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Saint Xavier Catholic and Mercy Identity

Saint Xavier University, a Catholic university founded and sponsored by the Sisters of Mercy, extends the teaching ministry of Jesus Christ to those seeking higher education.

As an officially recognized ministry of the Catholic Church, the University grounds its core activities of teaching, learning, scholarship and service in Catholic theological principles that affirm the goodness and value of all creation and posit a view of all human persons as created in the image of God and thus free, rational, relational and endowed with inherent dignity.

As a Catholic university, Saint Xavier University challenges all the members of its community to search for truth, especially religious truth, and to engage in a dialogue between faith and reason that ultimately leads toward the contemplation of God's creation and social action for the common good.

This search for truth demands careful observation, critical analysis, vigorous debate, personal and communal theological reflection, and ethical and engaged decision-making leading toward a life that respects both the inherent dignity of another and the worth of all creation. Setting the context for the search for truth, the University encourages its community, especially its students, to become familiar with the richness of the Catholic intellectual tradition and the imperatives of Catholic social teaching. Respecting academic freedom, the University strives to be a place where the vigorous discussion of ideas can occur, especially as they relate to its mission as a Catholic university. In the spirit of respectful and critical discourse, the University welcomes the breadth of the Catholic tradition as well as the voices of other religious and non-religious communities.

As a Mercy university, Saint Xavier University challenges its community members to teach, learn, research, and act not only for themselves but also for others. Thus, a seminal characteristic of the University is its commitment to service. Ideally, such service, whether direct or through the University's efforts to understand and remediate unjust systems, reflects the spirituality of Mother Catherine McAuley, the founder of the Sisters of Mercy. This spirituality is grounded in the theology of the Incarnation, animated by the life, death and resurrection of Jesus, and expressed through acts of compassion that embody the spiritual and corporal works of mercy**. In particular, the University community expresses special concern for those who are economically poor, especially women and children. As the Sisters of Mercy vow to care for the poor, the sick and the uneducated, so from its foundation in 1846, Saint Xavier's mission has been especially concerned with alleviating the suffering of the poor and the sick through education. In so doing, the University goes beyond simply passive expressions of heartfelt concern, and even willingness to stand with those who suffer. It seeks to right what is wrong and restore what is broken, thereby promoting human dignity, justice and the common good.

Saint Xavier University signifies and celebrates its Catholic and Mercy heritage in its symbolic, sacramental and liturgical expressions, and in its communal and collegial ethos. The University offers many opportunities to reflect, pray, worship and access the sacraments. It symbolizes its rich faith tradition through the appropriate placement of religious symbols and artwork. Further, it observes liturgical seasons and feasts central to its Catholic and Mercy heritage, and provides orientation and mentoring programs that educate the community about this identity.

Recognizing that the search for God and the celebration of God's presence is ubiquitous, the University provides opportunities for those of other faith traditions and those on a personal journey of faith to study, to express, to worship, to celebrate and to discuss their religious beliefs in a climate that is respectful, hospitable and open to all.

Offering the opportunity for higher education within a Catholic and Mercy context, Saint Xavier University honors Jesus Christ whom it recognizes as Via, Veritas, Vita -- the Way, the Truth and the Life (John 14:6), the motto of the University inscribed on its coat of arms.

**Based largely on the gospel of Matthew, chapter 25, the works of mercy are as follows: Spiritual Works of Mercy: Instruct the ignorant. Counsel the doubtful. Comfort the sorrowful. Admonish the sinner. Bear wrongs patiently. Forgive all injuries. Pray for the living and the dead. Corporal Works of Mercy: Feed the hungry. Give drink to the thirsty. Clothe the naked. Shelter the homeless. Visit the sick. Visit the imprisoned. Bury the dead.

Mercy Higher Education Covenant

Learn more about the Mercy Higher Education Covenant that describes the intentions, aspirations and assurances that enliven and inform the relationship between the Sisters of Mercy of the Americas and SXU, with the Conference for Mercy Higher Education acting on behalf of the Sisters of Mercy.

Saint Xavier University Founders

Mother Frances Xavier Warde

In 1843, Mother Frances Xavier Warde and six sisters braved the Atlantic Ocean to establish the Sisters of Mercy in the United States. She and her companions disembarked in New York in December 1843. Among those present was Bishop William Quarter, recently appointed to the newly created diocese of Chicago. An educator himself, Bishop Quarter wasted no time asking Frances Xavier Warde to send sisters to his frontier diocese to open schools for children and young women. Bishop Quarter's renewed requests brought the Sisters of Mercy to Chicago in 1846. Mother Frances Xavier Warde accompanied the group of five she had chosen to serve in this western outpost, all who were under age 25.

By the time of her death in 1884, Frances Warde had established over 82 Mercy convents, schools, hospitals, orphanages, and other institutions of social welfare in some 20 cities across nine states, more than any other religious leader in the Western world. It is probable that no woman has lived to whom the church in the United States owes more than it does to her.

Frances died at age 74. Attending her funeral were the bishops of Manchester, Providence, Springfield, Hartford, Burlington and Portland, along with more than 100 priests and Sisters of Mercy from across New England, a testament to the immense and lasting impact of her life and service. She was laid to rest in St. Joseph's Cemetery in Manchester.

Mother Francis Xavier Warde


 Mother Agatha O'Brien

Mother Agatha O'Brien

Agatha O'Brien entered the Sisters of Mercy in 1843. As she traveled from Ireland to the United States, Bishop O'Connor noted that she was "capable of ruling a nation."

She was the first Sister of Mercy to be received as a novice in the United States on February 22, 1844, and made her final vows on May 5, 1846. Just a few months later, in September 1846, she became Mother Agatha, the first superior of the Sisters of Mercy in Chicago, at the age of 24.

Mother Agatha O'Brien was described as a woman of remarkable judgment, quick apprehension and piety, with a keen business sense, an appreciation for property values and a direct and straightforward manner in appealing for monies for whatever was needed.

While serving the sick during a terrible wave of cholera, Mother Agatha and three other Sisters of Mercy all died from the disease within a few hours of each other on July 8, 1854.

Mother Agatha's 200th Birthday