Thirteen Sisters of Mercy are marking many years of service this year. Sisters and associates will gather on May 16 for a jubilee celebration at Mercy Center in Brighton. The local community is part of the Institute of the Sisters of Mercy of the Americas in the New York, Pennsylvania, Pacific West Community.
Sister Mary Faith Francioneentered the congregation from Rochester’s St. Michael Parish.
Her spiritual life was nourished through her parents, faith and devotion throughout her childhood. It was Bishop Lawrence B. Casey who introduced her to the Sisters of Mercy and encouraged her to pursue the desire to serve God as a vowed religious.
She has taught at St. John the Evangelist and Holy Cross, Rochester; St. Joseph, Penfield; St. Cecilia, Irondequoit; and Holy Family, Auburn. Sister Francione served as principal at St. Joseph and Holy Family and also was a member of the faculty of Our Lady of Mercy High School, Brighton. In her retirement, she ministers in the spiritual apostolate at Mercy Center in Brighton.
"I truly loved each ministry to which I was called over the years," Sister Francione said. "I have met Jesus in all of them and continue to do so now at this point in my life. If anyone asked me about an interest in religious life, I would tell them it’s a beautiful way of life and one that brings a great deal of satisfaction. A favorite quote from Catherine McAuley, foundress of the Sisters of Mercy, is, ‘Our hearts can always be in the same place centered in God.’ My motto, ‘Alone with Jesus,’ provides me with a sense of inner joy."
Motto: Alone with Jesus
Sister Mary Conleth Kennedy entered the congregation from Rochester’s Blessed Sacrament Parish. Relationships with the Sisters of Mercy and the rich experiences of the Sodality while in high school led her to enter religious life.
She taught at Our Lady of Mt. Carmel and St. Andrew, Rochester; St. Ann, Hornell; and St. Cecilia, Irondequoit, where she also served as principal. She also worked in the administration offices of the Sisters of Mercy and at St. James Mercy Hospital in Hornell. She then ministered at Steuben County Rural Ministry from 1982 until her retirement. She now ministers in the spiritual apostolate at Mercy Center in Brighton.
"Over the years, my favorite ministry was always the one in which I was involved," she said. "That was a great gift and I have always been grateful for it. For me, the most satisfying part of being a Sister of Mercy is that it is a very fulfilling life. Each day I am grateful to be a member of this community of dedicated women. If someone showed interest in religious life, I would encourage them to consider it and to know that it is a life of loving service in whatever ministry God calls them."
Motto: To Jesus through Mary
Sister Mary Brigid Quinnentered the congregation from St. Charles Borromeo Parish, Greece. She taught at Our Lady of Mt. Carmel and St. John the Evangelist, Rochester; St. Louis, Pittsford; and St. Ann Hornell. She also served as principal of St. Charles Borromeo, Greece. She says of that time: "Teaching first grade was my favorite ministry. It was an honor to instill Christian values that would be a solid foundation for the rest of their lives."
In the 1970s, Sister Quinn became a pastoral associate, serving at St. Mary, Waterloo; St. Helen, Gates; St. Pius Tenth, Chili; St. Joseph, Cayuga; Our Lady of the Lakes, the Finger Lakes; and St. Patrick, Owego, where she engaged in rural ministry. She also served as the coordinator of the retired sisters at Mercy Center in Brighton. In her retirement, she ministers in the spiritual apostolate. "What I find most satisfying about being a Sister of Mercy is that I have companions on life’s journey who share our faith and the vision of Catherine McAuley, our foundress. They are human, have a sense of humor, and willingly comfort and listen to each other," she said.
Motto: He must increase
Sister Mary Rose Schumentered the congregation from St. Ambrose Parish in Rochester. "My love and respect for the Sisters of Mercy goes back to my days at Our Lady of Mercy High School," she said. "The sisters were joyfully doing God’s work. I was attracted by their energy, their love, and respect and concern for others."
After her years of formation she studied at Nazareth College and St. Mary’s Hospital to become a registered nurse. Those who have received her skilled and compassionate care over these years are not surprised that Sister Schum’s favorite quotation from Scripture is: "Whatsoever you do for the least of my brothers, you do unto me." Sister Schum spent 34 years as a nurse in the Sisters of Mercy’s infirmary. For the next 23 years she coadministrated an adult social day care in Elmira.
"I loved my time as a nurse in our infirmary and our adult social day care in Elmira," she said.
In her retirement, Sister Schum resides at Mercy Center in Brighton and ministers in the spiritual apostolate.
"Were anyone to inquire about life as a Sister of Mercy," she said, "I would tell them, ‘It was and is a beautiful life.’"
Motto: O my God, I love Thee
Sister Barbara Guarino (formerly Sister Mary Savio) entered the congregation from St. Francis Xavier, Rochester, and was most influenced in high school, having been taught by the Sisters of Mercy.
She studied at Catherine McAuley College and Nazareth College, from which she received a bachelor’s degree. She also earned an MAT in religious education from St. Michael’s in Winooski, Vt.
She taught for 26 years at St. Michael, Newark; St. Cecilia, Elmira; St. Thomas the Apostle, Irondequoit; St. John of Rochester, Fairport; and St. Helen, Gates. She was then director of religious education at St. Helen Parish. Then she was administrative secretary/textbook coordinator at Our Lady of Mercy High School for 11 years. From 2004-15, she ministered as a caregiver for three small children and a receptionist in a chiropractic office. She is currently is the administrative assistant for the Rochester community’s local leader. She also has served as sacristan for Mercy Center with both flair and prayerful creativity.
"Have faith in God and faith in me" have enabled her to live out this trust, particularly in challenging years. She said she looks at her 60 years as a time of peace, prayer, sacrifice and blessing.
Motto: God alone
When Sister Grace Miller (formerly Sister Mary Josepha) remembers her childhood, she recalls the wonderful hospitality her parents extended to those who needed a temporary place to stay or a good meal. Today she continues that welcome as director of the House of Mercy in Rochester.
Sister Miller entered the congregation from St. Mary in Corning. She taught junior-high students at St. John the Evangelist (Humboldt Street) and Our Lady of Mt. Carmel, Rochester; and St. Thomas the Apostle, Irondequoit. In the mid-1960s, she was invited to join the newly formed diocesan Department of Urban Ministry. Although she enjoyed teaching, she knew this would afford her the opportunity to expand the ways in which she would be able to directly address the needs of the urban population of Rochester.
Her ministry among the homeless and impoverished people of Rochester took her to Baden Street Settlement House, St. Bridget Parish and the Brown Street Tutoring Center. In 1985, Sister Miller established the House of Mercy. As director she continues to believe that she is living out the Gospel message of mercy and compassion in serving the poorest of the poor who come to her doorstep for help.
Motto: Thy will be done
When one thinks of Sister Mary Alice O’Brien (formerly Sister Mary McAuley), the saying "life is good" naturally comes to mind. Imagine the fullness of life and dedication of spirit to arrive at such a slogan. Sister O’Brien’s decision to enter the congregation came from her education at Our Lady of Mercy High School by the sisters, as well as her own family — two of her cousins became Mercy sisters after graduation from Mercy High.
Sister O’Brien listened to the Spirit and answered "yes." She studied at Catherine McAuley College and Marywood College, where she received her MS in home economics, followed by an advanced certificate in administration from SUNY Brockport.
She readily speaks of her love of education. She taught at Holy Cross, Rochester; Cardinal Mooney, Greece; and Our Lady of Mercy High School, Brighton. She also was principal at St. Margaret Mary, Irondequoit. She also was librarian at St. Charles, Greece; and Holy Rosary and Holy Cross, Rochester, before her retirement.
Her ministry continues as a volunteer/visitor and skilled seamstress in Elder One. She also enjoys creating counted cross stitch.
"I thank God that I can reflect back on many blessed and lovable moments in these ministries," she said.
Motto: O Lord, I am not worthy
Sister Mary Lou Seitz (formerly Sister Mary Nathanael) celebrates her jubilee year reflecting for those who might be interested in religious life that "religious life is filled with challenges and blessings that call for great faith and trust — come and see!"
The Sisters of Mercy, having been her teachers in grammar school and high school, influenced her to "come and see." She entered the congregation from her home parish of St. James in Irondequoit.
Sister Seitz has a BS in chemistry from the University of Arizona at Tucson. From 1958-2014, she taught at St. Cecilia, Irondequoit; Notre Dame High School, Elmira; and St. Ann and St. James Mercy Hospital, Hornell. She returned to Notre Dame High in 1968 and retired in 2014, leaving her favorite ministry, having impacted many lives with her skills and commitment as an educator.
She currently lives at Mercy Center in Brighton, where she volunteers as a driver, receptionist and literacy volunteer. Her support and encouragement comes from a "community with loving, caring, human and gifted women" and from the words of Catherine McAuley, "Let us pray well and never grow weary."
Motto: In te Domine speravi (In You, O Lord, I have hoped)
Sister Dolores Ann Stein (formerly Sister Mary Dolora) found the roots of her strong desire to be attentive to the needs of others in the example given by her parents.
After she entered the Sisters of Mercy she "thoroughly enjoyed all of her ministries, from teaching the little ones to teaching at the high school level," she said. As an administrator for 23 years in Elmira and Hornell, she imbued students, faculties and parents with her enthusiasm for Catholic education.
Her early teaching assignments included the parish schools of St. Andrew and Our Lady of Mt. Carmel in Rochester; St. Mary, Corning; and Notre Dame High School in Elmira. Sister Stein’s administrative skills were recognized in the many years she served as principal of St. Ann School in Hornell.
Following her retirement she ministered in the Diocesan Catholic Schools Office for three years. She now assists at Nazareth Elementary School and serves as codirector of Mercy Bridges literacy program.
Motto: Fiat mihi secundum verbum tuum (Be it done to me according to your word)
Sister Barbara Joan Wintish (formerly Sister Mary Petra) came to religious life from her home parish of St. Augustine, Rochester. She is the sister of two other Sisters of Mercy, graduated from Our Lady of Mercy High School in Brighton, and speaks of the influence of her mother, "who always thought of others" and was a daily communicant.
Sister Wintish sees religious life as holding the "opportunities we have to grow closer to Jesus."
She received a BA degree in English, and over a period of 12 years taught grades 2-8 at St. Michael, Newark; St. Patrick, Owego; and St. Salome, Irondequoit. After receiving her LPN at Rochester General Hospital, she was employed there and at Jordan Health Center as a staff nurse. For 11 years after that, she ministered to special needs children and seniors.
"I found joy in caring for special needs children and seniors in their home," she said of her ministry of nursing. "It was easy to see ‘only Jesus’ in my ministry."
Sister Wintish is currently living at Mercy Center in Brighton and continues her work as a volunteer for Mercy Bridges Adult Literacy Training, Prayer Shawl Ministry and the Mercy Center itself.
Motto: Only Jesus
Sister Mary Clare Bollow, did not take instructions in the Catholic faith until she was 20 years old. Following her baptism as a Catholic in St. Mary Church, Elmira, in 1963, she continued to hear God’s invitation and gave much thought to religious life. Sister Mary Denise O’Brien, who she said was an enthusiastic and joy-filled woman, was her introduction to the Sisters of Mercy.
She entered the congregation in 1965, and her first ministry was in 1968 as the office manager/secretary at Our Lady of Mercy High School in Brighton. From there she taught at Our Lady Queen of Peace, Brighton; Guardian Angels, Henrietta; and Nazareth Hall, Rochester. Since 1996, she has served the most vulnerable of society as a caregiver in two foster care homes, Morning Star (a ministry of the Sisters of St. Joseph) and Andrew Center, a longtime ministry of the Sisters of Mercy. Sister Bollow also is an active participant in the liturgical music group at Mercy Center.
After 50 years, she said she still feels that her vows have kept her centered in her life in Mercy. She firmly believes that the message given by Catherine McAuley to her sisters to always serve those who come in need have kept her mindful of God’s love for the poor and neglected in her midst.
Motto: God is love
Sister Joanne Deck (formerly Sister Bernard Mary)entered the congregation in 1965 from Our Lady of Good Counsel Parish, Rochester.
She first met the Sisters of Mercy when she attended Our Lady of Mercy High School in Brighton and was impressed by the happiness they radiated and their willingness to be of service in both little and big things. Their spirit played a major part in her decision to join them after graduation. Following her graduation from SUNY Geneseo, Sister Deck began her teaching ministry at St. Thomas the Apostle and St. Salome, Irondequoit, and in Corning’s Catholic School North. After completing her studies in counseling, Sister Deck became a guidance counselor at Cardinal Mooney High School in Greece.
In 1985, after spending a month in Chile, she joined the sisters there as a missionary, living and working among the Chilean people for the next 25 years. Once she returned from Chile, she found another ministry with the elder and retired sisters at Mercy Center in Brighton.
Motto: All in Jesus
Sister Sheila Stevenson (formerly Sister Mary Peter Canisius) entered the congregation from Our Lady of Mercy Parish in Greece.
Her early years as a dental hygienist in public health in the inner city of Rochester and in a rural clinic for migrant families in Wayne County gave her opportunities to help those who were poor in a unique way. After receiving an MS in dental public health, she became an associate professor of dental hygiene at Monroe Community College.
She was later called upon to be vocation director for the Sisters of Mercy, be elected to leadership and eventually to serve as president of the Rochester regional community.
Following her time as president, Sister Stevenson worked with young women who were contemplating life as Sisters of Mercy.
In 2012 she was elected to leadership as a member of the leadership team for the Sisters of Mercy, New York, Pennsylvania, Pacific West Community and now resides in Buffalo.
She said that being a Sister of Mercy has afforded her the opportunity to grow and develop as a whole person and to be a lifelong learner of the world in all its joys and sorrows.