Sisters note 150 years - Catholic Courier

Sisters note 150 years

ROCHESTER — Their ministries are constantly evolving, as evidenced by new efforts toward adult literacy and caregiver respite. In fact, the local Sisters of Mercy have spent the past 150 years addressing concerns in such areas as education, health care, spirituality and poverty.

“It’s all part of the mission, but it’s expressed in new ways as new needs come along,” said Sister Gaye Moorhead, Rochester regional president of the Sisters of Mercy of the Americas.

The community launched a yearlong sesquicentennial celebration on Dec. 10, when more than 300 people gathered for a prayer service and lecture at St. Mary Church in downtown Rochester. The next major event will be a public open house on June 9 — 150 years to the day from the Rochester congregation’s founding — at the Mercy Motherhouse, 1437 Blossom Road, Brighton. It will last from 1:30 to 3:30 p.m., followed by Mass at 4 p.m. in the motherhouse chapel.

On Aug. 11, the motherhouse will host a private reunion of former Sisters of Mercy. Finally, the public is invited to a closing Mass on Dec. 9, with Bishop Matthew H. Clark serving as celebrant. The 2 p.m. liturgy at Sacred Heart Cathedral will be followed by a reception.

Also during the anniversary year, the Rochester congregation will focus on promoting the beatification and canonization of Sister Catherine McAuley, who founded the Mercy order in Dublin, Ireland, in 1827. In 1990 Sister McAuley was declared venerable by Pope John Paul II, the first step toward sainthood.

The sesquicentennial coincides with another historic event for the Rochester sisters: They soon will join with congregations from Buffalo, Erie, Pa., Pittsburgh and the Philippines. This new community will be centered in Buffalo and will be known as Sisters of Mercy of the Americas, New York, Pennsylvania, Pacific West. Officers are being elected in the summer of 2007, and the community will become official in January 2008.

According to Sister Moorhead, the consolidation is part of a nationwide blending of 25 regional communities into six. She said the reconfiguration process, which has been in the works for several years, allows the order to use its resources more efficiently for ministry. She added that the Sisters of Mercy do not plan to leave the Rochester Diocese, and that local operations involving the sisters and their ministries will remain largely unchanged. There are currently 165 sisters in the Rochester congregation.

If anything, the diversity of services is increasing as the community launches two new ministries. Mercy Bridges is a literacy program tailored toward a sizable share of Rochester-area adults who cannot read. Also making its debut is Mercy Respite for Caregivers, a service and support ministry for people who care for Alzheimer’s patients and the chronically ill.
These efforts make a total of 15 ministries sponsored by the Rochester Sisters of Mercy. The other programs center on education (Our Lady of Mercy and Elmira Notre Dame high schools); spirituality (Mercy Prayer Center); mentoring young Catholic women (McAuley House); special-needs foster children (Andrew Center); overseas missionary duty (Chilean Missions); the rural poor (Steuben County Rural Ministry); health care (Hornell’s St. James Mercy Hospital); adult day care (Mercy Care Center); service to infirm sisters, priests and other elderly people (Community Care); health and dental services for the uninsured (Mercy Outreach Center); young homeless mothers and their children (Mercy Residential Services); and work-skill training for city youths (St. Michael’s Woodshop).
Sister Moorhead observed that the current lineup of ministries is consistent with the Mercy Sisters’ special devotion to serving the poor, sick and uneducated, with a special concern for women and children.

“I think Catherine McAuley would be pretty pleased,” Sister Moorhead remarked.

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