With the holiday season right around the corner, the alumni relations team was inspired to begin a series that features an alum who embodies one of the core values from our mission statement. In this issue, we’re featuring a 1980 graduate from Washington, D.C. whose life work truly represents what it means to be socially merciful.
Rev. Walter R. Green graduated from Mercyhurst in 1980 with a degree in history and has dedicated his life to working with the homeless by providing social services and shelter. When Rev. Green was a student at Mercyhurst, he traveled to Pennsylvania’s Appalachia in Clearfield County with Sr. Peg in campus ministry for three weeks where he first saw the effects of grinding poverty on a population. “I think that’s where the seed for social justice was sown for me” says Rev. Green. When he returned to Erie from his trip, Rev. Green says, “I was struck by the contrast of relative wealth and comfort just a few hours away from what I had just seen. Having worked with very poor people for quite a while, I’m still amazed that such poverty exists in a nation so wealthy.”
After graduating from Mercyhurst, Rev. Green spent a year working as painter with Mercyhurst’s maintenance department and then went to the seminary at Louisville Presbyterian Theological Seminary in Ky. where he became an ordained minister. In 1986, Rev. Green started working with the homeless and people at risk of homelessness. He worked in Chicago for almost six years where he provided outreach services to homeless people with mental illnesses and continued to do similar outreach work in DC for eight more years. Currently Green is working for Unity Health Care in Washington, D.C. at a medical clinic based in a shelter for men who are homeless. Working with the aid of the medical staff, Rev. Green provides social services including working with men with addictions, mental health issues, or have unemployment and housing issues. Rev. Green’s outreach work in Chicago and his current position with Unity Health Care truly represent what it means to be socially merciful in our world today. When asked what motivated him towards this kind of work, Rev. Green responded, “I’m not sure it was my decision! It’s something I feel called to do, it’s my vocation.”
Rev. Green admits his work does not come without its challenges. Some of his most memorable moments are ones he wished he’d never seen, from feet gangrenous from untreated frostbite, people suffering from addictions, and seeing many people in physical, mental, and spiritual pain. Through all of the challenges Rev. Green has faced through his work, he is constantly motivated by the hard work of his colleagues and through their mutual support of one another. As a team they are able find the strength to keep reaching out to people. Rev. Green says, “I’ve learned you never know who is going to respond to treatment, who is going to find a way out of bad situation, maybe because I gave a little support or encouragement or challenged them in some way.”
Rev. Green continues to be inspired by the resilience of the human spirit and an underlying theme of hope that runs through every meeting and story he experiences daily whether with his colleagues or his clients. He says, “to be a part of someone’s life, however briefly, is an honor, a trust. I’ve had people I’ve worked with come back months or years later and tell me I made a difference in their lives. It doesn’t get much better than that!”
If you know an alum who lives out Mercyhurst College’s mission in their day to day life please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org.