Today is both International Women’s Day (IWD) and the beginning of National Catholic Sister’s Week (NCSW). You don’t need to be Catholic or a Sister to honor NCSW. Mercy Housing wouldn’t exist, had it not been for a small group of dedicated Sisters who decided to bring positive social change to affordable housing. They have a long history of providing healthcare, education and social services to people from all walks of life.
“This is a never-say-die group of women.”- John L. Allen, CNN
Mercy Housing’s Founding Communities
Mercy Housing began in the early 1980s when Sister Timothy Marie O’Roark, a Sister of Mercy of Omaha, served as a legal aid attorney in Omaha, Nebraska, working with families facing eviction from their homes. She witnessed the horrible conditions in which they lived, and saw that many had little to no help accessing affordable housing. She vowed, “We can do better.”
Ten years later, five women’s religious communities based in Washington State gathered to envision how to address the current needs of low-income individuals and families. With this in mind, the Sisters set a goal to provide well managed, affordable housing by coming together: the Tacoma Dominicans; the Adrian (Edmonds) Dominicans; the Sisters of Providence; the Sisters of St. Joseph of Peace; and the Sisters of the Holy Names of Jesus and Mary joined forces to ultimately establish Mercy Housing Northwest.(MHNW).
We sat down with Sister Judy Byron, OP, MHNW Board of Directors and Program Director & NWCRI Director at Intercommunity Peace and Justice Center. Sister Judy has been part of the Adrian Dominican Sisters for 57 years, and her community has been an indispensable part of the Mercy Housing Northwest team.
“As an Adrian Dominican Sister, I enjoy working with such a dedicated group of women that are so community minded. Experiencing the difference we make keeps me going. I’m proud that MHNW has attracted lay partners in the ministry. Setting up a portfolio advisory board in the 1970s was a major step. I’d like to see the affordable housing industry gain more access to financing — we’ll really develop more when that happens. We’ve created good programming and I’m looking forward to building more. Everything comes down to the strength of our communities.”