Historical marker recognizes 150 years of mercy

Sister of Mercy Paulanne Diebold led a ceremony to dedicate and bless a Kentucky Historical Society marker recognizing the Sisters of Mercy 150-plus years in the Louisville area. The marker sits near the front of Good Shepherd Church in Portland, where the sisters’ ministry began in 1869. (Record Photo by Marnie McAllister)

The Sisters of Mercy arrived in the Portland area of Louisville on Oct. 2, 1869, to oversee the operations of the U.S. Marine Hospital there. More than 150 years later, their service from 1869 to the present day has been recognized with a Kentucky Historical Society marker.

The two-sided plaque, erected near the entrance to Good Shepherd Church in Portland, was dedicated and blessed in a Sept. 24 ceremony led by Sister of Mercy Paulanne Diebold.

She thanked the dozens of supporters in attendance, including Sisters of Mercy, Mercy Associates, leaders of Mercy-founded schools and archdiocesan leaders.

Archbishop Shelton J. Fabre, who blessed the marker, said he is in awe of everything the sisters have accomplished and offered them his gratitude.

“The charism of mercy is often overlooked,” he said, describing mercy as giving to someone “that which, for whatever reason, they might not deserve.”

“The Sisters of Mercy remind us that all that we have is a gift of God,” he said. The historical marker “is a reminder that we are ultimately called to be like them, to offer God’s mercy wherever we can to all we encounter.”

Also in attendance was Mayor Greg Fischer, who noted that he was educated in Catholic schools and sent his two daughters to Assumption High School. He also offered thanks to the sisters.

“If you know the sisters, you know their work will never be finished,” he said. “The sisters were and are incredible teachers, and their lessons will abide.”

Sisters of Mercy who serve in the Archdiocese of Louisville gathered around a newly installed historical marker recognizing the Sisters of Mercy’s 150-plus years in the Louisville area Sept. 24. With them are Mayor Greg Fischer, left; Archbishop Shelton J. Fabre, right; and Apostles of Jesus Father Deo Ssamba, third from right, pastor of Good Shepherd Church in Portland, where the marker is installed. (Record Photo by Marnie McAllister)

The Sisters of Mercy founded both Mercy Academy (1885) and Assumption High School (1955). In addition to education, they continued to serve in healthcare ministries in a variety of ways, as well as in pastoral ministry, religious formation, ministries with women and girls, peace and justice ministry, jail ministry, social services and retreat ministry.

Their service is as varied as the individual women who joined the community over the past 153 years.

Archbishop Fabre called special attention to the sisters as individuals, each “member of the community that every day rose” and “who gave their life” to continue their ministry.

“That can be a humbling reality,” he said. “Every time I look at this marker, I will thank God for the Sisters of Mercy.”

Sister Diebold, who worked to have the marker installed, said the sisters “aim to help unmet needs,” which means their ministry is always changing with the times.

Currently, there are four Sisters of Mercy serving in Louisville. In addition to Sister Diebold, they are Sister Mary Corinne Burt, Sister Justina Heneghan and Sister Mary Johnette Wiedmar.

“We strive to bring peace, compassion and mercy wherever we find ourselves,” said Sister Diebold.

Marnie McAllister
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Marnie McAllister
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