Sister Pat McDermott Elected Institute President

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June 29, 2011--The West Midwest Community is honored to have one of its own - Sister Pat McDermott, RSM - named president of the Institute of the Sisters of Mercy of the Americas.  Sister Pat was elected at a Chapter meeting of the Sisters of Mercy of the Americas at Saint Xavier University in Chicago. Also elected to leadership were Sister Eileen Campbell, RSM, vice president; Sister Anne Curtis, RSM; Sister Mary Pat Garvin, RSM; and Sister Deborah Troillett, RSM.

A native of Omaha, Pat appreciates her Midwestern roots. "My father was a Nebraskan and my mother was an Iowan. I've always been grateful to grow up in the Midwest where family, neighbors and hospitality are great values," she said.

She explains the Sisters of Mercy have always been the central energy in her life. She said, "Because my mother died when I was seven and we lived across from the Mercy convent, I became 'linked' at an early age to the Sisters of Mercy. Attending both Mercy elementary and secondary schools (she is a graduate of Mercy High School in Omaha), I found in these remarkable women a contagious enthusiasm for life and a deep joy for their ministry."  

Pat's early ministry years are educational in nature. She taught English, journalism and religious education at the secondary level. For almost 10 years (1972-1981), she taught at Saint Albert's in Council Bluffs. The school is located in the Des Moines Diocese where she said the leadership of Bishop Maurice John Dingman (1914-1992) reflected deeply the spirit of Vatican II.

"It was a wonderful ministerial experience of Church and a deepening within myself of the role of the laity as foundational to my own theology. Out of that experience I decided to pursue graduate work in theology," she said.

For five years (1981-1986) she studied and ministered in Washington, D.C., where she received a doctor of ministry from Catholic University. She then taught pastoral theology at Catholic University.  

She adds, "My ministerial scope has also been broadened through numerous board relationships where I have been privileged to learn about healthcare, education and housing from lay colleagues as well as women religious. The commitment of our partners in ministry to Mercy values witnesses richly to the spirit of Catherine McAuley and her vision of multiple responses to the needs of those marginated by our society." She has served on the boards of Mercy Housing, Inc., Denver, CO, and Catholic Health Initiatives, also of Denver, and Mercy International Association, Dublin, Ireland. 

In 1986 Pat was called to return to Omaha to serve in leadership of the Omaha Province. She was first elected councilor and then in 1990 she was named president, serving until 1998. She was then called back to Washington D.C. to serve on leadership at the Sisters of Mercy Institute level when in 1999 she was named councilor. Pat was elected vice president of the Institute Leadership Team in 2005. Her present term will expire the end of this month (July).  

Of Institute leadership, Pat says, "The Sisters of Mercy of the Americas are a vibrant group of women making a difference in the lives of those most in need.  Creativity, resourcefulness and compassion for those marginalized by our society and church are characteristics of our members. It is a joy and deep privilege to share in the leadership of the Mercy community."

Of the role of women religious in the Catholic Church, Pat says, "Women religious historically have witnessed to the prophetic role in our church. At no other time in our history has our prophetic role needed to be sharpened and placed before the people of God as it does now."

She will assume her presidential role on Monday, Aug. 1, when the new Institute Leadership Team comes into office.


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