In Memoriam: Justin Schaefer

By: Kaitlin Popielarz, MEP Instructor and Guest Blogger 

Justin Schaefer came to Mercy Education Project through the Jesuit Volunteer Corps. Beginning in the fall of 2014, Justin promised to live with spirituality, simplicity, community, and fervor for social justice with his housemates. It would be in this life of servitude that Justin would learn much about himself while teaching those around him what it means to live life as a disciple of Jesus Christ.

 At MEP, Justin taught both Science and Math in the Women’s program. Justin was also deeply involved in all aspects of MEP’s mission. He was always one to lend a helping hand, to volunteer when needed, and to give his whole heart to those he served. As time went by, it became clear that Justin had a passion for teaching as he became quite enamored with every aspect of education. His students absolutely adored him and think of him with only the fondest memories. Likewise, Justin’s coworkers came to respect him as a talented and enthusiasticcolleague.

 During Justin’s year with MEP, it became clear that he was no ordinary volunteer. Justin truly lived out the values of the Jesuit Volunteer Corps but also those of the Sisters of Mercy. Justin sincerely believed in the mission of MEP and the role it played in assisting women and girls of Detroit to better their own lives through education. Each day, Justin aimed to instruct, counsel, welcome, comfort, give, and pray for the students that walked through the doors of MEP. It was in this way that he lived out the spiritual and corporal works of mercy that define the Sisters of Mercy. Through these actions, Justin modeled the love and kindness of Jesus Christ for all those affiliated with MEP.

 Even while working as a diligent servant, Justin was known for his smile and charismatic personality. Justin easily made friends with his students, colleagues, and those within his Detroit community. Soon after one got to know Justin, it became clear that he held a deep love for science, especially Geology. It was impossible for those around him to not find interest in a rock he was depicting or care for the environment he held dear. Justin was also zealous for Detroit, which quickly became a new home he loved to explore through biking or running. He easily showed friends and family that Detroit was a city to love because it had so much to give in return.

 At MEP, we will miss Justin’s laugh and his calm nature. We will remember his intelligence and his gift for teaching. We will long for his empathetic conversations, which were filled with positivity and patience. We will crave his expert gardening advice and what recipes to use for our abundant harvests. To have known Justin, even if for a brief moment in time, is to have known a great and indefinable soul. To have taught and learned beside him is a beautiful gift from God that we will cherish forever. We know Justin’s extraordinary spirit lives on. A piece of Justin will reside in each one of us as we carry on his vocational mission – to love and serve others as a disciple of Jesus Christ.




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Here are some recent comments from community members, volunteers, students and others who are commenting on Mercy Education Project.


"Education is an opportunity and can be transformational for our most vulnerable communities; especially those, like us, working tirelessly in search of the American Dream. Programs like Mercy Education Project have successfully removed those barriers for many and have educated our women and girls and is transforming their lives."

JoAnn Chávez, Vice President Legal & Chief Tax Officer
DTE Energy, August 2017


"….Literacy is a fundamental right and an essential building block for a productive life. Increasing adult literacy also ensures more parents can be engaged in their children’s education, ,making this a cause  critical to helping families break the cycle of poverty. Thank you to Mercy Education Project for their tireless efforts to ensure everyone has an opportunity to learn to read. Together, I know we are making a difference.”

Warren C. Evans, Wayne County Executive
Wayne County, December 2016