative that had not been previously available to young people in Erie. In 1993 a building expansion program was begun, resulting in the addition of a new wing, including athletic facilities, offices, and a new auditorium. As the building expanded, so did Mercyhurst’s eye toward innovation with several new programs.

The U.S. Department of Education awarded MPS the Blue Ribbon School of Excellence Award in 1993 and again in 1998.

Mercyhurst Prep Timeline

1778:   Catherine McAuley is born in Dublin, Ireland

1827:   Catherine McAuley opens the House of Mercy on Baggot Street in Dublin on September 24th, the feast of Our Lady of Mercy

1842:   Sisters of Mercy come to Pittsburgh, PA.

1871:   Saint Joseph Academy, a private girls’ academy, opened in Titusville, PA

1926:   The girls’ academy moves to Erie under the name of Mercyhurst Seminary

1927:   Mercyhurst receives accreditation by the Department of Public Instruction of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania

1932:   Mercyhurst Seminary receives initial accreditation from the Middle States Association of Colleges and Secondary Schools

1952:   Middle States recommends a separate building for the high school since facilities at Mercyhurst College are inadequate for the growing seminary

1963:   Mercyhurst Preparatory School for girls on East Grandview Boulevard opens its doors to record enrollment of 170 students.

1971:   Sisters of Mercy celebrate 100 years of education in northwestern PA

1974:   Mercyhurst Prep becomes Erie’s only Catholic coeducational high school

1985:   Mercyhurst Prep introduces the International Baccalaureate program

1988:   Mercyhurst Preparatory School celebrates its 25th year in the building on the hill

1993:   MPS is awarded the prestigious Blue Ribbon School of Excellence award from the United States Department of Education

1994:   IBM computer lab is opened

1997:   MPS earns Blue Ribbon School of Excellence award for second time

2001:   Mercyhurst Prep celebrates its 75th anniversary

2007:   MPS reaches three year, $3,000,000 capital campaign goal and dedicates new Science wing

2008:   MPS becomes wireless and international student population expands to include students from Denmark, Mexico, Australia, Nigeria, and Korea

2010:   MPS develops an exclusive boarding school affiliation with the Pennsylvania International Academy (dormitory) and welcomes 37 international students from 12 countries

2012:   Mercyhurst Prep introduces 1:1 iPad initiative

2014:   Outdoor Mural created and installed in collaboration with students and Mercyhurst Prep Alumni Todd Scalise