Father Gene Ulrich’s Homily for 100th Anniversary of The Brothers of Mercy

by | Jun 24, 2024 | Brothers of Mercy, Centennial Celebration

It is called the Sermon on the Mount. In the Gospel according to St. Matthew, chapter 5 verse 1, Jesus sees the crowd, goes up the mountain, and sits down. His disciples come to him. Jesus teaches them, “Blessed are the merciful, for they will receive mercy.” Jesus goes on to say, “You are the salt of the earth…you are the light of the world.” Salt flavors and preserves. Light dispels darkness and illumines our way. Jesus is saying to those who listen and follow him that they are given a mission to flavor and preserve goodness in the world by proclaiming the Kingdom of Heaven and to channel and radiate His divine love and light to others.

In the morning, especially during the summer, light streams into the Brothers’ Chapel and shines through the four stained glass windows behind the altar. In color, we see aglow: St. Aloysius Gonzaga, St. Camillus de Lellis, St. Vincent de Paul and St. John of God. St. John of God and St. Joseph are the Patron Saints of the Brothers of Mercy.

Holy men and women who lived their Catholic faith and personified the Gospel of Jesus Christ, inspired two men in Germany two hundred years ago. They knew each other. Ignatius of Loetshert founded the Brothers of Mercy of Montabaur. Blessed Peter Friedhofen founded the Brothers of Mercy of Mary the Helper in Trier.

Brothers of Mercy of Montabaur had a difficult start. They endured poverty and famine. Yet their community grew, and their reputation spread. In 1924 Bishop Turner of Buffalo welcomed six Brothers from Montabaur, Germany to Western New York. They acquired a residence on Cottage Street in 1925 and then a second residence on Jewett Parkway in 1938. From there, they began their mission of providing home nursing for male patients who needed around the clock care. The Brothers set about on a fleet of bicycles. The visual image comes to mind of the PBS show: Call the Midwives. You must ask the Brothers if they were given special training on how to ride a bike and wear a habit at the same time. The Brothers accepted payment in the form of fruit, vegetables or sometimes nothing at all. The Brothers of Mercy made more than 76,000 house calls in their first 25 years.

In 1950, the Brothers purchased 127 acres of farmland in Clarence, NY. In 1951, ground was broken on the first wing of Sacred Heart Home which housed 36 male patients. 1n 1963, a south wing and new Chapel were added. The physical complex of Brothers of Mercy expanded with Trier Woods apartments for moderate income seniors; then a 240 bed Skilled Nursing and Rehab Center; followed by Montabaur Heights independent living community; the Russell J. Salvatore Outpatient Rehabilitation Center; and the new Sacred Heart Assisted Living and Memory Care Community. The old Sacred Heart facility is being renovated and will become a center for health and social services.

The Brothers of Mercy Wellness Campus is recognized and honored for pioneering, life-changing restorative therapies and treatments, for innovative physical, occupational and speech therapies. We tip our hats to the Brothers of Mercy who realized early on that their mission could not continue just as a brotherhood. Lay women and men were needed to provide nursing, administrative, and housekeeping skills. The staff at B of M is a sorority and fraternity of religious and lay caregivers working closely together to assure 5-Star quality service – tending to the physical, emotional, spiritual and pastoral wellbeing of all the residents.

On behalf of my family, I thank Brothers of Mercy. My Aunt Mary and Aunt Rita had apartments at Trier Woods. My Mother was here for rehab after a broken hip. She went on to stay at another facility. She was grateful for the care that she received there but often remarked that the soup was better at Brothers of Mercy! Last summer my sister Linda was here for rehab after a broken leg. I personally thank the Brothers for welcoming me into their community.

Today we commemorate and celebrate the 100th Anniversary of the Brothers of Mercy. To all who are here we say “Sto lat!” “One hundred years!” It is a Polish phrase and song expressing good wishes, good health, and long life. I end with reference to our first reading from the Act of the Apostles. St. Luke recalls how the brothers and sisters devoted themselves to the teaching of the apostles, to the communal life, to the breaking of bread, to caring for one another and sharing, and to prayer. The last verse provides a fitting conclusion. “And every day the Lord added to their number those who were being saved.”