Mercy Then and Now — St. Xavier Academy and Sister Patricia McCann

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Treasuring Our Heritage

St. Xavier Academy in Westmoreland County, Pennsylvania When Mother Frances Xavier Warde and six other Sisters of Mercy arrived in Pittsburgh in 1843 they immediately started building the foundation for the legacy of Mercy in the U.S.

Following in the footsteps of Mother Catherine McAuley, they sought to meet the great educational needs of their new surroundings. The founding sisters right away began teaching Sunday school in St. Paul’s Cathedral, and in 1844 Frances Warde opened St. Mary’s Academy for girls—the first school conducted by the Sisters of Mercy in the United States.

In 1845, Mount St. Vincent Academy, later renamed St. Xavier Academy, was established in Westmoreland County outside of Pittsburgh.

Embracing Our Future

Sister Clare Smith, Sister Patricia McCann and archivist Grant GerlichThis exceptional educational heritage is carried on today in the lives of many sisters. One of these inspiring sisters is Sister Patricia McCann. Here she reflects on her life in education:

“After finishing college and a novitiate, I began to teach history and English in high school. Graduate study in church history at Catholic University followed, preparing me to teach at St. Vincent Seminary, Latrobe, which I did for twenty years. It was an exhilarating time—Vatican Council II, the Vietnam war, and the civil rights movement. There were critical issues to deal with and students were more than ready to take on the challenge. I loved enabling students (and ourselves!) to move into more active participation in church liturgy. I protested the war along with the college students. I marched in Selma with Dr. Martin Luther King. The Mercy fourth vow—“service to the poor, sick and ignorant”—came more alive every day… I have been blessed with optimism lifelong, and have great hope for the continuance of Catherine McAuley’s graced gift to the church and world.”


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