Sister Carolyn Coffey was a Sister of Mercy for 64 years. She was born in Wichita, Kansas, and spent her early years in Panama, where her father worked for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. The family moved to Omaha when Carolyn was in grade school. She attended Mercy High School.
Carolyn once told a news reporter that in seeking to prove two things – that she didn’t want to be a nun and didn’t want to go to college, she entered the Sisters of Mercy. However, her plan backfired. Carolyn earned degrees in elementary education and administration and served 25 years as a teacher and principal in Catholic schools in California, Missouri, Idaho, Council Bluffs, and Omaha.
In 1988, Sister Carolyn joined Mercy Housing and was given nothing more than two contracts and directions to build the organization. She said, “I had no budget, no office, no telephone, no computer. I had a box I put on the dining room table every morning.”
By this time, Mercy Housing which began in Omaha, had moved to Denver, Colorado. Without a background in housing, Sister Carolyn taught herself how to form relationships with bankers and lawmakers, and anyone else who could teach her about housing development and the nonprofit world, including Omaha sisters previously involved in Mercy Housing. She also volunteered at the City of Omaha’s Planning Department.
Under Sister Carolyn’s direction, Mercy Housing Midwest grew significantly. At one time, there were 772 units in Missouri, Nebraska, Kansas, and managed properties in Oklahoma. She retired from Mercy Housing in 2002.
Sister Carolyn then ministered as a community organizer and served at the College of Saint Mary in Omaha as clerical support for Institutional Advancement. She retired from active ministry in 2009 and continued to stay active by volunteering in the community.