June 11, 2006

Sisters of Mercy Celebrate 150 Years of Service in St. Louis

The Sisters of Mercy are celebrating the 150th anniversary of their arrival in St. Louis, with the observance year's theme "Sisters of Mercy - Journey of Service."

In 1856, at the request of St. Louis Archbishop Peter J. Kenrick, six Sisters of Mercy journeyed by train and boat from New York to St. Louis, arriving on June 27, 1856, to open St. Francis Xavier Parish School. Today, the Sisters of Mercy continue the Journey of Service that they began 150 years ago in St. Louis and the surrounding areas.

During their first year in St. Louis, in addition to opening the new school, the Sisters visited the sick, poor and jailed; started a Sunday school program for African American women and girls; began an industrial school for children with one parent; and opened an orphanage. Despite many challenges including lack of money, food and clothing, the Sisters persevered with determination and faith. They expanded their ministry during the Civil War, visiting war prisoners at the hospital and jail.

Growing enrollment at St. Francis Xavier School necessitated the opening of a new school in 1871. This focus on education continued for the Sisters of Mercy in St. Louis. More than 177 Sisters of Mercy have served in more than 20 parish elementary schools and five high schools in Missouri, including Christ the King School in University City, Mercy High School in University City, St. Joan of Arc School in South St. Louis, Annunciation School in Webster Groves and Mercy Junior College in Webster Groves.

Recognizing the ever-growing health care needs of the community, in 1871 the Sisters converted the old St. Francis Xavier School to an infirmary. The hospital struggled financially because many patients were unable to pay, but the Sisters never turned away patients due to lack of funds. Instead, Sisters even sacrificed their mattresses and bedding to accommodate patients. To meet the increased need for their health care services, the Sisters moved the hospital to two other St. Louis sites before relocating to its current location on South New Ballas Road in 1963.

While better known for their work in education and health care, the Sisters have served the people of the St. Louis metropolitan area in numerous other ministries including working with immigrants; providing spiritual direction; hosting groups at their conference and retreat center; and serving the poor.

In honor of the Sisters' of Mercy 150 years of service to St. Louis, several events are planned this year including:

  • June 27, 10 a.m. - Sisters of Mercy and friends gather on St. Louis Riverfront to honor arrival of Sisters of Mercy in 1856
  • September 23, 7 p.m. - Celebration of Mercy Day at Mercy Center, 2039 N. Geyer Road
  • December 12, 7 p.m. - Founder's Day Mass (175th Anniversary of Founding of Sisters of Mercy) Eucharistic Liturgy followed by Reception at College Church

In addition to these events celebrating the 150th anniversary, the Sisters of Mercy, Regional Community of St. Louis will bless Catherine's Residence, a new 48-bed retirement residence for Sisters of Mercy, located at 2039 N. Geyer Road. The blessing will be held Sunday, June 11, from 2-4 p.m.

Today, 79 Sisters live and minister in the St. Louis area. Formed in 1929 as a province of the Sisters of Mercy of the Union, the Sisters of Mercy of the Americas, Regional Community of St. Louis, became a region of the Institute of the Sisters of Mercy of the Americas in 1991. With administrative offices in St. Louis, MO, the Regional Community of St. Louis is comprised of 242 women religious ministering in Arkansas, Kansas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Missouri, Oklahoma, and Texas.

The Institute of the Sisters of Mercy of the Americas, headquartered in Silver Spring, MD, is an international community of sisters vowed to serve people who suffer from poverty, sickness, and a lack of education, with a special concern for women and children. Sisters of Mercy address human needs though collaborative efforts in education, health care, housing, spiritual care, and social services. The Institute includes 25 regional communities with approximately 5,300 members and 1,946 Associates who serve in 12 countries.


Messages to Stephanie Heiland Communications, Sisters of Mercy

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