Earlier this year, the Mercy Speech Center, located on Abbott Road in South Buffalo, permanently closed following the retirement of Sister Maralynn Sciarrino, RSM, the center's director of 49 years, and Sister Catherine Hunt, RSM, her administrative assistant. Although newly retired, Sister Maralynn hopes to remain active in the community, and spoke last month with the Western New York Catholic about her life as she plans to serve on a volunteer basis at Mercy Hospital.
Sister Maralynn, a Religious Sister of Mercy for 65 years who joined as a postulant in 1952, said of her time in the community, "They've been very happy years, and I would do it again." She emphasized that while formally retired, women religious seldom actually retire and continue to serve the Western New York community while needing medical care. This is where the Retirement Fund for Religious comes in, which provides needed care for sisters who live in various orders' infirmaries.
"I'm sure that we depend on (the retirement fund) because our retired sisters, some of whom are in our infirmary and we have round-the-clock nurses for them,"
Sister Maralynn said of the sisters at Mercy Center in Buffalo. "That's a very, very expensive thing that the community does, and that helps us provide care for sisters who need full-time care. I'm sure that they use that money for them and also to support us, because we're not bringing in our salaries. We depend a lot on our development office, and they're very active. They try to raise money for us."
Sister Maralynn also noted how in the Diocese of Buffalo, retired sisters are involved with a Trocaire College program, the Living Legacy Memory Book, where a college student interviews each of the sisters. They also interact with students at Mount Mercy Academy, the school the Religious Sisters of Mercy founded.
A native of Niagara Falls who grew up in a Catholic family, Sister Maralynn's father was the first Italian-speaking doctor in Niagara Falls. Her mother was in the first class of female pharmacists to graduate from the State University of New York at Buffalo. Sister Maralynn attended Trocaire College, then known as Santa Maria Junior College, before attending Mount St. Joseph Teachers' College, now Medaille College in Buffalo, and the Catholic University of America in Washington, D.C.
Early in her ministry, Sister Maralynn taught kindergarten and recalled "learning on the job," working with another sister who would meet with her on Sundays to go over the next week's lesson plans. "We'd meet every Sunday, and plan for the next week and discuss how the last week went. It was a great way to learn how to teach," she recalled, noting that she still meets with her former kindergarten students in one of the first classes she taught, who are now 70 years of age.
"I just recently went to a reunion that we had with my students from St. William's (in West Seneca). I taught at St. William's for nine consecutive years, so for two years I taught everybody in the school because there was only one class of each. In those days, I had 60 in first grade," Sister Maralynn remembered.
After teaching for several more years and receiving her master's degree in speech pathology, Sister Maralynn went on to serve at Mercy Speech Center, officially retiring on June 16. However, her work was not done, as the building needed to be taken care of. However, once she has become situated, she hopes to start volunteering at Mercy Hospital, comforting newborn babies to assist nurses at the hospital. As of late October, she was still in the process of finalizing this.
"Closing the center took the summer, because it had been open for a lot of years. I spent all of that time clearing out the speech center and distributing any of the materials I could. I would give them to some of the teachers who are teaching primary grades," she added. "That is what I have done. I actually finished that in mid-September, but since then I have mainly been trying to get my own things in order."