The Sisters of Mercy have been integral to the history and culture of Mercyhurst since the beginning.
Sister Mary Paul Carioty is one of the seven part-time sisters still employed at Mercyhurst. Carioty’s journey as a sister led her through various fields since retirement. Currently, she works at the front desk of Baldwin Hall.
Becoming a Catholic Sister was no easy feat for Sr. Mary, who grew up Greek Orthodox in Rochester, New York. Once she converted to Catholicism in high school, she hoped to attend then-all Catholic Mercy High School, but had a falling out with her family over her change of faith.
Homeless, and with no money to attend Mercy High School, Sr. Mary was at a loss for what to do or where to go. This is when she first experienced mercy as described by the sisters.
“She asked me if I wanted to come to Mercy High School, and I said yes, but don’t have any money because I’m homeless… she said ‘I didn’t ask you that… I’m gonna ask you one more time, and I don’t want to hear you say you don’t have any money,’ so she asked again, and I said ‘yes I do.’. . . She said ‘I’ll see you in September.’ That was mercy to me,” Sr. Mary said.
This mercy inspired her to take her vows as a Sister of Mercy six years later in Titusville in 1952. She then graduated from Mercyhurst College, and her first assignment was teaching third graders.
However her true calling was to help the poor and the sick in the medical field. She worked for years in various hospitals, and when a position opened up in an Ethiopian medical clinic, she packed her bags.
While working as a nurse in Ethiopia, the Soviet control forced all foreign aid, except medical, to leave the country. Though she loved her work, eventually she became too ill to continue, and had to find a replacement in order to be able to return home for proper treatment.
God’s Mercy peeked through in her life once again by sending another Sister to take her place.
Once back in America in good health, Sr. Mary was instrumental in starting a clinic in the lower level of a Washington DC homeless shelter, combining her passions for helping the poor and the sick.
At the height of the AIDS epidemic, she was treating roughly 370 affected patients in addition to those staying in the shelter.
After 18 busy years, she retired for the third time, and took up her current position at Mercyhurst in 2004.
She now works on campus in Baldwin Hall and has been dear to the freshman classes for many, many years.
“It’s been a joy to have these freshmen girls every year,” Sr. Mary said. She plans to stay in her position at Mercyhurst as long as she is physically able. “Here’s my heart, right here.”