May 19, 2007

Brooklyn Ministry Celebrates 145th Aniversary

Celebrating 145 Years of Mercy Home…. 145 years of service to celebrate…. Mercy Home a sponsored ministry now focused on asuring the quality of life for men women and children with development disabilities, is celebrating its 145th year of lifegiving services.

Mercy Home, opened as an orphanage in 1862 when 5 little boys, homeless and parentless due to a fire, knocked on the door of the Brooklyn Convent of Mercy and wer welcomed with open arms. As part of the anniversary, a Mass an ddinner was ehld for sisters, benefactors, families and longitme staff on May 19th.

Read more about his amazing and innovative agency that has spanned 3 centuries...Mercy home...145 years young this year.

Where would you go if you were a hungry, homeless and orphaned child? Well, in 1862, five little orphans decided that knocking on the door of the Convent of Mercy might be a very good idea. They were right! The Sisters welcomed them and a child-care agency was born, although it was not formally incorporated until 1865, after many, many more orphans found a home with the Sisters and staff.

Mercy Home has a rich tradition of responding to the needs of families and the times. In the early 1900’s, the 4 story wing of the Convent also was home to young immigrant women who learned job skills that would support them and keep them from being exploited. And the children continued to come, because wars and depression and family tragedies are often hardest on the children. At Mercy, they were loved and nurtured and healing happened. Some found homes with extended family or through foster care and adoption; some went on to the Sisters of Mercy residential program (St. Mary of the Angel’s in Syosset, NY). In the 1960’s the City of NY asked Mercy Home to become an emergency placement center for abused and neglected children. Again, the Sisters said yes and accepted frightened and traumatized little ones on a 24-hour basis. They came and were loved by the staff, Sisters and volunteers whose hearts and hugs were big enough to embrace each one.

Over and over, love won out and the children blossomed. In the 1970’s, what often began to happen is the one child from a family group would have a significant developmental challenge like autism, intellectual delays or neurological problems. There were no adoptive homes for these youngsters and Mercy Home realized that we needed, once more to adapt and grow. The agency embraced these children, more like them came, and a developmental therapy program and special education classes were organized to provide the structure and treatment that they sorely needed. As New York City saw how well we were working with this often-challenging population, they asked if we would specialize our services and accept other difficult-to-place special children. As the sisters did in 1862, we opened our doors, our hearts and our creative ideas to almost 100 special children. We learned from each other, as they sensitized us to what it means to be autistic and unable to speak in words and seemingly uninterested in play and socializing. We learned that, with the right mixture of encouragement and coaxing, the children learned to enjoy skating, swimming, Special Olympics, music and art sessions. We learned that sensitive staff can read the looks of those who cannot speak and the children felt understood and accepted. Mercy Home then committed itself to lifelong care of those we had accepted and a new beginning under the auspices of New York State’s Office for Developmentally Disabled. The change meant moving the growing children to smaller groups homes, and opening more groups homes for adults who needed a home. As always, staff welcomed the challenges and grew in wisdom and creative ways to help our participants become active members of the communities in which they lived. And here we are, 145 years later ---- active, growing, enjoying life and excelling in this work of Mercy that has been a blessing for families and participants alike.

The celebration at the Convent of Mercy on May 19th captured the history so well. Sr. Camille D’Arienzo, Board Member and radio commentator, was a herald tracing the glorious history of service the agency has enjoyed. At the Offertory procession, participants brought up a brick to symbolize the strong foundation on which the agency has been built, the original book that listed each child who came to the orphanage those many years ago, our present mission statement that underpins all we do, the annual report that reflects our continued promise to those we serve to grow with them and a beautiful card, created by the residents and staff of Mercy-McGivney residence to commemorate this wonderful birthday. The Mercy Home Performance Band ended the Mass with “This Little Light of Mine” and there was not a hand that did not clap to their music. At the dinner that followed, the sense of joy and friendship was palpable and we are convinced that Mercy Home is looked on lovingly by Catherine McAuley and by all the Sisters who she has gathered with her in heaven.

Messages to Caroline Tweedy rsm

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