Rochester Sister of Mercy dies in two-vehicle crash - Catholic Courier
A bishop speaks at Mass.

Bishop Salvatore R. Matano celebrates a July 17 Mass at the diocesan Pastoral Center in Gates in memory of Sister Arlene Semesky, who died in a car accident in Pennsylvania July 16. (Courier photo by Jeff Witherow)

Rochester Sister of Mercy dies in two-vehicle crash

A Rochester Sister of Mercy was killed in a two-vehicle crash July 16 that also involved three other congregation members.

Sister Arlene Semesky
Sister Arlene Semesky

According to a Pennsylvania State Police report, Sister Joanne Deck, RSM, was driving a 2017 Chevrolet Equinox SUV when it collided with a 2014 Dodge Ram truck. The crash occurred at 9:53 a.m. in East Township, Pa., near Erie. The report stated that Sister Deck’s SUV was traveling south on Gay Road and stopped at the intersection of Lake Road. It then proceeded straight through the intersection, at which point it was struck on the driver’s side by the pickup truck. The sisters’ vehicle rolled over and came to rest on its wheels in a grass area north of Lake Road, according to the report.

Sister Arlene Semesky, 79, a passenger in the SUV, died at the scene. She was to have celebrated her 60th jubilee in the congregation in September 2023.

Sister Deck was airlifted to UPMC Hamot Hospital in Erie with serious injuries. She remained in critical condition in the hospital’s intensive care unit as of mid-afternoon July 17, according to Sister Kathleen Wayne, a leader for the Sisters of Mercy in Rochester, Buffalo, Erie and Pittsburgh.

The SUV’s two other passengers, Sister Katharine Ann Rappl and Sister Marissa Butler, were transported by ambulance to UPMC Hamot Hospital with non-life threatening injuries; however, Sister Wayne noted that Sister Rappl remained in intensive care through mid-afternoon July 17. Two juvenile male passengers in the truck also were brought by ambulance to UPMC Hamot Hospital for minor injuries.

Sisters Semesky, Deck and Rappl lived together at the St. Rita Parish convent in Webster. Sister Butler lives in Omaha, Neb., and had resided in Webster with the three other sisters during her novitiate. Sister Wayne noted that Sisters Semesky, Deck and Rappl had gone to visit Sister Butler the weekend of July 15-16 while she was on retreat in Erie; all four were on their way to Mass when the accident occurred.

Bishop Salvatore R. Matano offered Mass for accident victims

According to a statement from the Diocese of Rochester, the regularly scheduled 12:15 p.m. Mass at the diocesan Pastoral Center in Gates July 17 was offered for the accident’s victims.

“The Diocese of Rochester unites in prayer with the Sisters of Mercy community,” the statement said. “As a family of faith, we ask Mary, Our dearest Mother of Mercy, to intercede before the Lord for Sister Arlene Semesky, RSM, that she be granted eternal rest and peace, and that Our Mother Mary intercede on behalf of the other Sisters of Mercy, and the passengers who also were injured in the accident, asking her Son Jesus, the Divine Physician, to bring them healing.”

Sister Semesky was a native of Elmira. She graduated from Notre Dame High School in 1961 and entered the Sisters of Mercy on Sept. 8, 1963. She held degrees in food service administration, food science and home economics education. She worked in the motherhouse kitchen soon after entering the congregation, then moved to Notre Dame High, where she taught and also worked in the school lunch program for nearly 30 years. She later ministered in Elmira with Elcor Health Services and Meals on Wheels. After relocating to the Rochester area, she sewed many popular items for Kate’s Gift Shop at the motherhouse.

“We are eternally grateful for the prayerful support of so many people, including Bishop (Salvatore) Matano, Father Tim Niven (pastor of St. Rita) and our Sisters of Mercy across the institute,” Sister Wayne said.

Tags: Religious Orders
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