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Memphis Daily News
The Roads To and From Memphis
July 26, 2018
By Dr. Mary C. McDonald

It’s true, all roads lead to and from Memphis. I have experienced it too many times not to believe it. Most recently, I experienced it this summer.

A few weeks ago, a group of 11 students, their principal, and three teachers from LaSalle College High School, a Christian Brothers school in Philadelphia came to Memphis on a mission trip to serve and to learn. They left changed by the experience, and the interconnectedness of all who seek to serve.

I spoke to the group the night they arrived in Memphis about their agenda for the week. The ground they stand on in Memphis might not always appear to be common, but it is definitely holy. I told them about meeting Mother Teresa when she visited Memphis, and how she opened a home here because of the great need of those in poverty. I talked about meeting Pope John Paul II when I was superintendent of the Catholic Schools and asking him to pray for the Jubilee Schools, shortly before they reopened.

I told them about the nuns from Philadelphia who came to Memphis to teach in the Jubilee Schools, and about my work helping a group of venture philanthropists in Philadelphia resurrect 15 urban Catholic schools there.

What we learn, we teach, on those roads to and from Memphis.

I talked about Martin Luther King’s visit to Memphis, the St. Mary’s Soup Kitchen, and the other places they would visit and serve in during the days ahead. I knew that the road back from Memphis would be enriched by their experiences here.
Lew Clark, faculty chaperone, summed up their Memphis immersion: “Our Memphis mission trip brought to life civil rights lessons learned in the classroom. We didn’t just read stories of the underground railroad, we stood in the basement of Slave Haven Underground Railroad Museum; we didn’t just hear the stories of the civil rights movement, we stood in the actual room where Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. lived his last moments; and we didn’t just hear about the integration of schools, we listened to Br. Terrance’s firsthand account of integrating Christian Brothers High School.”

Last spring, the visiting students of LaSalle College High School raised money for St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital in memory of a faculty member.

“While in Memphis, we toured St. Jude’s and were able to witness the miracles that happen there every day. We realized that we didn’t raise money just for a research hospital, but for children, families, and medical professionals making a world of difference,” Clark said.

While the civil rights history and life-saving cancer research made an impression on the missionaries, the people of Memphis had the biggest impact.

“What touched us the most during our trip to Memphis, hands down, was the people. Whether it was our hosts at Christian Brothers University, the men and women in line at Saint Mary’s Soup Kitchen, the Missionaries of Charity and families they serve at the shelter, the children at the Jubilee Schools, or everyday Memphians, we were overwhelmed by the welcoming spirit and touching stories of those we met,” Clark said. “In the end, we received much more from our time in Memphis than we gave.”

However, I know it is not the end; it’s a stop along the way on the road to and from Memphis.

Contact Dr. Mary C. McDonald, a national education consultant, at 574-2956 or visit

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