160 Years Later!

Many things live, not just the plants, animals and humans that grace our world.  Memories and promises live.  Vows live. Unlike our physical life, these less tangible realities become stronger with time.  Tales of valor and achievement live, often becoming epic with the passing of the years.

Mercy lives too, blessing not only the current receiver, but the unseen generations to whom it is passed. 

Every morning, old fears and new hopes wake up within us all.  They vie with each other to become the engines of our lives.  The happy ones among us have learned to let hope win.


Mother Patricia Waldron outside Merion’s chapel building, holding a flower.

On this date August 22, 1861, a small group of just such happy, hopeful people came to Philadelphia. On that hot August afternoon, the first Philadelphia Sisters of Mercy, led by 26-year old Patricia Waldron, arrived at Broad Street Station in North Philadelphia. They carried no worldly possessions. They came with only a dream for Mercy.  It was a dream so alive in them that it still inspires us today, 160 years later.

Can’t you see them standing on the busy platform, the hissing steam trains encircling them in mist?  They must have felt “be-misted” themselves, these mostly Irish country girls engulfed in a big city.

Union troops heading south crowded the platform.  Busy Broad Street crackled with news of the burgeoning national strife.  Lincoln himself would visit the city in the coming weeks.

And hidden within the seams of this bustling city’s garment lay the poor – the ones for whom they had come. 
How to reach them? 
How to help them change their lives?

Ranging from sixteen to twenty-seven years old, these brave young women had been charged with establishing a kind of “new nation” themselves – not of politics, but of mercy.  No doubt they, like the young stout-hearted soldiers surrounding them, were also a little weak-kneed. They too had their battles to face. They too would see starvation, illness, attack and death – but their spirits would endure for the sake of the Mercy dream, God’s dream for the poor.

Mercy Cemetery – Merion, PA

Enduring dreams begin with small first steps.  So, hailing a horse-drawn carriage, Mother Patricia Waldron led her young band to their new lives.  At first, they lived in a small house in Assumption Parish, Philadelphia.

Not too much later, the growing band moved to the venerable Broad Street Convent, now of happy memory.

Convent of Mercy – Broad Street and Columbia Avenue, Philadelphia

Thus, on this date, Mother Patricia and her companions began the grace-filled saga many of us know so well and of which we are a part today.  Their dream lives in us who love Mercy:

  • in our continued effort to find those who are poor and sick in a world that ignores them
  • in our choice to be compassionate in a world that often chooses violence
  • in our commitment to care in a world of treacherous indifference

On that sultry August day 1861,  and on this one 2021, people have choices to make.  They have vows and promises to keep. Some choices live forever.  In the name of Mercy, what will you choose today?

Sister Jeanette Goglia conducts “Circle of Mercy” at the Sesquicentennial celebration at Philadelphia’s Kimmel Center.
Click white arrowhead above to hear Circle of Mercy

21 thoughts on “160 Years Later!

  1. Renee, what a wonderful reminder of how the Sisters of Mercy began their ministry in the Philadelphia area. To think about how young they were, in a foreign country, without much support makes me appreciate the Sisters of Mercy even more. Thank you.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. What a wonderful post about the seeds of Mercy in Philadelphia. So much to be proud of and so much to be thankful for. It’s a blessing to be connected to Mercy! ❤️🙏

    Liked by 1 person

  3. The photo of the cemetery reminds me of Rosemary Gavin who rests peacefully just inside the opening gate. One of the many who graced St. Raymond’s with their gifts. Thank you!

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Happy Foundation Day to all. May the Mercy Spirit and love continue for many years to come. Thanks for sharing and take care and stay safe. ❤

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Every day I read your reflections Renee and what a gift they are. I love this one, it brings such gratitude and a reminder of on whose shoulders we stand!

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Hi Renee, it was great looking at this reading about the Sisters of Mercy celebrating 160 years of service. We, the Sisters of Mercy in Western Australia, are celebrating 175 years since the first Sister of Mercy- Ursula Frayne – came to Western Australia and started the first school in this Colony as it was called at the time. Mostly the Officers and the Government people sent their child to be educated by the Sisters. They paid a fee and so the Sisters were able to educate poor girls and women for free! The first Mercy College is still used and it is called Mercedes College. I work there on Mondays and Tuesdays as Pastoral Minister! Breda

    Liked by 1 person

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