On Monday, February 25, the Brothers of Mercy celebrated the 200th anniversary of their founder, the Blessed Peter Friedhofen, in a commemorative mass at Sacred Heart Chapel. The mass was celebrated by Fr. Gene Slomba, who was assisted by Br. Kenneth, Br. Edmund and Br. Hugh. More than forty were in attendance including residents, staff and neighbors.
Br. Peter founded the Brothers of Mercy of Mary Help of Christians in Germany in the 1850’s. The Brothers’ ministry of service has since spread throughout the world, thanks to the vision of this man.Brother Peter was born in Koblenz, Germany in 1819. After he and his 6 siblings were orphaned at an early age, he became a chimney sweep to support the family. He began ministering to the street children of Vallendar at age 15, singing to them from the rooftops. It was his hope that this would aid them from experiencing the sorrow and suffering he did at their age.
He later became the Master Chimney Sweep of Ahrweiler, and continued ministering to the children, often encouraging them to receive sacraments and study catechism. Peter was soon inspired to found an organization under the patronage of St. Aloysius Gongaga, the patron saint of children. He won the Bishop’s approval to build the first house to help the sick and suffering children in need.
Peter opened a monastery in Weitersburg to begin Brothers of Mercy Mary Help of Christians, but was removed from there because it was believed that he lacked the education necessary to teach and form its members. He founded a new headquarters in February 1851 in Koblenz. Peter received his habit on March 25, 1851. On February 28, 1852 the Bishop granted canonical approval for the Brothers of Mercy Mary Help of Christians.
The new order found a faithful priest, Fr. Filippo De Lorenzi, who increased the number of Brothers rapidly. Homes started opening in Koblenz, Trier, Kyllburg, Luxembourg, and then America, Asia and Africa. At the age of 41, Brother Peter’s health began deteriorating rapidly, and he sadly passed away on December 21, 1860. His legacy inspired cause for canonization, which opened on March 26, 1926 under Pope Pius XI. Pope John Paul II declared him venerable on September 24, 1983, and Blessed on June 23, 1985.
The Brothers of Mercy have been continuing Br. Peter’s legacy in Western New York since 1924. Their mission to honor Christ by serving others led them to found of a ‘campus of care’ in Clarence in the early 1950’s. The Brothers of Mercy Wellness Campus has since grown to include skilled nursing, inpatient and outpatient rehabilitation, assistive living, independent living, and respite, hospice and home nursing services. Today, Brothers of Mercy is Western New York’s largest 5-star Wellness Campus, serving over 500 residents and 800 inpatient and outpatient rehabbers annually. In the tradition of the Blessed Brother Friedhofen, the remarkable heritage of the Brothers of Mercy continues on in its vocation: to console and touch countless lives.
For more information about the Brothers of Mercy, visit www.brothersofmercy.org
*special thanks to Brother Kenneth, Mary Martin, and Renee Villa for their help with designing and organizing this material and the Mass