One last Sister of Mercy prepares to leave home Long history ending at Provincial House

January 17, 1998|By Jamie Stiehm | Jamie Stiehm,SUN STAFF

In the final scene of a local drama, the Sisters of Mercy prepared yesterday to leave the Mount Washington building that has been their home. The property is owned by USF&G Corp., a large insurance company that plans to expand its North Baltimore corporate center.

"When I walk out that door, it will be the last Sister of Mercy on this land," Sister Mary Aquin O'Neill, 56, said as movers packed a truck outside Provincial House, a 130-year-old Victorian structure.

O'Neill said the religious institution on the property, the Mount St. Agnes Theological Center for Women, will reopen in February at a recently purchased stable and carriage house on Poplar Hill Road in North Baltimore. The site will also be the sisters' residence.

For the past five years, she said, the center had an unusual -- and uneasy -- month-to-month arrangement with its landlord, USF&G, which ended abruptly with an eviction notice last fall.

The center paid no rent, and USF&G had refused to agree to a longer-term lease, she said.

The eviction notice came as Mount Washington residents and the business community challenged USF&G over the company's plans for the 74-acre campus.

In a USF&G statement yesterday, company spokesman Jay Irbe said, "Over its five-year residence on our campus, the Theological Center for Women has grown and become a valuable service organization. We wish them continued success and growth in all of their future endeavors."

The company declined to comment yesterday on its plans for the Provincial House. It had said previously that it would use the house or the site for its expansion.

O'Neill, a founder of the center, paused briefly yesterday to remember Mount St. Agnes in its heyday decades ago as a site for a convent, several schools and a retirement center.

"We will turn it over to USF&G Tuesday, the eve of the feast of St. Agnes," she said.

Pub Date: 1/17/98

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