Buffalo Sister does ‘her bit’ to help migrants at the southern border

January 8, 2020

By Gary Loncki, Communications Director, New York Pennsylvania West

Like the Gospel story of the widow’s mite, Sister Bernadette Geiser of Buffalo, New York, was moved to do something to help migrants, especially children, at the border between the United States and Mexico.

Sickened by how they were being treated by the U.S. government and by the negative language of some politicians and others when speaking about migrants who are seeking a better life in the United States, Sister Bernadette could take no more.

Sister Bernadette Geiser holds one of her creations for the drawing.
Sister Bernadette Geiser holds one of her creations for the drawing.

“These are people. These are human beings,” she said emphatically. “It’s on TV all the time. I am heartsick by what is happening at the border.”

So, she decided to come out of “retirement.” Once again, she dusted off her sewing skills and created outfits for dolls as she had done so many times before to raise money for Mercy ministries.

“I had to do something,” she said. “It won’t be a lot of money, but it’s something.”

In September, on a formal dining room table in a parlor along a hallway leading to the main dining area of Mercy Center in Buffalo, sat a large poster inviting people to purchase raffle tickets for the project. A doll and five outfits were prominently displayed.

Mercy Associate Mary Catherine Kennedy won the drawing on Mercy Day, and $500 was raised for Annunciation House, an all-volunteer organization dedicated to helping arriving immigrants in El Paso, Texas.

Sister Janet Korn, a justice co-minister based in Rochester, volunteered at Annunciation House and advised Sister Bernadette to send funds there.

“What a wonderful effort, proving that one person can positively make a difference,” she said.

Sister Bernadette Geiser, left, shows Sisters Mary Priscilla Faltisko, center, and M. Norine Truax items to be raffled. Proceeds from the project are going to benefit migrants at the U.S. border with Mexico.
Sister Bernadette Geiser, left, shows Sisters Mary Priscilla Faltisko, center, and M. Norine Truax items to be raffled. Proceeds from the project are going to benefit migrants at the U.S. border with Mexico.

A 70-year jubilarian last year, Sister Bernadette said she learned sewing skills from her mother and used them as a young woman religious to make a coif, a stiff material that was worn around the head when sisters wore full habits, and meet other sewing requests.

She has made countless vestments and stoles for priests and proudly recalls when she crafted a “dream coat” several years ago from material given to her by a Nigerian woman. The woman—an undocumented mother of five, with another on the way—was in the Catholic Charities Amnesty Program where Sister Bernadette worked. The coat was worn during an assembly of sisters who took turns talking about their dreams for the future.

For family members, Sister Bernadette sewed baptismal gowns, Halloween costumes and even a dress for a flower girl in a wedding. Some of her creations have been given away as door prizes to benefit Mercy ministries, including those in the Philippines.

And, she hopes her effort, once again, helps others.

“We are all just carrying on the charism of Catherine McAuley.”

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  1. Sister Natalie Rossi

    Thanks for sharing your gifts to help others. It is a good reminder of the Mercy way.


  2. Cynthia Serjak

    Everybody can do something!


  3. Sr. Mary Ann Bader

    So proud of you, Sr. Bernadette!


  4. Sr.Cathleen Cahill

    Thanks, Sister, for your mercifulness. Cathleen Cahill


  5. Ann Derbacher

    Sr. Bernadette
    So awesome. That is a wonderful project. You are so talented and generous. God bless you.


  6. Martha Larsen

    What a delight to read this article. Thank you, Sister, for being so kind to the vulnerable on the border. There are Mercies at McAllen who could use $$$ too, in case you might do this again.


  7. S.Rosemary Hudak

    Thank you your efforts have warmed my heart. God bless you


  8. Richard Mary Burke

    What a glorious woman of Mercy!


  9. Cris Caballero, RSM

    Thank you Sister for your generous heart!