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Gwynedd Mercy University is proud to announce the four Honorary Degree Recipients for 2019. These distinguished individuals continually enact positive changes for both local and global communities and truly embody the spirit and values of the Sisters of Mercy. Congratulations to all recipients for the well-deserved recognition!
Patricia Murphy, RSM
JoAnn Persch, RSM
Patricia M. Murphy, RSM and JoAnn Persch, RSM are co-founders of the Interfaith Community for Detained Immigrants, a non-profit, faith-based organization of staff and volunteers called to respond actively and publicly to the suffering of all individuals and communities affected by immigration detention, deportation, and post-detention through pastoral care, advocacy, public witness and other activities. They are currently the pastoral ministers for detention and deportation centers.
Sister Patricia and Sister JoAnn first met when there were assigned to teach at an elementary school in Wisconsin in 1959. They formed a lifelong friendship over laughs and meaningful conversations about God, life, and spirituality that has since taken them all over the world.
Prior to founding the Interfaith Community for Detained Immigrants, Sister Patricia and Sister JoAnn co-founded Su Casa Catholic Worker, which supports Central American refugees and creates a community of hospitality and healing for families in crisis. Following their time at Su Casa, the pair lived and worked for six years with women in recovery at Casa Notre Dame, a shelter for African-American women recovering from domestic violence or drug addiction.
Sister Patricia has ministered in schools all over the world, including Sicuani, Peru where she founded a school and served as an administrator for eight years. She has dedicated her time to social service through working with the underserved in several institutions. Sister Patricia founded the South Side Chapter of Little Brothers Friends of the Elderly and served as its director, as well as worked at Mercy Hospital in Chicago in several leadership positions.
Sister JoAnn served as an elementary school teacher and administrator before moving onto Mercy Hospital where she created the Discharge Planning Network for the Outpatient Clinic. She went back to her education roots as Religious Education Director for three parishes in the Chicago area and served as the program director at Austin Career Education Center, an alternative school for students returning to complete their high school diploma.
Mary C. Sullivan, RSM, PhD
Mary C. Sullivan, RSM has dedicated her life to living and spreading the Mercy story, through word and action.
Sister Mary is an accomplished author of numerous works chronicling the life and mission of Catherine McAuley, the Foundress of the Sisters of Mercy in Dublin, Ireland. In addition to dozens of articles and other pieces of literature, Sister Mary has published three books: “The Correspondence of Catherine McAuley, 1818-1841,” “Catherine McAuley and the Tradition of Mercy” and “The Path of Mercy: The Life of Catherine McAuley.”
For more than 30 years, Sister Mary has shared the Mercy story through seminars and retreats on Catherine McAuley and Mercy Spirituality all over the world, as far away as New Zealand and as close as her hometown, Rochester, N.Y.
In addition to her writing, Sister Mary has spent her entire career in education, teaching English at both the high school and collegiate level. She is Professor Emerita of Language and Literature and Dean Emerita of the College of Liberal Arts at the Rochester Institute of Technology (RIT) in Rochester, New York.
Upon entering the Mercy community in 1950, Sister Mary has served in various leadership roles and is an active member of the Institute of the Sisters of Mercy of the Americas. She has served on various committees, including the Mercy International Research Commission and Mercy International Association Archives Committee. Sister Mary has also been an elected delegate to five General Chapters dating back to 1990.
Sister Mary has earned numerous awards and recognitions, including Exemplary Catholic Woman in 1991, Rochester Institute of Technology Eisenhart Award for Outstanding Teaching in 1996 and the Mercy Higher Education Colloquium Leadership Award in 1998. She also received honorary degrees from Georgian Court University [New Jersey] in 2009 and St. Joseph’s College [Maine] in 2015.
Sarorng Sorn is the Director of Immigrant Affairs and Language Access Services for the Philadelphia Department of Behavioral Health and Intellectual disAbility Services [DBHIDS]. In this role, Sarorng is responsible for improving the total wellness for immigrant and refugee communities through a holistic community-based engagement and service delivery.
Prior to joining DBHIDS in 2016, Ms. Sorn worked for the Cambodian Association of Greater Philadelphia for 13 years, first as the Director of Programs and then the Executive Director. She also served as Commissioner for Philadelphia’s Mayor Commission on Asian American Affairs and is currently the Board Advisor for Peace Day Philly, the Philadelphia region initiative for the International Day of Peace.
Ms. Sorn’s own experience as a refugee during and after the Vietnam War has served as an inspiration and motivator during her three decades of work in community and immigrant relations. After spending eight years in refugee camps, Ms. Sorn’s family was accepted to the United States. Within two years, she graduated high school with honors and was accepted to the Community College of Philadelphia. She began her career in the medical field in a variety of roles, including Medical Interpreter, Community Health Educator, and Maternity Care Advocate. She then moved into nonprofit and government leadership positions.
Throughout her career, Ms. Sorn has been recognized for her admirable work in the community. She was honored with the Special Achievement Award for Dedicated Service by the Department of Justice in 2014, received the Outstanding Community Service Award from 6ABC in 2012 and the Community Spirit Award by the Philadelphia City Commissioner in 2006. Ms. Sorn holds a bachelor’s degree in management from the University of Phoenix and a master’s degree in non-profit/NGO leadership management from the University of Pennsylvania.