April 03, 2023

Celebrating the Life of Sister Mary Sullivan

Mercy International celebrates the life of Mary C. Sullivan, rsm. It is with great admiration and respect that we offer a prayer service in her memory. Mary's contributions to our Mercy world will continue to influence our connection to Catherine McAuley, our expression of Mercy Global Presence, and our commitment to the Mercy charism. You can read more about Mary's life and legacy below through the remembrance offered by the Institute of the Sisters of Mercy of the Americas. 

Click to View the Prayer Service Video

Remembrance from The Institute of the Sisters of Mercy of the Americas:

Sister Mary Sullivan, a deeply spiritual woman and religious scholar, inspired, often challenged and encouraged many to live mercifully.

A prolific writer about the life and mission of Catherine McAuley, the founder of the Sisters of Mercy, Sister Mary shared the Mercy story with thousands through her teaching, books, seminars and retreats all over the world.

Her books include The Correspondence of Catherine McAuley, 1818-1841 (2004), Catherine McAuley and the Tradition of Mercy (1995) and The Path of Mercy: The life of Catherine McAuley (2012). She also edited several books and many articles on Catherine’s compassionate service to people who were poor, sick and uneducated. She published numerous scholarly articles, including a rhetorical study of the autobiography of Teresa of Avila.

A graduate of Our Lady of Mercy High School in Rochester, New York, Sister Mary earned a bachelor’s degree in English from Nazareth College in Rochester, followed by a master’s and doctoral degree in English from the University of Notre Dame. She also received a master’s degree in systemic theology from the University of London, England.

She taught in the Rochester diocese for seven years, before teaching for two years at her alma mater, Our Lady of Mercy High School, and serving as president for two years at the former Catherine McAuley College on the same campus. She joined the teaching staff at Marymount College in Tarrytown, New York, for two years. Next, she ministered at the Rochester Institute of Technology for 33 years as a professor of language and literature, and for ten years as the first female dean of the College of Liberal Arts. The college established two annual writing awards sponsored by the women’s and gender studies program named after Sister Mary Sullivan.

A Poem for Mary Sullivan, rsm

The scholar dons white gloves
to hold the letter, ink strokes of earlier time.
Care and attention, scrutiny and devotion,
each attend the witness of another’s words.
Later she wears the surgeon’s gloves-
exacting, extracting, baring the beating heart,
her pen the scalpel that tells the truth,
born of discipline and doggedness,
elusive clues and solid research.

History without insight is mere fact,
story without interpretation is slippery,
memory without discernment is unreliable.
The past needs an eye like hers,
The spirit relies on such; the spirit invests in such:
a mind that recognizes the precious,
a presence that does not eclipse its subject,
a maker who blends the verifiable and its context,
a sliver of whimsy, a hint of the modern amidst the hovels,
shining a light on the light,
illuminating for us the shy detail and bold strokes,
setting to new music the fine old lyric.
You have been our scholar of the generation:
we are at once indebted and incomparably enriched.
Take off the gloves, and shake the hands of heaven,
and let Catherine tenderly hold yours in blessing,
she who shone a light on the Light of the World,
that Light you both now share.

Mary Wickham rsm

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