Sister Timothy Marie O'Roark standing with supporting partners

Celebrating National Catholic Sisters Week

As Mercy Housing celebrates National Catholic Sisters Week and Women’s History Month, it’s essential that we look to the roots of our founding and consider the women that have guided Mercy Housing to where it is today, a leader in affordable housing. Creating stable homes and innovative resident services for people in need is no small feat. Our history is a testament to the power of a small, dedicated group of women making positive change.

The Beginning

Sister Timothy Marie O’Roark, a Sister of Mercy of Omaha, was serving as a legal aid attorney in Omaha, Nebraska. While working with families facing eviction, she witnessed the tragic conditions in which they were forced to live. Far too many families didn’t have access to decent housing, and she vowed that “we can do better.”

O’Roark appealed to the Sisters of Mercy in Omaha to adopt housing as a sponsored ministry. She had seen how stable homes could make a profound impact on education and health, and she wanted to put this idea into action. The Sisters accepted O’Roark’s proposal and made the critical, initial investment of $500,000 to support low-income people to pursue their dreams with the help of housing. From the very beginning, housing was coupled with supportive services because the Sisters knew that services like financial literacy, after-school programming, and health and wellness classes are what truly make a difference. Mercy Housing, Inc. was incorporated as a Nebraska nonprofit on Christmas Eve in 1981.

Eight communities of Catholic Sisters focused their efforts to continue our growth. Over the course of 1981 to 2003, the following Founding Communities joined as sponsorship ministries, inspired by an unwavering dedication to social justice and the needs of low-income families:

  • Daughters of Charity, Province of St. Louise
  • Daughters of Charity, Province of the West
  • Sisters of Bon Secours, USA
  • Sisters of Mercy, South Central
  • Sisters of Mercy, Northeast
  • Sisters of Mercy, West Midwest
  • Sisters of St. Joseph of Orange
  • Sisters of St. Joseph of Peace


Mercy Housing continues as a nonprofit today. In the spirit of the Sisters, Mercy Housing’s work is guided by three core values: respect, justice, and mercy. As we continue to support communities through stable homes with resident services, these founding values can be felt in every aspect of our vision, mission, and daily operations. These are not just Catholic or Christian values, but intrinsic for the betterment of all people no matter your background.

To learn more about the impeccable courage, foresight, and resourcefulness of Sisters in the U.S., enjoy this documentary-