Mercy Then and Now — Sister Maurita Sengelaub and Mercy Healthcare
Treasuring Our Heritage
Within a few short years of arriving in Pittsburgh in 1843, the Sisters of Mercy spread rapidly throughout the United States. They established foundations in Chicago, Providence, San Francisco, Philadelphia and numerous other cities, always seeking to meet the pressing needs of their new communities.
In 1855, Mercy Sisters began ministering in Baltimore; less than ten years later they were called upon to staff the Douglas Military Hospital in Washington, D.C., and care for injured soldiers during the Civil War. After the end of that bloody conflict, the sisters continued in their mission of providing health care, and on November, 11, 1874—the 33rd anniversary of the death of Catherine McAuley—they took charge of Baltimore City Hospital under the leadership of Sister M. Augustine Gwynne. Founded four years prior by the Washington University School of Medicine, the meager hospital was located in a former schoolhouse, its purpose to care for the poor of Baltimore. In the 1880s, famed composed John Philip Sousa played a benefit concert to help fund the construction of new hospital buildings.
During the Great Depression, Sisters of Mercy helped to feed people the people of Baltimore, who lined up daily behind the hospital. In 1911 the facility became known as Mercy Hospital, and in 1988 changed its name to Mercy Medical Center.
Embracing Our Future
This Mercy legacy of healthcare has been carried forth into the 21st century by hundreds of sisters across the country founding hospitals and serving as administrators, nurses and other health professionals. No sister better embodies the glory of the past and the innovation of the future than Sister Maurita Sengelaub. Sister Maurita celebrated her 100th birthday this year and entered the Sisters of Mercy back in 1945.
In that time, Sister Maurita left an indelible mark on healthcare. She served as a nursing administrator and teacher at several Mercy institutions and was involved with all levels of healthcare, developing hospitals, healthcare organizations, health systems and services. Her ministry took her throughout the United States, India, Australia, Argentina, and many other countries. She became the first woman religious to serve as executive director of Catholic Hospital Association, a major leadership role in Catholic health ministry. She also helped address migrant worker health by forming the National Migrant Worker Council, and collaborated with the Sisters of St. John to help Australia develop its first Catholic health care system
Sister Maurita’s accomplishments are incredible but her faith and life as a Sister of Mercy are what truly matter to her:
“My faith and life as a Sister of Mercy are summed up in my ring motto: “All for you, Oh Jesus.”It is what has guided my life and everything I have had the privilege to do. It is what still strengthens my life. It continues to guide me each day.”