Biographies

Sister Mercedes Cusack, MM

Born: May 24, 1893
Entered: September 11, 1919
Died: February 28, 1972

On Monday, February 28, at 10:45 a.m. Sister Mercedes Cusack died at Bethany. Sister will be buried here at the Center at noon today, following the funeral Mass.

Mary Veronica Cusack was born in Chicago, Illinois on May 24, 1893. She attended parochial and public schools and was graduated from the Brooklyn Girls’ High School in 1912. After several years as a clerical worker, she joined the “Teresians” on September 11, 1919 from St. Martin of Tours parish in Brooklyn. Sister Mercedes was professed on August 21, 1921. The years between 1921 and 1925 were dedicated to nursing studies in the Providence Hospital School of Nursing in Seattle, where she received her R. N. and also took several special courses in surgery and obstetrics.

In 1925 Sister Mercedes received her first mission assignment to China, where she was to spend the next seventeen years of her mission life with the exception of a short period in the Philippines. Her years in China found her ministering to the sick and giving witness to the Word of God in Shanghai, Dairen, Fushun, Antung, and other of our Manchurian missions. The few letters which she wrote to Mother Mary Joseph during that period of her life have the air of calmness and a casual acceptance of the difficulties of the period characterized by unrest internally and finally by the Japanese invasion which resulted in house arrest, internment, and repatriation of our missioners. Her description of a ride in an open truck from Fusun to Mukden with a group of missioners and their guards has a humorous vein running through it. You can almost see them sitting on top of their baggage, waving to the Manchu who stood in the road and were calling out to them, “Take care of yourselves and have a peaceful journey.”

A long letter written aboard the “M. S. Gripsholm” recounts the end of their stay in Fushun and the voyage as far as the harbor at Rio de Janeiro, where the letter was posted on the Feast of Our Lady of the Snows, 1942. Casting a glance back over the preceding few months, Sister says about the last days in Fushun, “And from day to day we were told, ‘You are going to return to your country… You are not going to return to your country… You are going to stay here… You are going to be taken to… etc., etc.,’” But Sister went on to say, with her matter-of-fact, low-keyed prose, that “through it all we kept smiling and came through all right… We’ve had a fairly pleasant trip so far, except for the time we had in Yokahama Bay with the threat over our heads that we would all be taken off the boat again and placed in concentration for the duration.”

Since 1942 Sister Mercedes has been living here at the Center where many have known her through her friendship and service. For the past year she faced a declining physical condition. During recent months it became increasingly obvious to all of us that she was rapidly losing her strength. Two and a half weeks ago Sister was taken to Bethany for needed nursing care. On Sunday her condition became critical, and she herself was aware that the Lord was soon to take her to Heaven. I could not help but compare her calm, matter-of-fact, smiling attitude which shone through her description of the difficulties of the war years in China with the same quiet, peaceful/smile she gave all of us around her bed the night before she dies.

Please remember Sister Mercedes in your prayers and have the Eucharistic celebration offered for the repose of her soul.