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The Sisters of Mercy have been part of Sister Kati McMahon’s life since she was a child, but she didn’t initially intend to profess her vows. In fact, she planned to become a teacher, marry a rich man, and live on a horse farm in Kentucky.
But, as the oldest of six children in a family with limited means, she knew that in order to achieve the first step of her future plans, she would have to earn a scholarship to help pay for college. And she did: the Archdiocesan Teaching Scholarship, which required her to teach in Archdiocesan elementary schools alongside the Sisters of Mercy while attending classes at night.
While teaching elementary school, coaching CYO sports, working a part-time job, and attending night school, Sister Kati started thinking about a different future: a life as a Sister of Mercy.
“I worked with these wonderful women and they were happy; they were kind. But I think it was their joy more than anything else that was so attractive,” she said.
“I fell in love with it and I thought, ‘this is how I want to live. This is what I want to do’.”
And so she began the process of professing her vows and became a Sister of Mercy in 1967. This year, she celebrates her Golden Jubilee.
Sister Kati received her bachelor's degree in elementary education from what was then Gwynedd-Mercy College, before going on to earn her master’s in counseling and human relations from Villanova University in 1979.
She worked for some time as a teacher and then a guidance counselor at Archdiocesan elementary schools and in 1982 was called to a meeting at the Motherhouse. There, she was asked to accept the position of Director of Counseling Services at GMercyU.
“To say I was shocked and felt unprepared and inadequate and terrified does not come close to what I was feeling. However, it was not asked lightly and after considerable prayer and thinking and discernment, I said yes,” Sister Kati said.
She served in that role for 14 years, before being appointed Associate Vice President for Student Services in 1997 and Vice President two years later. Former President Kathleen Owens, PhD, asked Sister Kati to serve as Special Assistant to the President for Mission and Planning in 2003, and she was named Vice President for Mission and Ministry in 2016. She was one of the key administrators responsible for shepherding the application for University status through the Pennsylvania Department of Education in 2013. ❂
*This article was originally published in GMercyU's Summer 2017 TODAY Magazine*