Mercy Then and Now — St. Paul's Orphanage and Sister Kathleen Erickson

Treasuring Our Heritage

Caring for vulnerable immigrants was imperative in the early days of the Sisters of Mercy’s presence in the United States. It was not uncommon for parents to die on the journey across the Atlantic Ocean leaving children to arrive in America unaccompanied.

Ministries like St. Paul’s Orphanage were vital for these orphaned travelers and many other children who found themselves suddenly without a family or support system.

Originally founded in 1836, the Sisters of Mercy assumed responsibility for running St. Paul’s when they first arrived in Pittsburgh in 1846. The Sisters of Mercy nurtured the lives of thousands of children for over a century until St. Paul’s closed in 1965.

Embracing Our Future

This ministry of supporting and caring for vulnerable immigrants continues today in the work of sisters like Sister Kathleen Erickson:

“In 1990 I learned Spanish, visited the Honduran Mercy community and explored the establishment of women’s centers in poverty-stricken neighborhoods in South America. Those experiences called me to make life changes. I moved to the United States/Mexico border where I lived and worked for 18 years, leading many parish and college groups on border immersions. I witnessed the change in attitudes and policies toward immigrants and visited immigrant women in a federal detention center. I later served as chaplain at a family detention center in Dilley, Texas and helped start an immigrant detainee accompaniment program at the county jail in Omaha, Nebraska, a ministry that continues today. These experiences broadened my view of the world and changed my spirituality. I now believe that even though we live in a time of extreme inequality, racism and polarization, there is growing recognition of the interconnectedness of all things."