Omaha 150th Anniversary
When the Sisters of Mercy arrived in 1864, Omaha was a frontier town
When seven young Sisters of Mercy arrived at the banks of the Missouri river, Omaha was little more than a cluster of buildings surrounded by mud. The Sisters came from Manchester, New Hampshire, at the request of Bishop James O’Gorman to provide formal education to the people in this frontier town. The Sisters took a horse-drawn bus up the long hill to the building at what is now 24th and St. Mary’s Ave. The Nebraskian newspaper heralded their arrival in Nebraska as “a new era in its history.”
Within a month, the Sisters had established two schools. They quickly saw that the growing needs of the community stretched beyond the classroom and soon found themselves assisting the orphaned, homeless, hungry, poor and ill.
Over the past 150 years, these pioneering Sisters have dedicated their lives to bringing the mission of Mercy to those in need, inspired by Jesus Christ and their founder Catherine McAuley. In many ways, they have helped shape the people and the landscape of the Omaha area through their leadership, lives of prayer and their ministries of service. They are known for their years of administering and teaching in most of the Omaha Catholic grade schools. They founded high schools that led to Mercy High School and opened College of Saint Mary. They addressed the need for faith-based health care through the hospitals they started and led for many years. Their commitment to affordable housing is seen in Mercy Housing that started in Omaha and now provides affordable housing in 21 states. Their work continues in these traditional ministries while embracing new critical issues such as ending human trafficking and racism, seeking immigration reform and protecting the Earth.
The Sisters of Mercy continue to welcome women who are called to vowed religious life. They also are joined by lay women and men who have embraced the Mercy charism of prayer and service in their own lives. Together with others who also share a passion for helping those most in need, the Sisters of Mercy continue to commit their lives to the works of Mercy in the Omaha area and beyond.
Today, the Sisters of Mercy in Omaha are part of a larger community – the Sisters of Mercy of the Americas West Midwest Community, formed in 2008. With its regional office in Omaha, the West Midwest Community consists of a geographic area that stretches from Michigan to California and includes nearly 700 Sisters, more than 500 Mercy Associates/Companions of Mercy and more than 900 Mercy Volunteer Corps Alumni.