The principal of a Philadelphia-area Catholic school has resigned after a protest by students who were upset at the administrator’s decision to eject invited speaker Margie Winters from the campus. Winters made news a few years ago when she was fired from another Catholic school because of her marriage to a woman.
The Philadelphia Inquirer reported that Sister Barbara Buckley, RSM, sent an email to the community of Merion Mercy Academy saying she would no longer be working at the institution, stating:
“This year has been a challenging one for our cherished Merion Mercy and I am deeply saddened by any hurt I have inadvertently caused. Many complex issues have arisen.”
Winters, who currently works for Project HOME, an agency that serves the homeless population, was invited to the school to meet with juniors who were working on a project about homelessness. In 2015, she was fired from her job as religious education director at Waldron Mercy school, also in the Philadelphia area, when some parents learned that she was married to a woman. Both Winters and her wife, Andrea deVettori, are Asssociate Members of the Sisters of Mercy. Both had declined commenting to the newspaper about the story.
Most of the information about the incident came from a letter and a petition written by student Zenia Nasevich. She wrote that Winters had been escorted out of the building despite having had a visitor pass and permission to speak from the chair of the theology department. Nasevich wrote:
“The project had nothing to do with her sexuality, and the harshness with which she was treated is uncharacteristic of what one would expect from an accredited Mercy school.”
William Githens, president of the school’s board of trustees said in a statement:
“Today is a difficult day for all of us who are part of the Merion Mercy community. After 25 years of extraordinary dedication to our beloved school, Sister Barbara Buckley, Head of School, has submitted her resignation. The Board respects her decision and on behalf of the entire Board, I accepted her resignation on the evening of May 2. . . .
“This is a sensitive time for all of us at Merion Mercy. We have a responsibility to our community and our ministry to listen with our ears and open our hearts as we move forward together.”
Indeed, it is a sensitive time for the school, and opening ears and hearts to all those affected by this incident is an important step to take. Sister Buckley’s recognition that her action was wrong, evidenced by her resignation, allows for healing and reconciliation to take place. We hope that healing and reconciliation will include both Margie Winters and Sister Buckley.
—Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry, May 17, 2018