Our History

In 1978, Sister Mary Judith Heberle, Superior General of the Sisters of Mercy; Rev. Neil Miller, a regional staff member of the Office of Human Development for the Catholic Diocese of Rochester; and Sister Mary Kruckow, RSM were interested in involving Sisters to meet the needs of people in rural areas of the diocese. At the same time, Sister Carol Wulforst, RSM and Sister Kathleen Flaherty, RSM expressed a desire to engage in mission work. All interested parties met to discuss a possible ministry in Tioga County.

After a tour of the County, both Sisters agreed upon Tioga County for their missionary work. Rev. Miller approached Rev. Albert Cason with a proposal that the ministry be supported by the Catholic churches in Tioga County. Father Cason spoke to the pastors and Parish Councils, and the proposal was enthusiastically supported by clergy and councils.Tioga County Rural Ministry was established in the spring of 1978 and was supported by the five Catholic churches of Tioga County: St. Patrick’s, Owego; St. John’s in Newark Valley, St. Margaret Mary in Apalachin, St. James in Waverly, and St. Francis in Catatonk. The Sisters of Mercy also provided additional support.

The Sisters initially worked with the Well Child Clinic, which operated a van bringing medical care to children in isolated sections of the county. Working with the clinic, the Sisters learned about the needs of people who were impoverished and services that were required. They delivered emergency food and clothing, provided transportation, made referrals to other agencies, and visited the sick and elderly. They used St. Patrick’s Convent and the rectory basement as their base of operation. Ten years later, with space at the convent stretched beyond its limits, the Ministry moved to 60 North Avenue in Owego. This move allowed for more adequate office space.

As needs increased and services expanded, the Ministry began to rent additional office space in order to prepare for the busy holiday seasons and the ever-increasing needs of low-income people. In 2009, Sr. Phyllis McGuire (then Executive Director) and the Board of Directors, made a decision to move the Ministry yet again, to its present location at 143 North Avenue in Owego. This move afforded the opportunity for additional office space for program and food storage needs, along with space for meetings.

Throughout the years, a variety of Sisters of Mercy responded to the call to serve in Tioga County, and their support remained a constant for an amazing 35 years. During that time, programs to meet the unmet needs have changed in an attempt to avoid service duplication and remain faithful to the organization’s mission statement: “We aspire to be a sign of Jesus’ presence by serving the unmet needs of the poor, sick and elderly of Tioga County. By calling others forth to an awareness of their responsibility in justice to answer these needs, we provide opportunities for them to respond through this ministry. We strive to make real for our times God’s love and mercy.”

Today the Ministry continues to be embraced by the Catholic churches. It also receives tremendous support from area churches, organizations, families, and individuals of Tioga County. Sr. Mary O’Brien became Executive Director of the Ministry in September of 2012. She is a Sister of St. Joseph of Carondelet from Latham, NY.  She relishes the opportunity to continue the outstanding service of the Sisters of Mercy.

Get In Touch

  •  143 North Avenue
    Owego, NY 13827
  •  607-687-3021
  •  This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.