Community celebrates 175th anniversary of the Sisters of Mercy in the Americas

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Community celebrates 175th anniversary of the Sisters of Mercy in the Americas

Rhode Island area Sisters of Mercy celebrated the 175th anniversary of the religious order in the Americas on June 11 at Johnson & Wales University’s Xavier Academic Complex on Pine Street — the physical site of the first convent in New England.

In attendance were Secretary of State Nellie Gorbea, Johnson & Wales President Marie Bernardo-Sousa and dozens of men and women whose lives have been affected by the Sisters of Mercy. Mario Hilario, the NBC Weekend Sunrise anchor, served as emcee for a program that celebrates the history and presence of the Sisters of Mercy in Rhode Island, Southeastern Massachusetts and beyond.

The Sisters of Mercy were founded in Dublin, Ireland, by the venerable Catherine McAuley, who used an inheritance to open a home for impoverished women and children. On December 21, 1843, Mother Frances Xavier Warde and six other Sisters of Mercy arrived in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania — marking the founding of the Sisters of Mercy of the Americas.

Over the next 41 years, Frances established numerous Mercy convents and ministries from Illinois to Maine, and the order eventually became the largest congregation of Catholic sisters in the United States. Frances arrived in Providence in 1851 with four sisters. The Sisters of Mercy grew rapidly in Providence and Southeastern Massachusetts and established enduring ministries in Belize and Honduras.

Institutions they founded include Salve Regina University, St. Mary Academy – Bay View, McAuley Ministries, Mercymount Country Day School and Mercy Ecology. Sisters from Rhode Island and Southeastern Massachusetts are part of the Northeast Community, which is headquartered in Cumberland and comprised of 500 Sisters of Mercy, 400 Mercy Associates and two Companions in Mercy.