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Heritage of Sisters of Mercy celebrated

Eileen JoyceThird-grader Kendall Jones (left) and fifth-grader India Parish place prayer cards in front of the graves of Sisters of Mercy nuns at St. Patrick's Cemetery in Grass Valley Tuesday.
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Since Grass Valley’s earliest days, Sisters of Mercy nuns have ministered to the sick, the faithless and fellow Catholics in need of a spiritual boost.

The last three left this spring, called to other assignments, breaking a chain almost 150 years old.

The children of Mount St. Mary’s School, the parish school of St. Patrick’s Catholic Church, took time Tuesday to remember the nuns’ legacy in a ceremony at St. Patrick’s Cemetery.



On Mercy Day, third-graders linked a paper chain around grave sites of nuns while fifth-grade students placed cards of thanks on each of the granite headstones.

The day is part of a week that culminates with art exhibits, poetry readings and piano recitals this weekend by members of the Sisters of Mercy, an order of 5,240 nuns serving from Alaska to Argentina, the Philippines, Guam and the Caribbean. Irish nun Catherine McAuley founded the order in 1831, just 30 years before the first sisters arrived in Grass Valley.




Though the local sisters have left, their memory lived on during an afternoon of thanksgiving under sunny skies.

The nuns “were a great comfort, and now they’re gone. We’ve lost their visible presence,” said Sheri Doerr, the school’s fifth-grade teacher and liturgy coordinator. “But the students still understand that this is their heritage.”

That heritage lives on at Mount St. Mary’s, which is Grass Valley’s oldest continuously operated school and was opened by the Rev. Thomas J. Dalton. A giant monument topped by a cross stands in the center of the cemetery as a reminder of the priest, also the founding pastor at St. Patrick’s Church.

Cards with crayon-stenciled messages such as “Thank You” and personal messages to individual nuns dotted each headstone.

Fifth-grader Devin Blaney, 10, wondered what her school would be like if habit-wearing nuns roamed the halls.

“I wish they were here, because more people would be helped,” she said.

Odessa Spears, 8, helped assemble the paper chain.

“Seeing all the dead people makes me sad,” she said.

And as the Rev. Pat Lee concluded the afternoon with a closing prayer, Principal Joe Poggi remained hopeful that the lessons taught by the sisters will endure.

“For the sisters to have such a history and not be here is kind of a tragedy,” he said. “But this is a ministry, and the ministry remains.”

KNOW & GO

WHAT:A Sisters of Mercy Weekend Celebration

WHEN: 5:30 p.m. Friday and 8 p.m. Saturday

WHERE: St. Joseph’s Cultural Center, 410 S. Church St., Grass Valley

INFORMATION: 272-4725


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