The Congregation Of The Infant Jesus & Mercy Hospital
The Congregation of the Infant Jesus had its beginnings in 1835 in Neufchatel, France. It established its Motherhouse in LeMans, France in 1888. In the early 1900's, due to religious persecutions in France and in order to attempt to preserve the community, some members were sent to Belgium and some to England.
In 1905 three French speaking members of the Congregation came to the United States. The three women who arrived in New York on October 21, 1905 were women of courage, faith and adventure. They were also strangers, afraid, unsure and foreign. Alone on the pier that day, waiting to be met after all other passengers had gone, a young boy selling apples, approached and gave each one an apple. It was the first gesture of hospitality and welcome they had received in this new world.
The three made their way to Brooklyn where they stayed with the Little Sisters of the Poor. Their plans to travel west to minister to French children were changed when Bishop Charles E. McDonnell asked them to stay in the Diocese of Brooklyn to nurse the sick poor in their own homes. In 1907, Bishop McDonnell received approval from Pope Pius X to establish the sisters as an American Community, distinct from their origins in the French Congregation. Their “home nursing” ministry eventually evolved into a New York State certified health agency known as the Nursing Sisters Home Visiting Service.
Bishop McDonnell also identified the need for a Catholic hospital in Nassau County. In 1913, Sister Marie Emma who was one of the three nuns from France, assumed charge of a 13 bed former sanitarium in Hempstead called “Old Mercy.” Replaced by “New Mercy” in 1941, the facility is currently known as Mercy Hospital. It has grown to 375 beds, providing signature services, caring and compassion for all who come through its doors in search of healing.
These health and hospital services established by the sisters are now part of Catholic Health.
Members of the congregation are still engaged in various aspects of health care throughout Brooklyn and Long Island. They are also active in prison ministry, work at the Interfaith Nutrition Network, and teach at the college level. The sisters advocate “for people who cannot speak for themselves.” They continue to follow their motto, “To minister in Christ” and remain “Faithful to Our Mission”, the theme for their jubilee year.
Mercy Hospital is proud of its beginnings and continues the tradition, every October 21 st , of presenting an apple to all patients and staff in a continuing reminder of the importance in life of being welcomed and treated with even a small kindness.