Mercy nun heeds call to be Forest Hills 'voice for the people'
After months of watching Forest Hills Borough Council, Sister Matthias Wemm made a decision.
"I need to be on the other side of the table. I need to listen, and I need to be a voice for the people," she said.
Wemm, 66, a Sister of Mercy, is one of four Democrats vying for three open full-term seats in the May 15 primary. One Republican is running for one of those four-year positions. Two Democrats are competing to finish the last two years of a fourth seat.
Wemm is one of the five founding members of We the People, a Forest Hills citizens group that formed to oppose the council's treatment of three disabled police officers. All three were shot in the line of duty: Officer Edward Limbacher on June 23, 2003; Sgt. Edward Hinchey on Nov. 9, 2004; and Officer Matthew Livingstone on April 23, 2005.
Wemm said she disagreed with some of the council's decisions, but her run for office isn't meant as a criticism.
Wemm has taught at St. Maurice School in Forest Hills for 21 years, and Livingstone was one of her elementary school students.
If elected, Wemm wouldn't be the first nun to fill a public office in the area. Sister Mary Gregory Schessler of the Sisters of St. Francis of Millvale is an elected member of Millvale Council. She first served on the council in the 1970s and was elected again in 1995.
Sister Michelle O'Leary, a Sister of Mercy, served on the Pennsylvania Court of Judicial Discipline. She was appointed to the post in 2000 by Gov. Tom Ridge.
Wemm received the green light from her religious community before she filed papers to be a candidate.
Sister Margaret Hannan, president of the Pittsburgh community of Sisters of Mercy, said Wemm didn't need permission to run for office, but sisters usually check before they embark on a new type of service to the community.
"It's not permission so much as a dialogue that we have," she said.
The Pittsburgh community of Sisters of Mercy supports Wemm's efforts, but it's up to Forest Hills voters to decide whether they want Wemm as a leader, she said.
"She's a citizen, and she's a responsible woman, and I think she could bring a lot of gifts and skills to the council," Hannan said.