The Sisters of Mercy: A Tale of Two Cities

Edward Rohs and Judith Estrine

in Raised by the Church

Published by Fordham University Press

Published in print December 2011 | ISBN: 9780823240227
Published online January 2012 | e-ISBN: 9780823240265 | DOI:
The Sisters of Mercy: A Tale of Two Cities

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Beginning in 1855, this chapter provides an overview of the historic roots of the Sisters of Mercy in Brooklyn and their involvement with the impoverished immigrant community, fifty five percent of whom were refugees from the Irish potato famine. Living in destitution in neighbourhoods like Vinegar Hill and Manhattan's Five Points, notorious for its violent gangs and prostitution, many Irish immigrants communicated in their own street slang known as “flash talk”, described in this chapter. The vast majority of social welfare institutions at the time were sponsored by religious organizations like the Sisters of Mercy. With illustrative archival material from the Brooklyn Eagle, the chapter explores how the Sisters of Mercy became part of the United States' historic human treasure. It describes their move in 1862 from a school on Jay Street that had become a resource for orphans who lived on the street to the Convent of Mercy, a new convent residence and orphanage complex at designed by Patrick Keely, the most important Catholic architect in the country. For more than a hundred years after its construction, the order would raise hundreds of thousands of children within its cloistered walls.

Keywords: Sisters of Mercy; flash talk; Five Points; Vinegar Hill; Catholic dioceses; Irish potato famine; Brooklyn Eagle; Convent of Mercy; Patrick Keely

Chapter.  1883 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: Social and Cultural History

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