Twelve Sisters of Mercy left Ireland in 1851 with Arkansas’ first Catholic bishop, Bishop Andrew J. Byrne, to set up a school for children in Arkansas that would come to be known as Mount St. Mary Academy. One hundred sixty-six years later, thirteen Mercy Sisters gathered to celebrate the 80th birthdays and relocation of the last two Sisters in residence at the school and to honor the Mercy legacy on the school’s campus.
At Mercy Moments on Our Journey, held Sunday, May 7 in the Mount St. Mary Convent in Little Rock, three Sisters of Mercy were honored for their years of service and ministry: Sr. Jolitta Konecny, Sr. Ann Hardcastle, and Sr. Joan Pfauser. Sr. Jolitta and Sr. Ann are both graduates of the school and past faculty members who will be relocating from the Mount St. Mary Convent to the Sisters’ retirement home in Barling, Arkansas. Sr. Joan, also a graduate, will continue as one of the school counselors to bring the daily presence of Mercy to Mount St. Mary Academy.
Past principals of the school Sr. Richard Mary Burke, RSM and Sr. Deborah Troillett, RSM were in attendance at the event to reflect with gratitude and give thanks to God for the school’s 166-year history and to offer prayers and affirmation for the future. Relaying a message from the Sisters of Mercy leadership team for the South-Central Community, Sr. Richard Mary announced that the convent has been deeded to the current ministry and school leadership at Mount St. Mary, proclaiming that it has been a blessing to all of the Sisters, for which they give thanks and say “yes!” to all that will be.
“Catherine McAuley said of our journey as Sisters, ‘We have one solid comfort amidst this little tripping about: our hearts can always be in the same place, centered in God for whom alone we go forward — or stay back,’” said Sr. Deborah, member of the Institute Leadership Team for the Sisters of Mercy of the Americas. “While there was sadness in me to say goodbye to the Sisters living in the convent, there is also joy in knowing that the Sisters of Mercy will go forward so deeply enriched by the partnership with our many lay colleagues who lead and serve at Mount St. Mary Academy. I feel great confidence and gratitude that the school will continue to respond to the new needs of the young women served and the convent building will inevitably be utilized in a way to meet some new unmet need!”
Mount St. Mary Academy President/CEO Karen Flake thanked the Sisters and expressed that “because of their tremendous impact, the spirit of God’s mercy will always be present at Mount St. Mary Academy.” She assured there were no immediate plans to change the way the convent is being used at Mount St. Mary Academy and said the board of directors is currently in the process of reviewing the master plan.
During refreshments and “a comfortable cup of tea” with the Sisters, an impromptu rendition of the school’s alma mater was sung by many of the 60 guests present, which included alumnae, parents, and friends of the school, Mercy Associates, and Sisters of Mercy from throughout the region. There are currently six Sisters of Mercy serving on the academy and foundation boards and one staff member serving at Mount St. Mary Academy.
Front Row: Sr. Ann Hardcastle, Sr. Elisa Bauman, Sr. Jolitta Konecny, Sr. Jacqueline HowardBack Row: Sr. Judith Keith, Sr. Deborah Troillett, Sr. Carol Ann Corley, Sr. Cheryl Quave, Sr. Richard Mary Burke, Sr. Rebecca Hendricks, Sr. Noeline Banks, Sr. Joan Pfauser, Sr. Teresa Kelone
More photos from Mercy Moments on Our Journey: