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The mission of the Conference for Mercy Higher Education is the preservation and development of the core Catholic identity and mission of Mercy higher education in accord with the spirit, mission, and heritage of the Sisters of Mercy.


A task force of the Conference for Mercy Higher Education has developed an institutional peer-review mission assessment process for mission accountability—an approach both similar and complementary to accreditation review processes that our institutions undergo on a decennial basis. For more information, please review these documents:


Oversight and direction for the work of the Conference for Mercy Higher Education is provided by an experienced, dedicated and Mercy-filled Board of Directors. Meet our Board of Directors.


The Sisters of Mercy constitute the largest community of religious women in the Roman Catholic Church. Founded in Dublin, Ireland in 1831 by Mother Catherine McAuley, the sisters sought “to care for the poor, the sick, and the uneducated.” Over the following century, the “walking nuns,” as they were called, journeyed to various continents around the world, establishing networks of healthcare facilities and schools ranging from elementary through the college and graduate levels. 

Until a short memory ago, the Mercy colleges and universities in the United States were led, managed, and staffed in majority by Sisters of Mercy. As the number of religious sisters declined sharply over the past 60 years, the Sisters have addressed the dilemma of sustaining the values they imparted through their vast educational system. In 2002, they established the Conference for Mercy Higher Education (CMHE) to reinforce the bonds of Mercy traditions and to strengthen the Catholic identity and Mercy charism at all colleges and universities.

The Conference is situated at the offices of the Institute of the Sisters of Mercy in Silver Spring, Maryland. Staffed by a full-time Executive Director (Julia Cavallo, Ed.D.), an Associate Director for Mission Integration and Support (Dr. Mary-Paula Cancienne, RSM) and a part-time assistant (Rita Waters, RSM), CMHE is a national organization bringing 17 Mercy colleges and universities into a common network and providing oversight for the sponsorship relationship between the Sisters of Mercy and the institutions they have so lovingly founded, nourished and supported.

The Conference’s relationship to each of its 17 member institutions (15 full members and two associate members) is centered on the Covenant relationship and a mutual understanding of the accountabilities within the context of Mercy higher education and the ethos of the Sisters of Mercy. The Conference sees each college/university president as the leader of a treasured ministry of Mercy and in turn, holds a set of expectations for this leader and for the board members who govern the institution. The president and board members also have an identified list of expectations within the Covenant for which they hold CMHE accountable.

In addition to an on-going deepening of the relationship with its colleges and universities, the Conference has offered and continues to develop mission-related programs. Students have attended advocacy programs at the UN (“Mercy Meets the UN”) and in alternate years, a DC Justice Immersion program has been offered.  Since 2007, three symposia around issues related to Catholic, Mercy higher education have been held at various campuses, and “Mercy the Principal Path,” a mission program for senior leaders and board members, has been developed and offered on four occasions, with the most recent program held in Baltimore, MD in October 2018. In addition, a decennial mission peer review process for each of our institutions in underway, with twelve reviews now having been conducted since fall 2012. Additional programming in the area of mission formation for senior leaders, board members, faculty and staff is underway and in response to the promises within the Covenant.

With the development of the Covenants and with an internationally recognized Mission Peer Review program well underway, there is a sense among our CMHE Board members as well as among the Presidents and Sponsor that the Conference is maturing in its efforts and taking steps to realize the goals for which it was founded. A strategic plan, Vision 2020, clarified boundaries and responsibilities for CMHE member institutions. CMHE’s invitation to its member institution to enter a Covenant relationship between the Institute of the Sisters of Mercy and the respective institution is the next step in this maturation, with CMHE holding delegated authority for oversight of the accountabilities identified within the covenants.

The Conference for Mercy Higher Education exists to ensure that the interests, concerns and spirit of the Sisters of Mercy are preserved and strengthened at each institution, and that the future of each college and university as a Mercy ministry is secure.

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