Many wish that they could find a suitable way to honor and memorialize their mothers once they are no longer with us, but never seem to find a suitable outlet to do so. However, Patricia (Patty) Farrell, Class of 1981, has chosen a special way to honor not only her mother, but her mother’s two sisters.
Farrell has established the Collins Sisters Scholarship at Mount Mercy, her alma mater. The scholarship honors Farrell’s mother Ella Collins Farrell as well as her two aunts, Sisters of Mercy, Sister Mary Victorine (also known as Sister Margaret Collins) and Sister Patricia (Patsy) Collins.
The Collins sisters, along with their five brothers, were raised by parents who were Irish immigrants and very devout. This piety was passed on to the children, especially the three sisters. Two of the three daughters entered the convent while Ella Collins met and married Neil Farrell. Ella and Neil Farrell raised 11 children together and sent all to Catholic schools. They went to St. Teresa’s for grammar school and the six girls, including Patty, graduated from Mount Mercy Academy and the five sons all graduated from Bishop Timon.
Neil and Ella were married for over 50 years before Ella passed away in late 2018. They enjoyed a happy life together and despite the many sacrifices it entailed, they were determined that their eleven children would receive a Catholic education. Patty Farrell credits this education, particularly her years at Mount Mercy, with making her the person that she is today. The education provided her not only with academic strengths but also gave her a huge social foundation. She credits the school with instilling confidence, values, a voice and a social conscience.
Farrell also felt blessed to have been provided the opportunity to be a Mercy girl and to form lifelong friendships with her classmates. She felt that establishing the Collins Sisters Scholarship provided her with the perfect vehicle to pay it forward and help a deserving student who would not be able to attend otherwise, to enroll at Mount Mercy. The scholarship is awarded to a student who is hard-working, positive, possess a joyous spirit and demonstrate a financial need.
Although Farrell states that her mother and her aunts would be or are embarrassed by having a scholarship named for them, she feels it is fitting to honor the three women who served as role models not only to Patty and her siblings but to the entire community. Her mother never wanted a spotlight to be shined on her, ever! The Collins sisters devoted their lives to service to family, children, the sick and the economically disadvantaged. She feels that the three sisters cherished and lived out the Beatitudes each and every day of their lives, as well as following the teachings of Mother Catherine McAuley, the foundress of the Sisters of Mercy.
Ella Collins Farrell did not have the opportunity to attend Mount Mercy, graduating from South Park High School, but she was well connected to Mount Mercy through her sisters and her six daughters, as well as two granddaughters and other family members who did graduate from Mount Mercy. Ella Farrell lived her life with grace, dignity, joy and great faith. She attended church daily and her faith was communicated to her children regularly. No matter what chaos raising 11 children might have caused, she was always calm and patient. She had a great love of children, especially her own as well as her 30 grandchildren and 16 great-grandchildren. She loved to dance and listen to music and along with her two sisters, she was very interested in her Irish heritage. The three Collins sisters had a good sense of humor and liked to laugh. In addition to loving to laugh, the sisters also loved to eat ice cream.
Sister Mary Victorine, who graduated from Mount Mercy in the late 1930s and passed away in 1997, served in both the fields of education and pastoral care, although she is well known the pastoral care she provided at Mercy Hospital. She worked at the hospital for years providing support for the dying and their families, ensuring that no one was alone during this difficult time. She provided a hand to hold and a shoulder to cry on and had a great sense of peace about death. She served as a calm angel of mercy. Like her sister Ella, Sister Mary Victorine had a great sense of humor and liked to tell jokes. She loved picnics and outings on or near the water and had many friends. Farrell mentioned that evidence of her positive influence on so many people was seen at her funeral which was standing room only.
Although Sister Patsy is 84 years old, she is still serving others, working in pastoral care. Earlier in her career Sister Patsy was a teacher and a principal in many grammar schools in South Buffalo, as well as throughout Western New York. She still has contact with many of her former students, as they send her wedding and birth announcements and keep her updated on their lives, clearly showing the profound influence she has had on many throughout the community. Sister Patsy’s students loved her, but she also loved them and is extremely proud of the women and men they have become. Like her two sisters, Sister Patsy loves to laugh and is very funny. She is a great listener and is there for her very large extended family. Farrell mentioned that her mother and her two aunts were well-known for the cards and notes that they sent. They never missed a birthday, despite the great number of relatives they had to keep track of! When told by her niece about the scholarship, Sister Patsy asked Farrell why she would do that! Clearly she is not aware of the far-reaching effects of her ministry.
Farrell, the managing director of wealth advisory at Wilmington Trust, is an active supporter of Mount Mercy. She has served on the Alumnae Board of Directors and is a past honoree at Mercy Honors. She has returned for career days and supports her alma mater financially.
“I am so thankful for the example set for me by my mother and my aunts. I am grateful for their love and attention. May this scholarship live on as a reminder of the true meaning of Mount Mercy,” Farrell concluded.