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Remembering Sister Mercedes Moore

Our dear Sister Mercedes Moore, OSB, died peacefully on Wednesday, January 25, 2017 and returned home to our loving God. Sister was a strong woman of faith and action, with a tender heart for God's creation. We invite you to learn more about Sister Mercedes' remarkable life in the following biography written by Sister Benita Coffey, OSB:

Mary Catherine Moore was born February 1, 1915, in Chicago, the fourth daughter of Charles Day and Adeline Smith Moore. Theirs was a strong Catholic family and the children were educated in parish schools. Mary Catherine began grade school at St. Ambrose, but completed her last four years at St. Thomas the Apostle. She continued into high school at St. Thomas and then, awarded a scholarship, went to St. Xavier College for a year.

On September 7, 1933, Mary Catherine entered the Benedictine Sisters of Chicago where an older sibling, Sister Pierre Marie was already a member. She was received into the novitiate on July 11, 1934 and was given the name Sister Mercedes. She professed triennial vows on August 6, 1935 and her perpetual vows on that same date in 1938.

She earned her Bachelor of Arts degree and later her Master of Science in International Relations at Loyola University in Chicago. She also completed a Bachelor of Arts in Theology at St. Joseph College in Rensselaer, IN, and later earned certifications for Hospital Chaplaincy and for Gregorian music.

Though her education was not yet complete, Sister Mercedes began a very successful career as an educator in fall of 1936 when she was assigned to teach in Catholic parochial schools in Chicago and in southern Colorado. Over the next 17 years, she served in turn at St. Hilary, Chicago; St. Leander, Pueblo, CO; Queen of All Saints, Chicago; St. Symphorosa, Chicago; St. Mary, Pueblo, CO; St. Michael, Delta, CO; and St. Michael, Cañon City, CO. Back in Chicago, she again served at St. Hilary, becoming the principal there.

Sister Pierre Marie Moore (left) and Sister Mercedes Moore (right) with their mother between them.

In 1953, Sister Mercedes began teaching at St. Scholastica Academy in Chicago. With the exception of one year as principal at St. Symphorosa, she was a faculty member at St. Scholastica until 1971. For the next two years she was principal again at St. Symphorosa. From 1973 until 1976 she had the same role at the elementary school at Sacred Heart Parish in Boulder, CO.

Many summers were spent in Colorado teaching religious education in summer school. Alamosa, Redcliffe, Craig, Meeker, and Brookside were towns, like many others, where she taught that had no catechetical program during the school year.

In 1976, stationed again at the monastery, Sister Mercedes first taught at the high school but soon made a major career change. Beginning with a summer program leading to certification for chaplaincy, she worked a year at Mercy Hospital and then at Evanston Hospital. She soon became involved in parish ministry at St. Athanasius in Evanston, IL, while still serving as chaplain at the nearby hospital. She held those positions until 1986 and during that time she began both the CHRP parish renewal program; as well as, the RCIA at St. Athanasius.

In late 1986, Sister Mercedes did some internal ministry at the monastery and also offered her services at Misericordia. In summer of 1989 she went to the Virgin Islands to serve where needed. During her time there, she experienced Hurricane Hugo, worked with the homeless in Charlotte Amalie, and served at the invitation of the Bishop as Superintendent of the Catholic Schools in the area. She was enriched by the friendship of that Bishop, now Cardinal, Seán O’Malley. He has remained a close personal friend of Sister Mercedes and has kept in frequent contact with her for over twenty-five years, phoning a message to her during the last days of her life.

Since she had studied sign language along the way. On her return from the Virgin Islands, Sister Mercedes worked for a while as a tutor with deaf students at Holy Trinity School until she was asked by Sister Mary Benet McKinney to serve as Subprioress of the community in 1992. She held that position until the summer of 1995.

At that time she began to work in the St. Scholastica Academy Advancement Office and volunteered there for many years, though at times assisting with some tasks in the infirmary. In 2009 she became a resident of St. Joseph Court, where she could receive supportive care as she became less active.

Throughout her life, Sister Mercedes dealt with severe health problems, but she seemed never to let them impede her from venturing out to people and places where she felt she could serve. At age 42, she had major back surgery and then nine years later a spinal fusion. Neither of those surgeries nor her hip replacements served to eliminate her pain, which increased by advancing arthritis.

Even as her mobility was limited and she began to lose her sight, Sister Mercedes made afghans of all varieties and sizes, scarves, and other items. For many years she designed an afghan, each one an original pattern, to be a used as a major prize at the community’s annual Testimonial Dinner.

With a battery operated wheelchair provided for her use, Sister Mercedes until the final months of her long life was able to attend all community prayers, meals, and meetings, as well as to take an active part in the drama and art classes offered in St. Joseph Court. She enjoyed the freedom of going outside to get the benefit of fresh air, to visit the gardens, and to feed the squirrels which, she claimed, recognized and responded to her as their friend.

For over 83 years, Sister Mercedes lived as a faithful Benedictine and as a strong independent thinker, always open to new ways to serve. She enjoyed people, and was gifted with a clear mind. She tried to remain in communication until very close to the end of her life, even reverting to sign language when she could no longer speak.

Sister Mercedes died peacefully in the early evening of January 25, 2017. The Mass of the Resurrection was celebrated January 28, 2017 and she is interred at All Saints Cemetery in Des Plaines, IL. She was preceded in death by her parents, her brothers, David and Rev. Robert Moore, S.J., and her four sisters: Sister Jerome who was a Benedictine of Perpetual Adoration and Sister Roberta and Sister Pierre Marie, Benedictine Sisters of Chicago. She is mourned by family, countless friends, and her Sisters of St. Scholastica Monastery.

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