August 02, 2022

Leah Schiffman Reflects on MGA Internship

Nine months ago, I stepped into the Mercy Global Action Office on the tenth floor of the United Nations Church Center. I knew that my internship was going to provide me with new experiences, however, I had no idea that I would be going to visit Baggot Street, attend COP26 in Glasgow, Scotland, wake up for 6 AM Zoom meetings, walk in and out of the United Nations, help write Mercy publications, and gain great admiration for the Mercy World. 


I still remember sitting around the MGA conference room during our Monday meeting when Sister Angela Reed told me I would visit Baggot Street in Dublin and later go to Glasgow for COP26. I was shocked but so excited to dive into my internship. Getting to see Baggot Street and the house of Catherine McAuley opened my eyes to the Mercy World. It was the first time I was able to grasp the enormity of Mercy and all the work that Catherine had done. From Dublin, I went with Cecilie Kern and Siobhan Golden to COP26 in Glasgow. I was privileged to be in attendance and represent Mercy Global Action at the conference. Although we were unable to get into the decision-making rooms and processes, I was able to attend events featuring the voices and experiences of women, indigenous peoples, migrants, and people from the Global South. These events enabled me to learn from those experiencing the brunt of climate change and to hear their stories and best practices.


Another fond memory from my internship was early Zoom meetings. Getting on a work call at 6 AM might not sound enjoyable but it was, and I started to understand, work with, and admire the work of Mercy. My favorite Zoom call to wake up to was MGA’s Ocean Task Force, which was created in preparation for the United Nations Oceans Conference. It was special to hear the voices of women from Guyana to the Philippines to Tonga and hear their first-hand experiences with the Ocean. The Oceans Task Force – as well as the other MGA task forces I’ve been part of – represented the goal of MGA, to learn and hear from the grassroots and to use those lessons and best practices for advocacy at the local and international level. I was grateful when I was asked to do similar advocacy with the Oceans Task Force by creating the videography for MGA’s Oceans Campaign. It was a privilege to be trusted with helping tell the stories of people's relationship with the Ocean. Putting those recordings and stories together provided me with such comfort, reflection, and admiration for the power of storytelling in effecting change. 


While writing this, I can’t help but smile at all the experiences I’ve had over the last nine months. It’s been stressful to decide what to include and what to save for another time, but I want to emphasize one thing: I am so appreciative of the welcoming and accepting presence of those throughout the Mercy World. It has been a privilege to have been part of Mercy and to have seen the living power of Catherine McAuley’s mission. I will carry the lessons and stories learned from this experience with me and will strive to emulate the values of Mercy everywhere I go. 


I would like to specifically thank Angela Reed, Cecilie Kern, and Colleen Swain for their patience and guidance throughout my internship. I will miss going to the office and seeing you all. 

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