Donation of artwork keeps Mercy sisters front and center 

Cityscape mosaic
This mosaic by Mary Ignatius Denay, RSM, hangs in the lobby of the McNichols Library. 

Second-year student Daniel Zeppa finds peace in a print hanging on the wall of his room in West Quad on the McNichols Campus.

It depicts Jesus and two disciples walking toward a city on a path carved among very tall trees. The sun shines through the leaves. Though he doesn’t know the name of the artist or the piece, he says it makes his dorm feel more like home and he finds calm when he contemplates it.

carving of a madonna and child“I like to hike a lot and the trail reminds me of that and the peace and quiet I feel when I’m on a trail,” said Zeppa, who is pursuing a double major in Business Administration and Accounting.

Zeppa found the print among more than 70 pieces of art—big and small—donated to the University by the Sisters of Mercy. They were part of a collection that adorned the walls at the Sisters of Mercy campus in Farmington Hills. They were donated when the property was sold recently.

According to Sister Susan Sanders, RSM, leader of the Sisters of Mercy West Midwest, the sale was due to many factors, including the drop in the number of Mercy sisters and the high costs of maintaining the property. The order, which is one of the founders of Detroit Mercy, sold the campus and relocated most of the sisters who lived there. Then they had to decide what to do with the more than one million items inside. They sold furniture, furnishings and housewares, but chose to donate the art, much of it made by members of the religious order.

“We have a legacy with the University and we thought you would steward the pieces well,” said Sister Eloise Hirlemann, who served on the committee that decided what to do with the items. “Some of the pieces are by sisters, including several alumni of Detroit Mercy, but others are by students of some of the Mercy sisters and others were given to us. We also wanted them to have a bigger audience.”

The collection is of all subjects and styles, from bucolic painted landscapes to pottery to modern pieces that address the critical concerns of the Sisters of Mercy.

More than 40 pieces have been distributed to nearly all the schools and colleges at Detroit Mercy. They hang in the library, study rooms, dorms, hallways, the University Ministry office and more. Several will be featured in the new offices of University Ministry in the renovated Student Union.

Sophomore Architecture student Sebastian Rodriguez is an intern in University Ministry and says the pieces inspire him as he helps shape the look of the new offices.

“They make me think and help me come up with ideas,” he said.

Catherine Punsalan-Manlimos, assistant to the president for Mission Integration, says this donation is important to the University.

“Having Mercy art on our campuses are touchstones and create opportunities to talk about Mercy contributions,” Punsalan-Manlimos said. “They are another way of keeping the Mercy charism enlivened in our midst.”

“For me, beyond the celebrating of the creativity and history of our Mercy sisters, I think, ‘what a way to bring beauty to our campuses,’” said Anita Klueg, director of University Ministry. “They have sparked a lot of conversations and that’s important.”

Artwork about water
This piece by Sisters Mary Gretchen and Eloise Hermann is a statement about the U.S. water system. They, along with the Madonna and child, were among the works given to the University by the Sisters of Mercy.

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