Tuesday, January 10, 2006

A Big City Tragedy

Yesterday morning, a Sister, Servant of the Immaculate Heart of Mary -- the dominant teaching order here -- began her usual morning routine, not to finish it.

SISTER PAUL Mercedes Perreca started every morning in the same devout way, her friends and neighbors said yesterday.

With her graying hair tucked behind a blue [veil] headpiece, the 61-year-old Immaculate Heart of Mary nun would make a short pilgrimage to her parish church to attend 6:30 a.m. Mass, and then return to care for her elderly parents in their Mayfair home.

But as Perreca made her way to St. Matthew's Roman Catholic Church shortly after 6 a.m. yesterday, police said, a pickup truck smacked into her as she crossed Hawthorne Street near Cottman Avenue.

The driver sped away, leaving the 40-year teaching veteran for dead in front of the church.

Perreca, who recently spent her afternoons tutoring students at St. Martin of Tours School, died of her injuries at Frankford-Torresdale Hospital at 1 p.m.

The reaction to Perreca's death among her friends, neighbors, fellow nuns and archdiocesan officials ranged from shock to sheer devastation.

"I just can't believe it. She was an angel to me, and I guess she's an angel in heaven now," said Perreca's tearful next-door neighbor Diane Davis.

The Boss, on episcopal retreat with the bishops of Pennsylvania, New Jersey and New York (did somebody say "Egan and Rigali in the same room"?), chimed in with a statement
Cardinal Justin Rigali, archbishop of Philadelphia, echoed those sentiments in a statement last night.

"This is a difficult time for the members of this community, and I pray that they will find comfort in our Lord Jesus Christ," Rigali said.

The cardinal also offered prayers for the driver of the pickup truck that hit Perreca.

"It is my hope that he or she will come forward and identify himself or herself," he said.

As B16 has already reminded his audiences on several occasions, safe driving (and consideration of others on the road) is an important part of the Gospel of Life. Take care of yourselves, and each other, out there.