In 2007 parishioners of St. Francis De Sales Church in Salisbury, Maryland founded La Merced, a medical mission. They did so in response to encouragement by Father Michael Roark, support from Father Edward Aigner, and inspiration from Father Antonio Castro. Father Castro is pastor of their sister parish in Nicaragua.
For fifteen years previously, parishioners of St. Francis had been traveling down to Nicaragua to visit with their brothers and sisters in faith. This tradition, initiated by the Conick Family of Salisbury, consisted of prayer, worship and the sharing of cultures.
The community of Father Castro’s Parish includes the Marillac School (which lies next door) and the state-owned Roberto Clemente Clinic for Women and Children (located across the street). Father Castro also presides over a physical therapy clinic for children with cerebral palsy and a vo-tech center for children and adolescents with little or no direction in life.
Nicaragua is the second poorest nation in the Western Hemisphere. While the Nicaraguan government has been providing basic medical services to all of its citizens, including surgery for life-threatening illnesses and injuries, there have not been enough funds to cover the costs of treatment of non-life-threatening medical conditions, such as plastic and reconstructive surgery for children with congenital and acquired deformities, joint replacement surgery, surgery for the correction of poorly healed, already repaired fractures and general dentistry. La Merced works to fill these voids.
During its formation, La Merced became independent of the Church.