Bishop asks for prayers for Sister Arlene; Sister of Mercy died in Pa. crash

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ERIE, Pa. — Sister Arlene Semesky celebrated 60 years of a religious life this past spring. But on Sunday, she was killed on her way to Mass.

The Sisters of Mercy of the Americas has confirmed that four Sisters of Mercy, including three from the Rochester area, were involved in a serious car crash in Erie, Pa. on Sunday. Troopers say Sister Arlene was in the back seat, driver’s side, when the car was hit by a pickup truck.

Sister Kathleen Wayne was called after the crash and had to share the news with her fellow sisters.

“They were just finishing up Sunday Mass. I made the announcement. There were audible gasps in the chapel,” she said.

Sister Arlene grew up in Elmira and ministered at Notre Dame High School. She lived at St. Rita’s in Webster in retirement and would cook dinner for the priests on Saturday night.

Bishop Salvatore Matano of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Rochester arrived at Mercy Center when I was there to offer his personal condolences.

“And “I’d like all our diocese to unite in prayer for Sister Arlene, that she now return to the Lord to whom she dedicated her life religious through her vows of poverty, chastity and holy obedience and to the other sisters and the others injured in the very tragic accident,” the bishop said.

The bulletin board at the Mercy Center has prayers and messages about Sister Arlene’s death.

Sister Katherine said, “As soon as the word went out throughout the institute, our sisters and associates began sending messages in.”

In addition to being a cook and baker, Sister Arlene was a seamstress.

“She made for Melanie a Cleveland Browns teddy bear and gifted it to her. And so Melanie wrote the teddy bear is in her chair and as a result of that she’s praying for us and praying for Arlene and has asked the 150 sisters of Notre Dame that live in her campus to pray,” Sister Katherine said.

The driver of the car was Sister Joanne Deck. She is still in critical condition at a hospital in Erie. The other two sisters in the car are hospitalized with injuries that are not life-threatening. They were all members of Sisters of Mercy, and all but one are from Rochester. They were on a retreat on Lake Erie.

Scene of the accident on Lake Road and Gay roads in North East Township, Pennsylvania. Courtesy: Erie News Now