The End of an Era

Deacon Greg Kandra, in his marvellous blog The Deacon’s Bench, notes that the Sisters of Mercy in Brooklyn are closing their motherhouse in Brooklyn after 146 years. This doesn’t mean the end of the Sisters’ ministry in Brooklyn, but it is a sad day in the history of their Brooklyn sojourn. That history began in 1855 when Irish-born Mother Mary Vincent Haire (left), the first Sister of Mercy professed in New York, and five other members of the congregation, opened Brooklyn’s first Mercy convent at Jay and Chapel Streets in 1855. Their first task was teaching at the parochial school for St. James Cathedral, visiting the sick and providing religious instruction for prisoners in city jails. In 1862, they moved into their new motherhouse, designed by the architect Patrick C. Keely (1816-1896), at 273 Willoughby Avenue. Born in Ireland, Keely built over 700 churches in the U.S. during his lifetime. Their mission expanded to include an orphanage and an industrial school for girls. In the final decade of the nineteenth century the Sisters opened St. Mary of the Angels Home in Syosset (their novitiate would eventually move to Our Lady of Mercy Academy, Syosset) and Angel Guardian Home in Brooklyn. Some of the local schools where the Sisters taught included St. Patrick, Fort Greene; Sacred Heart, Fort Greene; St. Brigid, Wyckoff Heights; Holy Innocents and St. Jerome in Flatbush; Holy Rosary in Bedford-Stuyvesant; St. Gerard Majella, Hollis. In 1942 they founded Catherine McAuley High School (named for their founder) in Flatbush, which is still operating. While this is without doubt a sad day for the Sisters, maybe we can take the time to celebrate all the great work they’ve done, and continue to do, for the people of Brooklyn and elsewhere!

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