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Sisters of Mercy mural to be unveiled Saturday

[1/15/04]The seventh scene in the Vicksburg Riverfront Mural Project will be unveiled Saturday at City Front.

The newest painting on the floodwall depicts the service of the Sisters of Mercy in Vicksburg and across Mississippi.

“This mural is particularly important because it marks the halfway point of our first project,” said Nellie Caldwell, chairman of the mural committee. “And the Sisters of Mercy really had an impact on many people.”

The order of Roman Catholic nuns established a convent here in 1860. The school they opened was closed during the Civil War as the sisters worked as nurses to sick and wounded soldiers.

The school, St. Francis Xavier Academy, then reopened and has evolved into Vicksburg Catholic School. The nuns also operated, then owned, Mercy Regional Medical Center until it was sold to Quorum Inc. in 1990.

The $15,000 mural, painted by Louisiana artist Robert Dafford and his staff, was funded by the Sisters of Mercy St. Louis Region.

Murals already on display at City Front are the introductory panel describing the purpose of the mural project, Teddy Roosevelt’s famous bear hunt, Biedenharn Coca-Cola bottling, steamboats on the Mississippi River, Washington Street at the turn of the century and early exploration and Fort Nogales.

The mural project began in 2002, and Caldwell hopes seven more 12-by-20-foot murals will complete phase 1 of the project by 2006. Phase 2 is scheduled to begin immediately with murals on the north side of the City Front entrance.

“The finished project will be 35 different murals,” Caldwell said. To date, all have been privately funded.

She said future murals will depict:

The African-American influence in Vicksburg sponsored by the City of Vicksburg,

Trains and the ferry, sponsored by Ray and Nancy Neilsen,

Jefferson Davis, sponsored by the Old Court House Museum, and

The flood of 1927, sponsored by Corps of Engineers employees.

As part of the unveiling ceremony, the Mercy Delta Express, a custom-built mobile medical and dental clinic packed into a 21-foot bus and funded by the Sisters of Mercy, will travel to Vicksburg from the Mississippi Delta. The bus provides mobile medical and dental care for children and adults throughout the Delta.

“We’re very excited to share this with Vicksburg,” said Sister Patricia Parker, a retired Vicksburg nurse who along with Sister Robyn Huser came up with the idea for the bus.

“We saw such a need for health-care funding in the rural Delta, so we came up with this idea. Mississippi falls under the St. Louis Region of the Sisters of Mercy, so they purchased the bus last summer,” said Parker. “We decided to donate the bus and our services to the University Medical Center in order to make the Mercy Delta Express a collaborative project, and our pilot program of providing children’s dental sealants began in October in Issaquena County,” she said.

More than 60 sisters and other religious leaders are expected to travel from St. Louis, Maryland, Louisiana, Arkansas and Texas to Vicksburg for the unveiling.

The sisters will provide tours of the Mercy Delta Express, which will be parked on Crawford Street in front of the Southern Cultural Heritage Foundation Auditorium.

The SCHF, composed of the former St. Francis convent and school buildings, will also open its doors for a reception following the ceremony.