Catholic Free Press

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  • Sep
  • 29

Tracing history, spirit of Mercy Centre

Posted By September 29, 2011 | 1:08 pm | Lead Story #3, Local
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By William T. Clew

The Mercy Centre, which provides schooling and training for developmentally delayed children and adults, began the celebration of its 50 years of existence last Friday with a Mass in the auditorium celebrated by Bishop McManus.
Families, friends and supporters of the center, along with pupils and adults, filled the auditorium. The bishop, Msgr. Edmond T. Tinsley, homilist; Msgr. Francis J. Scollen, pastor of St. Peter Parish and diocesan director of the Catholic Campaign for Human Development, and Msgr. Robert K. Johnson, diocesan director of the Office for Divine Worship were led to the altar by a procession of students and the Mercy Centre Choir, which said “New Hope.”
A trio then sang “Edelweiss,” from the motion picture “The Sound of Music,” as a prelude to the Mass
In his homily, Msgr. Tinsley said, “What’s in a name?”
The Mercy Centre name has both a history and a spirit of challenge, he said. He traced the history of the Mercy Centre to the founding of the Religious Sisters of Mercy by Catherine McAuley in Ireland in 1832. The Sisters of Mercy arrived in Worcester in 1854 and opened St. Elizabeth’s Hospital on Shrewsbury Street, the first hospital in the city.  It closed when Worcester opened City Hospital in 1871.
The Sisters continued their ministry, visiting the sick and prisoners in jail.
They opened St. Gabriel’s School for Girls and, in 1901, opened the Nazareth Home for Boys in Leicester, now called the McAuley Nazareth Home for Boys.
They opened and staffed several parochial schools, including St. Paul’s, Sacred Heart and Blessed Sacrament in Worcester; St. Aloysius in Gilbertville and  Our Lady Immaculate in Athol. They also opened the St. Gabriel School of Music where young people could learn to play musical instruments.
In 1961, the Sisters of Mercy opened and staffed the Mercy Centre. Bishop Wright had first envisioned it as a residence. But when it opened it was a  center for youngsters with disabilities.
The Sisters of Mercy did not look at the students as disadvantaged, but as advantaged, each individual created in the image and likeness of God, Msgr. Tinsley said.
At the end of the Mass, the Mercy Centre Choir sang a rousing “This Little Light of Mine (I’m gonna let it shine)” and the congregation sang along and clapped in time with the music.
For the final piece, David Gifford, a choir member, sang “Climb Every Mountain,” also from “The Sound of Music,” in a strong baritone voice and finished to a long, standing ovation.
The Mercy Centre has programs serving people with intellectual disabilities. They include an educational program for students 6 to 22 years old, adult employment and training programs, a volunteer social and leisure program and a day rehabilitation program for the medically fragile. The center serves 22 students and a total of 111 adults in all adult programs, according to information provided by the Mercy Centre.