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History of the Sisters of Mercy

Sister Catherine McAuley

McAuley Ministries is named after the foundress of the Sisters of Mercy, Catherine McAuley.

Catherine McAuley was born in Ireland in September 1778 to a prosperous Catholic family. Though her father died when Catherine was just five years old, his compassion for the poor, especially children and families, was a lifelong example for her.

Fifteen years after her father's death, Catherine was orphaned in 1798 and sent to live in the home of relatives. Then, in 1803, Catherine was invited to live in the home of William and Catherine Callaghan. The Callaghans were childless and upon Mr. Callaghan's death, Catherine inherited their fortune.

In 1824, Catherine used her inheritance to lease property on Baggot Street, a fashionable neighborhood in Dublin, to build a house for religious, educational and social services for women and children. Other women began to join her. Though not her original intention, Catherine accepted advice and began the founding of a new religious congregation of women dedicated to service to the poor.

Catherine and two of her associates entered a convent on Sept. 8, 1830, to begin formal preparation for founding the Sisters of Mercy. Fifteen months later they pronounced vows of poverty, chastity and obedience, forming the new community.

Catherine lived only ten years as a Sister of Mercy but in that time she established nine foundations in Ireland and England, and two branch houses in Dublin. When she died in 1841 there were 150 Sisters of Mercy. Shortly thereafter, small groups of sisters left Ireland at the invitation of bishops in Newfoundland, New Zealand, the United States, Argentina and Australia.

The Sisters of Mercy of the Americas now serve in North, Central and South America; the Caribbean; Guam and the Philippines, with more than 4,500 sisters responding faithfully to the needs of the poor in these countries.

Mercy in the United States

The first Sisters of Mercy arrived in the United States from Ireland in 1843 at the invitation of the Bishop of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. Mother Frances Warde - after whom the Warde-robe in Central Falls is named - with a band of six left for America.

The Sisters began ministering in Pittsburg, founding parochial schools and academies, visitation of the sick poor in their houses and in the poor house, visitation of the penitentiary, and the opening of the first hospital in Pittsburgh followed each other in rapid succession.

They also founded ministries in Chicago and Providence and eventually in New York and San Francisco and throughout the country.

Northeast Community

McAuley Ministries is sponsored by the Sisters of Mercy-Northeast Community.

The Sisters of Mercy of the Americas Northeast Community was officially formed July 1, 2006 uniting sisters and associates from Albany, New York; Connecticut; New Hampshire; Portland, Maine; Providence, Rhode Island, and Vermont in the northeastern United States.

The Northeast Community has more than 1,000 sisters, associates and companions.

The central office for the Northeast Community is located in Cumberland, Rhode Island. Sisters, associates and companions minister where they live in the areas of education, healthcare and social and pastoral services.

For more information, go to www.sistersofmercy.org

- from the Sisters of Mercy Website


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