If a tapestry were designed to depict all the good works performed by the Catholic Sisters of Mercy since arriving in Vicksburg in 1860, it likely would include scenes of the sisters taking care of the sick and wounded, teaching school children and nurses-in-training, offering food and carrying out the exhortation of Christ in Matthew Chapter 25, verse 40: "Whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me." Some of these scenes are painted on the Sisters of Mercy mural at the flood wall on Levee Street - which includes, at the sisters' insistence, that scripture reference.
Some of the scenes are simply part of the city's architecture - the former St. Francis Xavier Academy buildings and the convent that now house the Southern Cultural Heritage Foundation, or the former Mercy Hospital-McAuley Retirement Home complex on Grove Street.
Now a new book, "Tapestry of Mercy," documents the history of the sisters in Vicksburg and all of Mississippi and six other states that made up the St. Louis province of the order - Arkansas, Kansas, Louisiana, Missouri, Texas and Oklahoma.
"It's a landmark," said Glenda LaGarde, Mercy Historian and Hinds Community College English teacher. "For Vicksburg especially, (since) during the last decade they have come to appreciate much more the contributions of the sisters, across the faith."
Every one of those sisters, whether assigned to Vicksburg or another area of the St. Louis community, has been listed in the book. It's a record of more than 1,700 sisters who served in the order from 1851 to 2008.
Included are birthplaces and dates and, for those sisters who have died, date of death and place of burial. If a sister withdrew from the order, that is also noted.
Former SFXA principal and Vicksburg native Sister Mary Paulinus Oakes, R.S.M. will sign copies of "The Tapestry of Mercy: The History of the St. Louis Regional Community of the Sisters of Mercy of the Americas," at St. Aloysius High School, 1900 Grove St, at 6 p.m. Sept. 21. Copies of the book will be available for $25.