Sisters of Mercy photo
The Sisters gather in community room of old Mout St. Joseph, 1946.
Sisters of Mercy photo
The Sisters gather in community room of old Mout St. Joseph, 1946.
A recognition ceremony for the Mercy Sisters is set for 2 p.m. Monday, July 28, in thanksgiving for their more than 100 years of service at Laurelhurst Village, formerly Mount St. Joseph, in Southeast Portland. Prayer and song and tributes will begin in the chapel at 3060 SE Stark and then move outside where a tree has been planted and a memorial plaque placed.  

The last Mercy Sister to serve at the site, Sister Georgita Cunningham, has retired.

Catherine McAuley founded the Sisters of Mercy in 1831 in Ireland to serve the needy and the sick. In 1896, 12 Sisters arrived in Portland and asked “How can we best serve God’s people here?”  
Portland was a rapidly growing city of 90,000 at the time. The Sisters soon realized that the poor and the frail elderly needed a safe place to live. The women opened Mount St. Joseph at 20th and Irving. Within four years the “home for the aged” was overflowing and had a long waiting list. The Sisters purchased a Methodist Hospital at 30th at SE Stark for back taxes and after some remodeling they opened their doors in 1901.

Here is how the Oregonian reported the opening: “The house is open to all who need its sheltering care in their declining years.  Residents range in age from 60 to 95 years, embracing both men and women. No one is excluded, and all are welcomed regardless of financial means, color or creed.”

The building went through additions and renovations, and the leadership started to change in 1995 when the Sisters joined with the Franciscan Health System and the Sisters of Charity Care System to form a new entity, Catholic Health Initiative. Soon another expansion of the facility took place, adding assisted living in The Terrace, The Gardens, and a rehabilitation center.

The Mercy Sisters made the difficult decision to sell Mount St. Joseph and the name was changed to Laurelhurst Village in 2005.

The facility is presently administered by the Avamere Company keeping a “Catholic presence” and the “tradition of caring” of the Mercy Sisters.

Jonathan Mack, administrator, believes that pastoral care is a vital part of caring for the residents.

“The residents can never have too many players on their behalf,” Mack says. “Pastoral care is an essential part of the care we promise and value at Laurelhurst village.”