The 2017 Chapter Oral History Project, Institute of the Sisters of Mercy of the Americas

The 2017 Chapter Oral History Project, Institute of the Sister of Mercy of the Americas 

Maureen Skorupa Keyes, Sisters of Mercy Mid-Atlantic Community Archives, Merion, PA 

The Sisters of Mercy Archives Team, consisting of archivists from the Mercy Heritage Center, located in Belmont, North Carolina, and community archivists from the Mid-Atlantic Community in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania and the West-Midwest Community in Omaha, Nebraska, has initiated the 2017 Chapter Oral History Project focused on governance in community life and leadership roles in the Institute of the Sisters of Mercy of the Americas.  The project comes at a crucial time for not only the Sisters of Mercy but all women religious in the United States.  Many congregations are facing smaller numbers and re-organizations.  While their mission does not change, the ways in which they live out those missions can.

The Sisters of Mercy have undergone many changes since they made their first foundation in the United States in 1843, from Ireland to Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.  As an international community of Roman Catholic women religious 3,000 members strong, they have always responded to the unmet needs of their time, taking vows of service to aid the poor, sick, and uneducated.  Their governance structure and ministry has evolved and changed to reflect similar changes in how America treats underserved populations.  These Sisters of Mercy, women who were traditionally teachers and nurses, are now CEOs, university presidents, and founders of social service organizations. 

The twenty oral histories conducted in Buffalo, NY in June 2017 offer a voice and a platform to women who have seen considerable change to their way of life.  Many of them entered religious life before women had the opportunities for education and work that they do now.  These oral history interviews, the beginning of an ongoing project, will complement and enrich the existing collections of The Sisters of Mercy Archives.  Traditional governance documentation or individual member files cannot fully capture the vibrancy and vision that characterize their gatherings and elucidate their experiences.

Many of the interviewees spoke of pride at how far the organization has come as well as hopes and fears for the future.  They described what it was like to be back in Buffalo, New York, 25 years after the decision was made to join together as the Institute of the Sisters of Mercy of the Americas. 

Our goal is to expand the project as there are many more stories to tell about this important time in the history of the Sisters of Mercy of the Americas.  The Sisters of Mercy Archives Team is currently working on metadata and transcriptions for the oral history interviews and plans are being made for their availability on the Sisters of Mercy website, in the near future.  More information can be found by contacting Project leads Maureen Keyes (, or Emily Reed (