By Mary Margaret Halford Edney
VICKSBURG – In 1860, the Sisters of Mercy made their way to Vicksburg, a place with no access to formal education at that time. Within a week, the sisters had opened the town’s very first school. On May 14, more than 160 years later, the legacy of those charitable women was honored at a building dedication for the town’s newest educational facility — the Sisters of Mercy Early Learning Center at Vicksburg Catholic School (VCS).
“By dedicating this building today, we’re opening the door to share that spirit of service, beginning at the very earliest ages,” said Riley Nelson, former VCS advisory council president. “We pray that each child who enrolls here will grow up equipped with the values that were so important to the Sisters of Mercy — spirituality, community and putting others above yourself.”
The ceremony began with an opening from the center’s director, Katie Emfinger, followed by an invocation from Bishop Joseph Kopacz. St. Aloysius High School student body president Natalie Burke welcomed the crowd, and advisory council president Marion Roberson introduced city leadership in attendance.
“We cannot grow, and we will not grow without thinking toward the future,” City of Vicksburg Mayor George Flaggs told the crowd gathered in front of the new building. “This Early Learning Center is fulfilling a need in our community for more quality childcare options. To those who donated to make this possible, you couldn’t have made a better investment than you did in this facility.”
Mary Margaret Edney, a VCS advisory council member and chair of the school’s catholic identity committee, spoke about the Sisters of Mercy legacy, which will be honored and carried on through the Early Learning Center.
“When we talk about catholic identity at Vicksburg Catholic School, what we’re talking about is an environment where respect and kindness are just as important as reading and writing, where community service is taught alongside chemistry and geometry,” Edney said. “And as it turns out, those ideals have been a part of our story since the very beginning, when the Sisters of Mercy first got to Vicksburg more than 160 years ago.”
And for Sherry Scott, the sisters’ lesson of charity was one that lasted a lifetime. Because of the impact they made on her while she was a student at St. Francis Xavier Academy, she felt compelled to make a generous donation to the project.
“The Sisters of Mercy made a huge impression on me,” said Scott, the namesake of the center’s Sherry J. Scott Building. “When the opportunity came to do something in their name, my husband, Sam, graciously let me do it. They’ve been a wonderful inspiration to a lot of people, but especially to my family and me.”
“Early on, we decided to call this capital campaign ‘Continuing the Legacy,’” explained Kristi Smith, VCS development director and chair of the capital campaign to construct the new facility. “But continuing the legacy is so much more than just a name, it’s an honor and a duty. It is our responsibility to honor the Sisters of Mercy and the Brothers of the Sacred Heart with our words and actions each day. It is our duty to make sure that we instill the same values they bestowed upon us in the generations that follow.”
The 8,300-square-foot facility, which features 10 classrooms, will open June 1 for infants to three-year-olds.