April 30, 2008

Sisters of Mercy in Buffalo Celebrate 150 years

Sisters of Mercy in Buffalo Celebrate 150 years of Mercy.

Sister Nancy Hoff compared 150 years of ministry by the Sisters of Mercy in Buffalo to a tapestry that was weaved thread by thread over the years. “Ministries such as hospitals, schools of nursing, long-term care facilities and educational institutions brought their own unique color to the design,” said Sister Nancy, who spoke at a reception on April 20 celebrating the anniversary of the Sisters of Mercy Community in Buffalo. “God has worked through our imperfections and our loose threads and created a tapestry of Mercy that has made a difference in our diocese for 150 years,” said Sister Nancy, who today is president of the Sisters of Mercy New York, Pennsylvania, Pacific West Community of which Buffalo is part.

Sister Nancy's talk at a reception at the Adam’s Mark Hotel preceded a Mass at St. Joseph Cathedral celebrated by Bishop Edward U. Kmiec; 35 priests concelebrated the Mass. Mercy Associates, friends and benefactors joined the sisters for the celebration. The day’s events brought to an end a year of activities titled, “Mercy, yesterday, today and forever.” Msgr. Theodore Berg, a past vice president of Trocaire College, a Sisters of Mercy institution, and former chaplain at the Mercy Center, in a homily at the Mass said he knew 118 of the 509 Sisters of the Buffalo Community who have died. Placing them into ministries such as working with the poor, taking care of the sick and educating students, he said they were good examples of following Jesus Christ and Catherine McAuley, who founded the Sisters of Mercy in Dublin, Ireland in 1831. He also praised those sisters who offered hospitality to others or who suffered through illnesses. Pointing to the Gospel proclaimed at the Mass, he said the sisters took seriously the words of Jesus who said that those who believed in him will do his work in the world. Those sisters who have gone before us have left their example for us to use in continuing their good work, he said.

Bishop Kmiec also lauded the work of the sisters and joked that he told Pope Benedict XVI that he could not join him for the Mass at Yankee Stadium that day because he had a “prior commitment” with the Sisters of Mercy. The pope visited the United States April 16-20.

In her talk, Sister Nancy said the sisters, Mercy Associates, benefactors, women religious from other communities, the clergy, legislators and others who support Mercy ministries were part of the Mercy tapestry.
“We want to tell you that you enhance our Mercy tapestry, that we could not continue our ministry without you and that we are grateful for your presence in our lives,” she said. The sisters, she said, will not hang the Mercy tapestry as if it were a finished design or be tempted to say that they have run out of thread. “We know that there is so much more of Mercy that is needed in our world and so much more of Mercy that we have yet to give. Yes, we are fewer in number and certainly our median age is rising; however, I am proud to say that the Sisters of Mercy are still out there – and will continue to be out there ministering among God’s people well into the future”.

At the reception, Mercy Sisters Peggy Gorman and Meg Quinlan dressed in habits to give a presentation titled “A Visit from Special Mercy Guests.” The two posed as Mercy Sisters who were given permission by God to leave heaven and visit the celebration. The presentation took the audience through a moving and sometimes humorous journey through the history of the Buffalo Mercy Community. They ended it with a story about a 7-year-old girl who said to her mother: “Mom, Justine’s mother is a lawyer. Amy’s mother is a teacher. What are you?” The woman took her child’s face in her hands and answered, “Honey, I’m your mother. All your life, I’ll be your mother.” They said, “What we say to you today is: We’re your sisters. All your life, we’ll be your sisters.”

Carol Herwood, a Mercy Associate who is co-coordinator for Mercy Associates in Buffalo, offered the invocation at the reception in which she praised God for God’s presence in the celebration of Mercy life. “For 150 years in the Diocese of Buffalo, you have guided us in life and mission to continue the works of mercy in the spirit of Catherine McAuley, our foundress,” she prayed. Kevin Keenan, communications director for the Buffalo Diocese, was master of ceremonies.

The Sisters of Mercy Community in Buffalo was founded on Feb. 11, 1858, when four Sisters of Mercy traveled from Rochester to Buffalo at the invitation of Bishop John Timon, CM. They settled in a convent at 220 Fulton Street in Buffalo previously occupied by the Brigidine Sisters. Many of the Irish immigrants who settled in the neighborhood knew of the Sisters of Mercy as the “walking sisters” as they were called in Ireland. Today, the 122 Sisters of Mercy and 83 Mercy Associates of Buffalo are members of the New York, Pennsylvania, Pacific West Community formed on Jan. 1, 2008. The new Community brought together sisters from Buffalo, Rochester, Erie, Pa., Pittsburgh, Pa., and the Philippines. In 1957, Mercy Sisters from Buffalo started the Mercy community in the Philippines where today there are 42 Sisters of Mercy and 35 Mercy Associates. The Community and administrative offices are based in Buffalo. Locally, the Sisters of Mercy sponsor Mount Mercy Academy; Trocaire College, the Speech Center; the Altar Bread Ministry; the Helping Hearts Kids Club after school program; the Warde Center GED program; and are a co-sponsor of Catholic Health East and the Catholic Health System of Buffalo. In addition, the Sisters sponsor ministries in the Philippines, including Mercy Junior College; Mercy Community Hospital; Mercy Mobile Clinic and McAuley Center for abused women and girls.

Messages to Gary Loncki Director of Communications

Back to All News