Five Sisters of Mercy are celebrating their jubilees in 2021.
Sister Mary Dismas Foster spent her grade-school years in St. John the Evangelist School in Rochester and high-school years at Our Lady of Mercy in Brighton, graduating in 1941. The influence of the Sisters of Mercy led her to enter the order, where she devoted 41 years to teaching.
She taught at St. Charles Borromeo School in Greece and at her alma mater, Our Lady of Mercy High School, where students remembered her as “completely tireless and dedicated to God’s service.” She always stressed with her students the great need to reach out beyond their circle, where there will always be someone who needs them.
As a volunteer for 40 years at the Rochester Psychiatric Center, she taught sewing, organized many celebrations and encouraged her students to befriend the patients.
When she retired, she obtained her driver’s license, moved to Mt. Carmel Convent in Rochester, drove a truck, and picked up and delivered furniture to those who had none. She also continued the “Clothes Closet” that had been started and run by Sister Mary Regis. When Our Lady of Mt. Carmel Church closed, she volunteered at Seneca Towers Apartments and as a laundress for the infirmary at Mercy Center in Brighton.
Today, after 80 years, she still lives in her beloved city at St. Stanislaus Convent and is still reaching out to help anyone of God’s people who comes along.
Motto: In His will is our peace.
Sister Jacqulyn Reichart (formerly Sister Mary Matthias) grew up in St. Margaret Mary Parish in Irondequoit and attended St. Salome School, where she was taught by the Sisters of Mercy. She attend Our Lady of Mercy High School in Brighton, graduating in 1951 before entering the Sisters of Mercy.
She earned a bachelor’s degree in education from Nazareth College of Rochester and a master’s in guidance at SUNY Brockport.
She taught or was principal in four Diocese of Rochester schools while directing their children’s choirs. In 1968, she was assigned to Our Lady of Mercy High School, where she taught theology and math, and served as guidance counselor and vice principal.
In most recent years, Sister Reichart served as pastoral administrator of Our Lady Queen of Peace Parish in Brighton for six years. She then served as campus minister for the Newman Catholic Community at the University of Rochester, president of the Sisters Inter-congregational Council and member of the Rochester Diocesan Council on Gay and Lesbian Family Task Force.
During these 70 years, “I have had the blessing to be in many ministries. … I am being honest when I say that I have no ‘favorite.’… The miracle of God’s presence in each encounter was a remarkable blessing. God’s voice spoke to me through the people — their joys, their struggles, their wisdom, their beauty and their faith,” she said. “I would conclude my conversation with … the title of a long-honored film: ‘It’s been a ‘Wonderful Life.’”
Motto: No one, but only Jesus
To walk in the footsteps of Catherine McAuley had been a wish of Sister Nancy Whitley since she was a student at Our Lady of Mercy High School in Brighton.
“My parents instilled in me a great love of the Eucharist,” said the former Blessed Sacrament parishioner. “And the goodness, prayerfulness, joy and Irish wit of the sisters created a desire in me to be like them.”
It was there, she said, “I found a wonderful, joyful compassionate spirit among the sisters. When my father died in my junior year, I found the sisters most caring and understanding. I knew I wanted to share those gifts of Mercy with others.”
Following graduation in 1951, she entered formation, earned an associate of science degree from Catherine McAuley College, and began 40 years of teaching, counseling and administration ministries in Diocese of Rochester schools, all while earning bachelor’s degrees in English and counseling from Niagara University and the University of Dayton.
That harbored wish came to fruition in 1996 with the “opportunity to serve for three years on the team of Mercy International Centre in Dublin, Ireland. To meet sisters, associates and friends from around the world, who came to the center to learn more about Catherine McAuley, provided both a challenging and very rewarding ministry. Just to live and work in (her) home … was a privilege,” she said.
Looking back to her 70 years of ministry, she added, “To be a part of a long line of courageous women who saw the needs of the time in Ireland and still do in our present time is to be relevant in the service to the church and to those who stand in need of our service.”
Motto: Serve the Lord with joy
Sister Mary Ann Binsack was 7 when she joined the new St. Cecilia Church in Irondequoit and attended the parish school staffed by the Sisters of Mercy. Their influence and guidance continued through her years at Our Lady of Mercy High School in Brighton.
Through her educational years, she found the sisters to be friendly, supportive and caring. Her first teacher was Sister Katie Flaherty, who planted the seed in her of pursuing religious life. In high school, she was personally invited to consider becoming a sister and entered in 1961.
Of the many and varied teaching and leadership positions Sister Binsack has enjoyed throughout these 60 years, her favorite is her current position of 20 years for the Diocese of Rochester as administrator, friend and coworker to Bishop Emeritus Matthew H. Clark.
“Faith-filled, loving, prayerful and compassionate to others, he has taught me to see the best in each person and opportunity,” she said.
A favorite Scripture quote is 1 John 4:10-11: “In this is love, not that we have loved God, but that God has loved us. … If God loved us, we must love one another.”
“This captures the essence of what it means to be a Sister of Mercy. It is easy to say we love God, but our love for God is shown by the way we love one another,” she said.
She added: “I have had countless opportunities to pray, share and minister with women and men of faith in our community and Institute. They motivate and inspire me to focus on the Gospel and our critical concerns. For this, I am grateful and blessed to be a Sister of Mercy.”
Ten years after graduating from Our Lady of Mercy High School in Brighton in 1951, earning a bachelor’s degree in history from Nazareth College and teaching in public high school, Sister Barbara Moore was influenced to enter the Sisters of Mercy “by the spirit of the order and the role and gifts” of her history teacher, the late Sister Mary Beatrice Currans.
In celebrating 60 years, “I have loved every ministry, from high-school teacher to adjunct professor at Colgate Rochester Divinity School, from parish ministry to jail ministry, from preaching to hospital work, and from a congressional office to pursuit of higher education,” said Sister Moore. “Great sadness came for me when a few ministries ended because of what I believed to be unfair processes and rejection because I was a woman. But I have learned that from every ministry-death experience, I have gained new life and expanded vision.”
Among her many blessings are her loving family and friends. “And friendships for me have been and are a great source of life and blessings,” she added.
“The Sisters of Mercy have shown me love, deep respect and unfailing support. I love the ecumenical vision of Catherine McAuley and her values and words, ‘to do the ordinary things extraordinarily well.’ The sisters have read the signs of the times, and I have been blessed to be a part of that vision,” she said.