November 16, 2017
By Sister Ana Rosa de la Cruz and Sister Ana Maria Cases
Sister Ana Rosa and Sister Ana Maria were born in Puerto Rico and ministered there for many years. Now living in Pittsburgh, they reflect on the history of Mercy presence in Puerto Rico and share some of the hardships facing their island home in the wake of two devastating hurricanes.
The Sisters of Mercy from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, have had a very close relationship to the island of Puerto Rico since 1941, when the bishop of San Juan, Bishop James Davis, invited the sisters to staff Academia Católica, a school for grades 1-12. Academia Católica—located in Old San Juan, the capital city of Puerto Rico—was administered by the Capuchin priests from St. Augustine Seminary in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.
The sisters arrived there in August 1941 to start the new academic year in September. Shortly after, they collaborated with the priests in the religious instruction of children in La Perla, a slum built outside the city’s ancient walls. Sometime later, they also gave religious instruction to the children of army men stationed at Fort Brooke in San Juan. The sisters remained there until 1964 when the school had to close because the structure had major problems due to the disintegration caused by the weather and the proximity of the ocean.
Before the second semester of 1963-64 school year was over, Cardinal Luis Aponte Martínez, then Archbishop of San Juan, had already approached the major superior, Mother Margaret Mary, to assign sisters to a school in Hato Rey, in the modern section of the city. Colegio La Merced was owned by the Mercedarian priests from Spain. Because it was a school dedicated to Our Lady of Mercy and under the direction of Mercedarian priests, Mother Margaret Mary accepted. The sisters remained there until 1971. Read More