Sister of Mercy M. Gratia L’Esperance, a French teacher who became known as a fervent social-justice advocate in the Rochester area, died May 31, 2019. She was 87 years old.
Sister L’Esperance entered the congregation after graduating from Our Lady of Mercy High School in 1950. She earned a bachelor’s degree in French from Rivier College, Nashua, N.H., and a master’s degree in French from Middlebury College in Vermont. She also was the first woman to graduate from the master of divinity degree in theology program from St. Bernard’s Seminary in Rochester.
She taught in elementary schools in Rochester and Elmira, and taught at Our Lady of Mercy High School, Brighton, and Holy Family High School, Auburn. Later, she taught at Catherine McAuley College, Rochester, and was a religious/adult education staff member and theological consultant for the Diocese of Rochester. She also was assistant to the director of field education at St. Bernard’s Seminary.
Working for many years on the staff of Mercy Center for the Aging, Sister L’Esperance became justice coordinator for the regional community of the Sisters of Mercy, while volunteering at the Resource Center for the Alzheimer’s Association. Also, she was a member of the Rochester Regional Task Force on Women in the Church.
As an advocate, she worked with agencies that ministered to the poor, and she often wrote letters on justice issues that were published in local newspapers. Building on NETWORK’s first “Nuns on the Bus Tour” in 2012, Sister L’Esperance organized a similar trek highlighting ministries helping the poor in the Rochester area.
She was the recipient of the Consistent Life Ethic Vita Award, St. Bernard’s Lifetime Ministry Award, the Interfaith Alliance of Rochester Faith in Action Award and the Lifetime Achievement Award from Rochester ACTS, an interfaith social-justice group.
Sister L’Esperance is survived by several nieces, nephews and her sisters in the congregation.
Her funeral liturgy was celebrated at the Mercy Center chapel in Brighton on June 5, 2019, with burial at Holy Sepulchre Cemetery.
Contributions in her memory may be made to the Sisters of Mercy, Mercy Center, 1437 Blossom Road, Rochester, NY 14610.