Mercy Then and Now — Buffalo Mercy Hospital and Sister Lisa Atkins
Treasuring Our Heritage
In 1858, Bishop John Timon, C.M., appointed 11 years earlier as the first bishop of Buffalo, New York, reached out to the Sisters of Mercy for assistance in ministering to the more than 10,000 Irish immigrants who had fled famine and grinding poverty and settled in Buffalo in search of a better life. Four sisters from nearby Rochester answered his call, and began offering educational and other services at St. Brigid’s Church.
As the sisters’ presence expanded throughout the Buffalo area, it became clear to the sisters that the rapidly-growing population was in desperate need of health care, and in 1904 opened the doors of Mercy Hospital of Buffalo, a 30-bed facility on Tifft Street in South Buffalo. Less than 50 years later, in 1951, under the leadership of Sister M. Mechtilde O’Connor, the Sisters of Mercy responded to the needs of the growing area, and founded Kenmore Mercy Hospital.
Embracing Our Future
Today, more than 150 years after first arriving in Buffalo, Sisters of Mercy continue to meet health needs. Mercy hospitals serve communities across the country and Mercy health services have expanded to address community health needs such as human trafficking and homelessness. Sister Lisa Atkins’ ministry journey is exemplary of Mercy evolving to meet these burgeoning health needs:
“I felt God drawing me to a deepening awareness of the poor and underserved while ministering at House of Mercy in Belmont, NC—a residential facility for homeless adults with HIV. After that experience, I went back to school and have spent the last 20 years as a Certified Adult Nurse Practitioner ministering primarily in a Mercy Clinic in Bentonville, AR. Most recently, I was invited by our Mercy Hospital Administration in Rogers, AR to help begin our Community Health Service Line. Ministering within the community of Northwest Arkansas, I became aware of the growing need to assist persons living in poverty and homelessness.
In ministering with persons who are homeless as well as in working with our community partners what has become so clear to me is the aching call and deep longing in every person to truly belong, to come home to God and come home to our most authentic selves. In a sense, I think if we are really honest we are all homeless until we become our most authentic selves and reach our God given potential and purpose in life.
It is only in knowing the Mercy of God through my family, Sisters of Mercy community members, Mercy Associates, friends and those I have been ministering with that I desire to be that spark of God’s Mercy in return.”