Mercy Philadelphia Hospital

I felt so sad….

me at Mis

… when I read in the paper yesterday that Mercy Philadelphia Hospital will be closing its inpatient services after  just over 100 years of service. For a little over a decade of those years, I was part of the amazing reality we called “Mis”.

No one can define how it got to be such a mysteriously magical place – full of life, death, trauma, healing, angst and love. But as we all churned and deepened in those currents, we came to know a secret: Mercy Enfleshed.

machistoryintro copy
Sr. Jean Loftus and Handsome Neighbor

It was a mission born in the Sisters of Mercy and, by the grace of God, enkindling generations of co-ministers in the exercise of compassion.

Nobody owned the secret. Parts of it belonged to the Sisters, the nurses, doctors, administrators, ancillary staff, patients, community advocates. It was like a huge kite that could never fly unless we all held tight to our part of its magic cord.
And the miracle was that we all did.

It wasn’t perfect. No life of 100 Years is. But, by God, it was magnificent – because it was always fueled by the intention to do the the best we could for the love of God and neighbor.. even down to creating world-famous crab cakes for the patients!

crab cakes
Sister Mary Protase’s Famous Crab Cakes

When the news hit Facebook yesterday, beloved names began to emerge in the comments. Oh how those comments blessed me as my heart was breaking a little (no, a lot). I was reminded that the inpatient services may cease, but the mission lives in these and so many other hearts. There was a permanent joy in that:

I will always have a special fondness for that place. I love the building. I loved the people that work there and long lasting friendships that I made. Nothing else has compared since.

Truly the most amazing, loving and always challenged hospital. My memories are from my childhood and happy to say a good part of my adult life. I can’t imagine how the Sisters of Mercy are feeling,  as much of their legacy lives in the stone and marble that has always quietly embraced so many of us.

This place shaped my life. Really sad.

“Mis” was one of the best periods of my life.  So much history there and so many friendships.

I have many personal experiences with the wonderful colleagues who worked there during the many years I worked at Mercy Health System – some of the most dedicated, caring, compassionate, healthcare professionals I have ever met. I am sure the Sisters of Mercy  are heartbroken since Mercy Philadelphia occupies such an important place in their legacy in the Philadelphia area. My thoughts and prayers are with all the patients and colleagues at Mercy Philadelphia and especially the community it serves.

4 hospital charter copy
Original Charter signed by Foundress Mother Patricia Waldron

My heart is broken. I graduated from Misericordia nursing school in 1969 and proceeded to work for the Sisters of Mercy for 43 years….along side some of the most compassionate and dedicated nurses, physicians, and employees. Misericordia means “mercy from the heart” and it was mercy and love that lived within that beautiful building. Memories of all the wonderful people past and  present have come flooding back….in my life I have loved them all. Some became dear friends who continue in my life….years after retiring. I know my dear Sisters must be heartbroken for the community it served for over 100 years in West Philly.

chapel rn grad

Very sad for those who work there now and for the people of the community. All of the comments posted capture what many of us who worked at “Mis” feel. It helped shape us, reflected true mercy through the tremendous staff who cared for so many over the years and brought people into our lives who continue to touch us. It was always hard work, but we found joy and laughter as we supported each other and cared for those who arrived and touched our lives. That spirit lives  on. As my first head nurse, just said….it was mercy and love that lived within that building.

misericordia post card
Original building – 1918

And oh, how hundreds of names, faces, and souls came to pray with me! Nurses who taught me, patients I loved, Sisters I miss so much, friends who laughed and cried with me, leaders who braved through insurmountable challenges – and most of all, our patients and families who put their lives in our hands and knew we would love them the very best we could.

2 mis windows copy
Chapel Windows – Mercy Hospital

But I know time moves on, and we must let it. Still, I pray about my joyous sorrow today with an excerpt from a book I was privileged to write just before the Centenary:

For nearly 100 years, Mercy Hospital has anchored a sycamore-shaded block of West Philadelphia. Within its solid walls, generations have been born, healed, and accompanied in their dying. The hospital’s enduring presence and service speak an abiding dependability to the community it serves. Still, in contrast to its proven permanence, Mercy Hospital began as a dream, first in the mind of God, and then in the hearts of Mother Patricia Waldron and Archbishop Edmond Prendergast. 

On October 24, 1915, this dream commenced with the hospital groundbreaking at 54th and Cedar Avenue in West Philadelphia. Despite the frailties of age and declining health, Mother Patricia was able to attend the ceremony. Although she died before the hospital opened, on that cool and pleasant afternoon, she was surrounded by those who would carry her dream to reality. They stood with Mother Patricia Waldron in a desolate lot, an abandoned farm with but a single, scrawny tree to suggest the possibility of new life. 

The history of Misericordia Hospital, now known as Mercy Philadelphia Hospital and of her subsequent sister institutions, is marked by a long line of noble, even heroic, leadership and labor. It is impossible to capture fully a century of these names and legacies. Several, by their significant and enduring contributions, will be noted …. 

For the rest, may an awe-filled gratitude serve to acknowledge their selfless contributions now wrapped in time’s anonymity. 

43 thoughts on “Mercy Philadelphia Hospital

  1. Joanne Dugan

    Dear Sister Renee, I was so sad yesterday when I heard the news and thought of you and all the wonderful women from Mercy Health Plan who came fro MIS. Thank you for writing this touching article and sharing the crab cake recipe! Hope you are doing well and sending best wishes.
    Joanne Dugan

    Liked by 1 person

      1. Cass Kennedy Byrne

        Love you too my friend. A Catherine quote that has always remained with me and reminds me of our conversations…. “No work of charity can be more productive of good to society than the careful instruction of women”. My prayers and thoughts are with those leaders that are tasked in navigating Mis during this incredibly difficult time.

        Liked by 1 person

      2. Gere Mika McCarthy

        I was born at Mis 61 years ago and would go there every day with my mom,Mary Mika who worked there until she retired ! Hung out at the ER where there were many great nurses! Will never forget all the people I knew as I was growing up there!! All good things come to an end!

        Liked by 1 person

  2. Kathi Platt Clark

    Renee, For all of us who loved “Mis”, I thank you for your beautiful words. They capture what so many of us are feeling since learning the news. I am grateful for having been a part of it’s history and pray for it’s future.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Pat Somers

    I worked at Mis for about 15 years. I started as a nursing assistant with Sister Ann Marie Berenato. And when I completed my four years of Villanova I became a nurse at Mis and spent many wonderful years there and had experiences I will never forget. I also made lasting friendships that continue to this day. I am heart broken that this decision was made but I was there in the era when
    Every day was a threat to closing. But somehow, we kept going. We took care of the poorest of the poor. I took care of people who were so gentle and kind and so appreciative of all that was done for them.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Helen graham crothers

      Hello Pat Somers, you hired me for my first job as an in hospital nurse. I’m still here until the end. I’ll remember you always as one of the most caring administrators that I had the pleasure of working with. The loss of this hospital is going to be devastating to the community as well as the staff that have dealt with all the changes that came about in the years following your departure. Thank you for the opportunity to work for the sisters of mercy. The loss of their presence has been devastating. Helen graham crothers 5nw, spicy then ccu.

      Liked by 1 person

    2. Cynthia Byrd-Wright

      Hi Pat,
      I agree with you wholeheartedly. I will never forget all the experiences we shared at Mercy & how you and others groomed me to become the best nurse possible. I completed my reign at Mercy with the community at the Outreach Center & retired in 2017 with the best memories of my life. I hold Mercy in prayer along with all the colleagues, staff & community.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Carolyn

    Wow this is beautiful. It captures what’s in my heart. I have been walking those halls for almost 39 years. I still can’t wrap my mind around it. I am hoping for a miracle because I just can’t imagine starting over somewhere else. I love my patients and my colleagues. No matter what am going to ride this wave and hope for the best.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Mary Jennings

    A very beautiful tribute to “Mis”, Sister Renee. My sister, Peggy Hee, and I both worked at Mis for many years. Unless you were blessed to work there, you have no idea of the loving, caring, giving and supportive place it was. The fellow employees were the best group of people I was honored to work along side. No other place I worked at did I enjoy coming to work every day as I did Mis. We were a family, no matter what department you worked in or what title you held. Our patients also shared the loving, caring and support, no matter what their medical problems were they still maintained an upbeat attitude. I think there was something built into the building that made you feel that way. I know, for me, I could always feel God’s love radiating through on the good days and the bad. I pray there is some way this doesn’t happen for the community and the staff.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Sister Antoinette Zimmerman RSM

    Thank you Renee! Though I never worked at Misericordia I treasure memories of being a patient, being beside my Grandmom as she died there and accompanying Sister Mary Damian (Pat Letter) during her final months – to me it is and always will remain a blessed haven. Sister Antoinette Zimmerman RSM (Toni)

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Barbara Giampietro

    This sums it up…..I feel like I grew up at Mercy Philly. Going to their library to study when I was a teenager because my mom worked there…my coworkers taking care of me when I was a patient there numerous times….the love they showed my family and my dad as they cared for him for weeks, treating him like he was one of their own. Walking in the door every morning, being warmly greeted by everyone whether you know them or not. Mercy’s roots run deep in that community, whether it’s caring for those who need it most or employing generations of the same family. We are a stronghold in this neighborhood, a place I hold close to my heart. I can’t even imagine the void this may leave behind in the wake of our absence.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. Sr. Protase was my cousin – I was so happy when she allowed me to put the recipe for her crabcakes in the Waldron – Merion Mercy cookbook (my two sons attended Waldron Academy). Sr. Protase was so pleased that I attended Gwynedd Mercy College after West Catholic Girls – also her Alma mater.

    Liked by 1 person

  9. Shana Harris

    Mercy Philadelphia was my first job in a hospital 32 years ago… I started as a part time Registration clerk to Finally becoming a RN 10 years ago… Mercy is not just a job to me it’s HOME where all of my friends and family still work are.It breaks my heart to know it will be closing… Like most Employees we are at a lost for words.. What would we do with Mercy Philadelphia ? I just pray for all the patients and colleagues who will truly miss this hospital and all the healing hands that help build it… May God keep us and Hold us up in this time of sadness and grief…

    Liked by 1 person

  10. Lois McLaughlin

    I transferred from Fitz to Mis, and worked with so many great and dedicated people. Keeping all those being impacted by this change, am praying the presence of Mercy will remain.

    Liked by 1 person


    Started at Mercy 1984, retired 2017, made lasting relationships with my colleagues and Community to numerous to count. Imagine if you will a prayer going throughout the hospital each day, a prayer group in the Chapel, feeding the hungry, Gifts to needed family at Christmas. Colleague’s: help with family emergencies, attending Homegoings..and it continues. Never refusing anyone that showed up for treatment…Mercy will be missed more then that the Love.

    Liked by 1 person

  12. Renee DePrince

    Sister Renee, Thank you for this beautiful tribute to this wonderful hospital/organization. Although I always worked on the “corporate” side of Mercy, I had many, many interactions with both the colleagues from Mis and the colleagues who came to corporate from Mis. I was always impressed with their kindness, compassion, dedication, but mostly their complete and total immersion in the mission of Mercy. Truly some of the most amazing people I have ever had the pleasure to meet, work with and call friends. I am keeping all of the Mis colleagues, patients, physicians and the members of its community in my prayers.

    Liked by 1 person

  13. Lucille Hillerman

    Beautifully written! I had no connection to MIS save that it was Mercy. I always heard wonderful things about it. What a loss in so many ways! ❤️🙏☹️

    Liked by 1 person

  14. Michele Morroni

    I’ve worked at Miseracordia for 29 years. It was my first job out of nursing school and I’m still here! I’ve met so many wonderful friends and the woman I work with are some of the strongest most compassionate people I know. I met my husband here also we’ve been married for 23 years and have 2 beautiful daughters! This brought tears to my eyes because it’s spot on accurate. Thankyou for your words

    Liked by 1 person

  15. On Nov. 29, 1945 I was born at “Mis” and grew up in it’s shadow on the 5200 block of Rodman St. going to the fairs every year once I was old enough. In those days we could go on our own and didn’t have to wait for our parents to take us.
    In H.S. ( West Catholic for Boys ) I worked with Sr. Protase and Mary Dyer ( our supervisor ) in the kitchen. working the line setting up the Pt. food trays and delivering them to the Pt. floors. I even worked the fairs , setting up the booths before it opened and delivering food from the kitchen to the booths including the best crab cakes I have ever had.
    I have many happy memories of “Mis” and I amsad to hear that it is closing.
    I wish all the current employees the best of luck in their future endeavors

    Liked by 1 person

  16. Ann Huffenberger (aka Cleaver)

    Wow, I’m sadden to hear of the end for Misericordia Hospital in the news this week. My thoughts & prayers are with the neighbors in our West Philadelphia communities. While one might argue the decision to close was inevitable in a market rich with state-of-the-art hospitals within a few short miles of these neighborhoods, until you have walked a mile in the moccasins of these patients, one cannot justly appraise those who will be impacted most by this decision. For those of us fortunate enough to begin our careers at Misericordia, the experience provided unique & powerful perspective. I’m proud to tell people I grew up at Misericordia. Back when social admissions were humane and discharges to the curb were customary, I recall as a young nurse, the experience of bringing jeans & boots to work, to help dress my patients on discharge day, to be clean and warm and braced for homeless nights. I recall my first HIV patient in the mid 1980’s, a super smart charming young LBGTQ community member. We all had fear & uncertainty about how to manage HIV but what I learned most was compassion & empathy. I recall my discussions with him about life and death and living through a new lens of why. We laughed and cried and when his grandma arrived from Georgia with warm peach crisp, we sat & ate together at the bedside. On another day, I recall heading home late from my evening shift and being jumped as I left the hospital. A young man found me when he was looking for psych crisis and while I scared & shocked, I was grateful for our security guards who helped him get through the hospital door he needed most. In May of 1985, when the police helicopter dropped explosives on Osage Avenue and the fire grew out of control, we leaned out the windows on the 5th floor and watched the smoke in disbelief. One of our colleagues lived on Osage Avenue, neighbor to the tragic MOVE events that day and while they lost their home, in the years that followed, they rebuilt their community. For more than a hundred years now, generations of poor & underserved patients have entrusted our Mercy colleagues at 54th & Cedar to manage their care in times of need or crisis. For my comrades who have withstood the organizational highs & lows of the past few decades, who have sheltered in place and remained grounded in their positions, committed to the patients who are genuinely appreciative of the care they receive, I commend your unswerving passion & devotion to this community. Regardless of how the legend of Misericordia Hospital ends, friends, please know your lifelong caring resilience will live on. Please message me if there’s anything I might do to help, I’m certainly happy to try.

    Liked by 1 person

  17. Cynthia Byrd-Wright

    Hi Pat,
    I agree with you wholeheartedly. I will never forget all the experiences we shared at Mercy & how you and others groomed me to become the best nurse possible. I completed my reign at Mercy with the community at the Outreach Center & retired in 2017 with the best memories of my life. I hold Mercy in prayer along with all the colleagues, staff & community.

    Liked by 1 person

  18. Mary Ann Keough

    When I first started at Mis I never thought about it becoming such a big and happy part of my life. I loved the people I worked with everyday. They are still great friends. I felt at the end of my shift that I was able to help people who needed help. The medical staff was exceptional and dedicated. We were all lucky to be a part of something extraordinary. Thank you Renee for expressing what so many feel.

    Liked by 1 person

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