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Quick and Dirty

City Resident Thwarts Giant Nun Invasion

Teresa Duggan

By Chris Landers | Posted 10/3/2007

Back in August, a large group of eight-foot-tall nuns appeared on the blocks surrounding Mercy Medical Center. Not live nuns, of course. Each one was a cutout picture with wheels attached to the soles of sensible black shoes, zip-tied to a tree, fence or light post. As recently as last Wednesday, Sept. 26, they led the way down St. Paul Street to the downtown hospital’s parking garage. Each bore the name and likeness of one of the Sisters of Mercy, the Catholic religious order that supports the hospital. Sister Annella Martin, tied to a fence outside a construction site at St. Paul and Pleasant streets, pointed the way past sisters Elizabeth Ann Corcoran and Helen Amos, to where potential parkers were welcomed by Sister Aine O’Connor. A block over, on Calvert Street, Sister Theresa Carter (two of her) flanked another garage.

Hospital spokesman Dan Collins says the signs were there to advise patients where to park after the closure of a hospital parking garage on Pleasant Street. Collins says the comments he heard about the signs were “like Ivory soap—99 44/100 percent good.” One person even put a prayer card on one of the signs.

Darrell Bishop, who lives a few blocks away, was not a fan. Bishop contacted the city Department of Public Works about receiving permits for his own, anti-Mercy sidewalk signs and was rejected.

He says the large signs were illegal without a permit, which Mercy didn’t have. Bishop says he talked to several city departments, all of which assured him that the signs would be coming down. This isn’t the first time Bishop has contacted the city about illegal signs. He says that when an e-mail about the subject to Mayor Sheila Dixon went unreturned, it made him mad enough to vote for her opponent, Keiffer Mitchell Jr., in last month’s elections. The Mercy signs made Bishop angry enough to send City Paper his own Photoshopped versions of the signs bearing decidedly unsisterly messages. Bishop sees the signs as part of a pattern by the hospital of flouting city regulations, along with the destruction earlier this year of a row of historic houses to make way for an expansion.

Last week Department of Public Works spokesman Kurt Kocher confirmed that, yes, the signs required permits and, no, Mercy didn’t have them. (In fact, Kocher says, the city won’t issue permits for the type of signs Mercy displayed.) He said the hospital was removing them and referred questions to the city Department of Transportation, which was making new signs for the hospital.

Adrienne Barnes, spokeswoman at the Department of Transportation, says the signs were deemed confusing and added to the congestion on the crowded, under-construction area around the hospital. She says the new signs went up last Tuesday, Sept. 25, and they would be “much smaller, much less confusing, and much less congested.” Barnes also confirms that the new signs would be less nun-shaped.

Indeed, a more recent trip down St. Paul reveals that, except for a few loitering around the entrance, the nuns had vanished overnight. “I’m not 100 percent sure what we’re going to do with them,” Collins says. He mentioned auctioning them off as a possibility.

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