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Afternoon tea at Victors gets high praise from Sisters

Tuesday, August 29, 2017

The invitation read “A Garden Party.” The guests, all Sisters of Mercy, meandered through brightly colored zinnia reefs and pansy beds, admired the poolside patio pots of salmon-colored tuberous begonias, and stood in awe before the towering dahlias.  

Sister Carol Ann Voltz linked arms with some of her less able-bodied Sisters so they could experience the garden tour. Then there was Sister Bernadette Bell, who wandered off to play catch with George, an English Springer Spaniel, while others diverted their attention to Winnie, the playful pug.

Sisters Rita Brocke and Phyllis Marie McDonald took up residence in the bright blue-and-yellow dining room, huddling near the buffet table laden with tea sandwiches, assorted small-plate fare, ramekins of hot chicken salad and hot shrimp and crab salad, along with petits fours, pecan and shortbread cookies and banana bread. Sister JoAnne Courneen, sipping iced tea with Sister Pat Whalen, sampled cucumber tea sandwiches, remembering them as one of her childhood favorites.

Outside, Sister Lisa Mary McCartney and several other sisters could be heard laughing as George took a flying leap into the pool, but quickly scurried back as he emerged and rigorously shook free of the water.

All this courtesy of Mercyhurst University President Michael Victor and his wife, Craige, who hosted the second annual Sisters of Mercy Garden Party at their home on Monday, Aug. 28.

Those familiar with President Victor know he is a stickler for tradition, and is devoted to  preserving Mercyhurst's, particularly the legacy of the founding Sisters of Mercy. But this latest tradition is that of his wife.

“The Sisters are always so nice to invite us to the Christmas Party at their home and, I thought, wouldn’t it be nice if we entertained them at ours?” she said in describing what has become her Mercy tradition.

She said she’s spoken to the Sisters on several occasions about her penchant for gardening and was hopeful they’d enjoy seeing hers. Indeed, the Sisters raved. It was hard not to find something to admire. Some of the Victor gardens take on the splendor of an overgrown meadow, others are meticulously manicured, still others have the feel of a rural sanctuary, and wherever you are, butterflies and hummingbirds aren’t far behind.

Mrs. Victor can speak articulately to all her plantings, but is not, she assures, a master gardener.

“Not yet,” she said. “But, getting those credentials is on my bucket list.”

Others in attendance at the garden party included Sisters Mary Ann Bader, Mary Matthew Baltus, Mary Felice Duska, Kathleen Ann Kolb, Joan McCabe, Kathryn Preston and Michele Marie Schroeck, for a total of 14.

PHOTO: (L-R) Sister Joan McCabe, Craige Pepper Victor, Sister Lisa Mary McCartney, Sister Kathryn Preston, Sister JoAnne Courneen, Sister Carol Ann Voltz, Sister Mary Matthew Baltus and Sister Kathleen Ann Kolb.