Mercyhurst University and the Sisters of Mercy have, as of April 9, announced the pending sale of the Mercy Motherhouse at 444 E. Grandview Blvd. A space precious to many, the building sits just above the main campus and includes a residence for the Sisters, a chapel, a library, cafeteria, infirmary, garden/outdoor areas and space used by the Sisters for their various ministries.
Sadly, like most groups of women religious in the United States, the Sisters of Mercy are experiencing their numbers decline and their members are aging. As a result, the Mercy Motherhouse is underutilized by the Sisters alone. The Motherhouse has, as a result, graciously opened its doors to use by the university more and more in recent years.
At one time, the Motherhouse housed 68 Sisters. Now there are only 17 in residence.
Four years ago the university entered into an Agreement for Option to Purchase with the Sisters of Mercy, meaning the Sisters could open a conversation with Mercyhurst as to their desire for the future of the building, and how Mercyhurst might acquire it in time.
Mercyhurst’s need for academic space has grown at the same time that the number of Sisters living at the Motherhouse has declined. The closing of the North East campus has added to the need for space in the past year.
Mercyhurst has promised multi-million-dollar investment in facilities upgrades on its Erie campus, particularly in the form of high-tech labs and classrooms for its expansive health care programming.
Following the university’s Board of Trustees meeting on Feb. 27, steps were taken to move ahead to buy the Motherhouse and allocate funds for renovations. Mercyhurst University has not purchased the space yet, but rather is in the process of leasing more of the underutilized spaces, and eventually purchasing it to lease it back to the Sisters for their needs.
As part of the plans, two ministries housed at the Grandview center have agreed to relocate – the Mercy Center for the Arts, and the Mercy Hilltop Center.
“We’ve been so grateful to these ministries for their cooperation,” said vice president for Mission Integration, Greg Baker, D. Min. “Our guarantee is that as long as there is one Sister of Mercy at the Motherhouse, they will have all the space they need in that area accommodated, including worship, community, office and dining space. That is our promise and key concern.”
At the same time, Baker noted how there are benefits to both the students and the Sisters in terms of sharing the space more, including collaboration and renovations.
“The Sisters recognize they have more space than they need. This is the beginning of a change in who owns the building, but not who uses it,” Baker said.
Mercyhurst already leases some residential space at the Motherhouse, and currently 18 students are living there. With the natural transition toward buying the space, more connections will be made between students and Sisters there.
The Sisters of Mercy arrived in Erie in 1917 and in 1926 founded Mercyhurst University. In 1968, they relocated to the new Motherhouse on East Grandview. This building has a special history which reflects the bond between Mercyhurst and the Sisters. In using, and eventually purchasing, the space, Mercyhurst is deeply committed to the tradition and legacy of the founding Sisters.