mcauley Mercy Day awardees

Lauren Dowden (left) and Colleen Rooney, of Beverly, have been named Catherine McAuley Award recipients for Mercy Day 2020 at Mother McAuley High School.

Mother McAuley Liberal Arts High School recently announced that faculty member Lauren Dowden and senior Colleen Rooney are the recipients of the 2020 Catherine McAuley Award.

As part of its annual Mercy Day celebration, Mother McAuley bestows the Catherine McAuley Award on a senior student and a faculty/staff member who demonstrates a deep faith and commitment to the school and the students that inspires their co-workers, classmates and family members to be better stewards of McAuley’s vision.

Mercy Day commemorates Sept. 24, 1827, the day McAuley opened the first House of Mercy—a place to shelter and educate women and girls—on Lower Baggot Street in Dublin, Ireland.

Mother McAuley celebrates the day with a special assembly for students, including the presentation of the Catherine McAuley Award.

COVID-19 restrictions altered this year’s festivities. With a hybrid educational in place, Mercy Day was celebrated over two days, Sept. 22 and 23. The award presentations were pre-recorded, and students gathered in groups of 50 in specified locations within the building to watch and celebrate.

Rooney, of Beverly, has been or currently is a member of basketball, lacrosse and cross-country teams as well as Catherine McAuley Honors Scholars, National Honor Society, National Spanish Honor Society and National English Honor Society. She is the daughter of the late Honorable Jeanne Prendergast Rooney, a 2018 McAuley Hall of Fame inductee, and granddaughter of Joan Curtin Prendergast, Class of 1964.

“It is not what she does, but how she does it that makes Colleen most like Catherine,” said Principal Eileen Boyce O’Reilly. “Her smile exudes friendliness; her eyes show kindness; and her spirited step exhibits cheerfulness. It’s impossible not to feel that when you’re with Colleen. She’s never too busy to share a happy smile, a kind and personalized greeting or to raise her hand in volunteering to help.

“She is always making McAuley a better place because of her positive attitude and her willingness to do all the extras.”

Colleen shared her thoughts in her acceptance speech.

“As I began thinking about what to share with you all today, I came across a quote by Catherine McAuley that reads, ‘We should be shining lamps, giving light to all around us.’ This statement rings especially true today.

“We are currently living in a world shrouded in darkness. The COVID-19 pandemic has uprooted many of our normal routines, and we’ve been forced to adapt in uncharted territory. This unconventional Mercy Day is yet another testament to the strength of the McAuley community, and I have no doubt in my mind that each and every one of you will go on to do something incredible.

“I take so much pride in knowing that I am a part of something so special, and I am grateful to have been given the opportunity to share how much it means to me. Thank you for inspiring me to be the best version of myself that I can possibly be every single day. Thank you for bringing me closer to my mom and for giving me the opportunity to witness all of your lamps.”

McAuley Instructional Technologist Lauren Dowden, of Evergreen Park, was honored as the faculty/staff awardee.

Entering her fifth year at McAuley, Dowden has tremendously impacted McAuley by helping faculty, staff and students enhance their skills and expertise in technology. In her multifaceted role, Dowden trains teachers in various instructional technologies while assisting students with their technological needs. Dowden also teaches a self-created business course, B-Tech, which has quadrupled in popularity since being offered.

“It’s not just what she does that makes Mrs. Dowden so special; it’s the manner in which she does it,” said O’Reilly. “Mrs. Dowden exudes patience, kindness and understanding as she helps any person seeking technology assistance. She listens closely and responds graciously, which is the reason so many of us return to her for even more help!”

During her acceptance remarks, Dowden shared this reflection.

“Our students, faculty and staff strive to be like our founder, Catherine McAuley, every day. You can hear that in conversations in the hallways, classrooms and offices. You see it in the interactions that teachers have with their students. The McAuley community exemplifies the virtues that Catherine McAuley lived by. Her love, generosity and service to others can be found in every aspect of the McAuley community.”

Founded in 1956 by the Sisters of Mercy, Mother McAuley Liberal Arts High School currently educates nearly 900 young women in grades 9 through 12 and is the largest all-girls high school in the country.

McAuley promotes a single-gender education platform that encourages young women to grow in faith, envision their future and discover their talents through a challenging and motivating academic and co-curricular program. McAuley’s tradition of excellence has made it a top choice for all-girls private education in the Chicago area, and the school has 28,000 alumnae.

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