[NEWS] The Nuns of Philadelphia
When Sister Mary Scullion enters a room, it changes. Eyes soften and shift in her direction. Smiles spread. Eager hands reach to greet her. Archbishop Charles J. Chaput might have the last word when it comes to Catholicism in Philly, but there’s a good chance Sister Mary Scullion has impacted far more people than he or any other Catholic in the city.
She belongs to the Sisters of Mercy, which, with roughly 270 members headquartered in Merion, is Philly’s third-largest congregation of nuns. Spend any amount of time with her and you’ll quickly learn why she’s known as the Mother Teresa of Philadelphia. During a freezing winter in 1988, she led a group of homeless people into the basement of the city’s Municipal Services Building, demanding it be used as a shelter. She’s been arrested — four times — for refusing to back down when helping the poor. While other nuns regularly go on weeklong retreats to reflect and pray, Sister Mary has been known to sleep on the streets to better understand the people she cares about.
She’s the co-founder of Project HOME, the influential nonprofit that, on top of helping people experiencing homelessness, works to break the cycle of homelessness itself. The organization, which has attracted international visitors and attention from the likes of Jon Bon Jovi and Bill Clinton, provides housing for the homeless, youth and teen programs, veteran assistance, and wellness and health-care services.