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This Sister of Mercy’s response to former student’s Olympic gold is utter joy

Sydney McLaughlin


Cerith Gardiner - published on 09/16/21

The school principal is one of Sydney McLaughlin's greatest fans.

When Sydney McLaughlin set off on her 400-meter hurdles race last August 3, she had her former school principal cheering her on.

Sister Percylee Hart was wearing her Union Catholic Regional High School blazer and was waving an American flag as she cheered on her old pupil from inside a tavern in Mountainside, New Jersey, according to a report from the Sisters of Mercy.

As McLaughlin raced passed the finishing line to win her glorious gold — beating her own world record at the same time — Sister Percylee found the experience a little out of this world: “This ultimate joy just burst from me! It was hard to define the magnitude of that joy. I think I let out a ‘Wow!’ and ‘Gold Syd Gold.’”

The principal shared how the impact of the win extended to the UC community: “All I kept thinking was that many are one loving each other. It was magic happening.”

She also shared how the 21-year-old athlete has had a positive influence on UC students. “She is a great role model. I always say to our students, if you are successful, we are all successful. We are all energized by her and feel as if we ran the race.”

Sister Percylee, who has been UC’s principal for 41 years, also shared how McLaughlin’s faith has stayed firm since she graduated UC in 2017. The hurdler shared an Instagram post praising God:

“What an honor it is to be able to represent not only my country but also the kingdom of God. What I have in Christ is far greater than what I have or don’t have in life. I pray my journey may be a clear depiction of submission and obedience to God. Even when it doesn’t make sense, even when it doesn’t seem possible, He will make a way out of no way. Not for my own gratification, but for His glory.”

The Olympian has also remained close to the school by going there to exercise and to keep a watchful on the school’s track team, according to Sister Percylee.

While McLaughlin is impressing the world on the track, Sister Percylee is quietly notching up a few impressive accolades herself. She received the National Catholic Education Association Lead, Learn and Proclaim Award in March, as well as the 2020 Lifetime Achievement Award from the Union County (New Jersey) Commission on the Status of Women.

Yet, what she seems to treasure most is fostering the values held firm by the Sisters of Mercy in the school that welcomes 680 students, speaking 56 languages.

“When I see a child coming in who has suffered for whatever reason, to see that same child be in a positive environment and realize that God has a plan for that child is my greatest joy,” shared one of McLaughlin’s biggest fans.

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