Society: The Power Nun

Unlikely socialite Sister Mary Scullion has become the consummate Philly insider in her mission to save the city’s most desperate outsiders

Then there is the Sister Mary of the streets, the one who directs the Project H.O.M.E. van throughout the city, doing outreach. She and her staff know the city’s street people, check on them daily, have bantering, intimate rapport with them. Scullion recently moved into a one-bedroom apartment on Judson Street — the first home since childhood that she hasn’t shared with other Sisters of Mercy or clients of one of her shelters. “I love it,” she says. There, she sometimes watches The West Wing, and cooks salmon for the Damones and the Honickmans and her Judson Street neighbors, ministering to her two very distinct, yet not so spiritually different, constituencies: the powerless and the powerful. Surely God is more than okay with that.

Early on this damp November morning, Scullion, in her wire-frame glasses, jeans and a fleece jacket, is walking down a café-filled street near Rittenhouse Square, asking “How you doin’?” of men sitting on stoops and clutching their possessions in Wawa bags. She comes upon a jaunty 60ish man named Buddy, whom she has seen around for years, and gives him a hug. Yes, Buddy says, today he would like to go back to the office and talk to a counselor about getting into a residence and alcohol rehab. “I’m getting too old to be doing all this drinking,” he adds, and Scullion chats with him about mutual friends on the ride back to Fairmount Avenue.