The Story of a Sister: A photo essay spanning over 100 years!

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By Catherine Walsh, Communications Specialist

These photos, collected with the help of Sister Hope W. and her family, celebrate many milestones and memories in the life of a Sister of Mercy.


Our story of Sister Hope W., who is now 103 years old, begins with the wedding of her parents, William and Mary, on October 9, 1907, in Providence, Rhode Island. Hope was the second of their eight children.


Hope (right) with siblings Ruth and Leo watch a First Holy Communion in their parish in Edgewood, Rhode Island, in 1919. By the time she was in the sixth grade, Hope knew she wanted to be a Sister of Mercy.  


Four generations pose for a photo when Hope was about 11 years old, including Hope’s mother, maternal grandmother and great-grandmother.


Hope was 16 years old when she earned her business and secretarial degree at Bryant College (now Bryant University), who recently sent a tweet about Sister Hope. She worked at her father’s insurance and real estate firm for several years before entering the Sisters of Mercy at 21.

5-Jolly Brunettes

In this photo from the early 1930s, Hope sits perched on the edge of the canoe, enjoying an outing with her group of friends, who called themselves the Jolly Brunettes.

6-Hope and Ruth

Hope and her sister Ruth were always together as young women. In this 1932 photo, the sisters enjoy a day at the beach. Like the rest of their siblings, Hope and Ruth loved to swim, canoe and ice skate. When they were children, Hope taught one of her brothers, Ralph, to skate—and he went on to play hockey for the U.S. Olympic Hockey Team in 1948!

7-family portrait

Hope is seated at the center of one of the last family portraits taken before she entered the Sisters of Mercy in 1934.

8 - Hope, Ruth and mother

On the day before Hope (left) entered the novitiate of the Sisters of Mercy in 1934, she posed for a formal portrait with two of the most important women in her life—her mother and Ruth.

9-final vows

Sister Hope poses with her parents on her Final Vows day in 1936.

10-25 years

Sister Hope, all smiles on her 25th jubilee as a Sister of Mercy in 1961. “My life in Mercy gives me great joy,” she says.

11 communion2

Sister Hope spent many years as an educator in Catholic schools. She is shown here leading students at St. Teresa’s School in Pawtucket, Rhode Island, in their First Holy Communion procession in 1963.

12-second grade class

Sister Hope smiles with her second-grade class at St. Matthew’s School in Cranston, Rhode Island, in 1976. On the back of this photo, each student’s name is neatly written in a grid in Sister Hope’s elegant penmanship. One of Sister Hope’s former students became a priest—and then a missionary in Peru—with her encouragement.

13-50 years

This photo was taken in 1984, in honor of Sister Hope’s Golden Jubilee, celebrating her 50-year anniversary as a Sister of Mercy.

14 cape cod

Sister Hope (right) and her sister Ruth enjoyed a trip to Cape Cod shortly before Ruth passed away at age 99. Before Ruth died, the two sisters spoke daily on the phone.


Sister Hope (seated) smiles with two of her nieces, Marie and Karen, the daughters of her sister Ruth. If you look closely, you can see that Sister Hope is wearing a black and silver cross, a gift Ruth gave Sister Hope many years ago. Marie and Karen take turns calling Sister Hope daily—continuing the tradition begun by their mother.

16-sister maureen

Sister Maureen S. (left) smiles with Sister Hope, her former second-grade teacher. Sister Maureen went on to become a Sister of Mercy in 1957, and she volunteers at Mount St. Rita Health Centre, where Sister Hope lives.

17-niece Madelyn

Sister Hope holds Madelyn Hope, her namesake and the newest arrival of her more than 40 great-great nieces and nephews.

14-Sister Hope's 103rd birthday

Today, Sister Hope is involved in prayer ministry. Friend and family rely on Sister Hope for prayers on everything from having a safe pregnancy or finding work to successfully taking an exam. Sister Hope still loves to attend daily Mass, even though she has experienced major hearing loss in recent years. “I know it is right for me to be there, in the chapel, praying along with everyone else,” says Sister Hope. This year marks Sister Hope’s 80th year as a Sister of Mercy.