MISSION & HISTORY

THE HISTORY OF McAULEY MINISTRIES

Our Core Values

HOSPITALITY

We believe that hospitality, a vital component of our ministry, demonstrates a spirit of welcome with an emphasis on inclusion and community building.

COMPASSION

We believe that compassion is expressed through kindness, acceptance, understanding, advocacy, and presence to persons in need.

DIGNITY

We believe that each person is a God-given gift and must be treated with dignity and respect.

McAuley Ministries, based in Providence, Rhode Island, is an independent 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization sponsored by the Sisters of Mercy and rooted in the ideals of its founder, Catherine McAuley. Our ministry provides the basic needs of food, clothing, shelter, health services, emotional support and guidance to the most vulnerable in our community.

While we minister to the immediate needs of those who seek our help, we also advocate for changes that better address the needs of those we serve while working to create a caring community where people can connect with one another. Through our work, we strive to treat everyone with respect and dignity, and build the self-esteem of those we serve and encourage their self-sufficiency. The core values that guide McAuley Ministries are rooted in charity and justice, as taught by the Gospel.

HISTORY OF THE SISTERS OF MERCY

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 Callaghan’s 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 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, sick and uneducated.

Catherine and two of her associates entered a convent on September 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.

While Catherine lived only ten years as a Sister of Mercy, during 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 after, small groups of Sisters left Ireland at the invitation of Bishops in Newfoundland, New Zealand, the United States, Argentina, and Australia.

Today, 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 their countries.   

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—left for America with a band of six Sisters.

The Sisters began ministering in Pittsburgh, founding Parochial Schools and Academies, visiting the sick and poor in their homes, as well as visits to the penitentiary, and opening the city’s first hospital. Each project followed the other in rapid succession. The Sisters also founded ministries in Chicago, Providence, New York and San Francisco, before moving throughout the rest of the country.

Northeast Community

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

The Sisters of Mercy Northeast Community was officially formed on July 1, 2006, uniting Sisters and Associates from Albany, Connecticut, New Hampshire, Maine, Rhode Island and Vermont.

Today, 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. To learn more about the Sisters of Mercy, please visit www.sistersofmercy.org.

– Excerpted from the Sisters of Mercy website

HISTORY OF McAULEY HOUSE

In the early 1970s, a group of Sisters of Mercy saw the social needs in Providence and envisioned a “McAuley House” to meet them.

After years of planning and hard work, McAuley House became a reality in 1975 with Sr. Eileen Murphy serving as the first director. The Sisters rented a house on Gallup Street, aiming to meet the most basic needs of poor women, men and children on the South Side of Providence. Working alongside dedicated volunteers, the Sisters began providing food, clothing and a sense of community in an atmosphere of love and respect.

Less than two years later, following the appointment of Sr. Theresa Beaudreau as McAuley House’s second director, the need for a larger house became evident as the numbers of those we serve grew. In June of 1977, a new McAuley House at 163 Niagara Street was purchased, and officially opened in November.

Following the opening of the second McAuley House site, the social services component began in earnest. In 1981, Sr. Wilma Miley joined the staff as an outreach worker. She was soon joined by Sr. Joan Rokicki to help people with urgent needs for rental assistance, clothing, and medicine.

As the numbers of people in need of a hot meal grew, our staff continued to affirm the sense of community at McAuley House through holiday celebrations on Christmas, Thanksgiving, Easter, and Memorial Day.

Sr. Dolores Crowley, who had begun serving as McAuley House administrator in the late 1980s, left the position to become the executive director of the newly-formed McAuley Ministries, which included the brand new McAuley Village. At this time, Sister Maris Stella Laliberti became McAuley House’s administrator, followed by Sister Ann Welch in 1997. It was also at this time that the McAuley House kitchen underwent an extensive renovation, including the addition of a dishwasher. Prior, staff and volunteers washed every dish, fork and spoon by hand.

In 2002, Sr. Sue Lachapelle became the administrator of McAuley House. During her leadership, McAuley House moved from Niagara Street to its current home at 622 Elmwood Avenue, complete with a gleaming, restaurant-quality kitchen. In 2005, the Rev. Mary Margaret Earl was named administrator, followed by Mary Moore assuming the role in 2015.

During the past decade, McAuley House has broadened its programming to include enrichment activities for guests, such as an art program, writing workshops, Bible study, a substance abuse support group, and worship services.

Today, McAuley House is well known in the community as a house of hospitality and respect. It continues to provide a wide-range of social services and daily program activities that offer fun, creativity, engagement, education, and therapies designed to improve a person’s quality of life. Faithful teams of volunteers, sponsors and donors, and dedicated staff continue to help move the mission, serving the poor and homeless, forward each day.

HISTORY OF McAULEY VILLAGE

Committed to the plight of the poor, the Sisters of Mercy became aware of the need for safe and affordable housing in Providence, particularly for homeless single mothers and their children.

In response to this need, Sr. Dolores Crowley embarked on a campaign to raise funds for the McAuley Village project through grant-writing, seeking individual donations, and with a special “Buy-a-Brick” campaign at the Rhode Island State House. From this, McAuley Village was born, when ground was broken on the corner of Niagara Street and Cadillac Drive for a 23-unit apartment building with on-site child care and offices for support services. It made the dream of creating a safe and caring home where women and children could learn to become self-sufficient and break the cycle of poverty a reality.

In January of 1990, Sr. Antonia Tognetti was hired as administrator and Sr. Christina Costigan joined staff to manage the Child Care Center. Shortly after, Sr. Holly Cloutier was named residential services coordinator in preparation of the Village’s opening. She began interviewing prospective tenants, and more than 300 applications flooded in.

McAuley Village officially opened its doors in June of 1990. An early program offered mentoring, in which nurses, social workers and other volunteers guided Village residents. They offered financial advice, listened, and sometimes formed lasting relationships that endured through the years. In 1992, Nancy Carignan became administrator of McAuley Village.

By the 2000s, McAuley Village had expanded its support system with the addition of a Housing Advocate, helping women navigate the labor intensive system of housing applications as they approached completion of the Village program. It is during this time that the Village also begins offering children a variety of enrichment activities aimed at improving their lives. Children start to enjoy dance classes, art projects, and field trips. Through a new partnership with Rhode Island College, our children are exposed to a college environment and realize the goal is within reach.

Today, McAuley Village continues to seek ways and develop avenues to improve the services provided to resident families. Mentors volunteer regularly and work one-on-one with families, assisting with mock job interviews, classes to improve English skills, and tips on parenting and housekeeping. The Dress For Success Boutique provides mothers a place to pick out a complete ensemble for interviewing. Additionally, volunteers from Citizens Bank offer financial counseling programs, and there are on-site internships and a resident-run event committee.

McAuley Village is committed to build strong, robust programs for resident families so all who come through our doors can become self-sufficient and free from poverty.

HISTORY OF THE WARDE-ROBE

Sisters of Mercy Alberic Martin and Lois Harten had enjoyed many years of ministry work when they began planning their “retirement” in the late 1990s. One day, the two struck up a conversation and learned they shared a common vision for the future—creating a thrift store for the financially poor. In 1996, their vision became reality when they opened The Warde-robe, providing a place where poor families could shop and feel respected and comfortable.

After a long search in Central Falls—one of Rhode Island’s most impoverished communities—the Sisters found a storefront at 1286 Broad Street. They rented a room at the front of the building, and named their new shop The Warde-robe in honor of Mother Frances Warde, foundress of the Sisters of Mercy in the United States.

In The Warde-robe’s early days, donations were mostly made by other Sisters of Mercy and their families. Customers began calling the shop, “the Nun’s store,” and continue to do so to this day. As The Warde-robe grew in both donated items and customers, the store began to expand one room at a time. Soon, it took up the entire first floor of the building. By 2004, The Warde-robe became part of McAuley Ministries, and The Rev. Mary Margaret Earl was hired to serve as manager. The following year, Rev. Mary Margaret moved to McAuley House and Donna Benetti was promoted to be The Warde-robe’s manager.

At The Warde-robe, the Mercy Spirit is preserved as customers and staff continues to be influenced daily by the presence of several retired Sisters of Mercy. Each day, staff can be found diligently working alongside Sisters who now volunteer in the front of the store at the cash register, or in back, sorting clothing. Sisters also coordinate and transport donations, and many other tasks that help to meet the growing needs of the communities we serve.

Recently the Warde-robe has begun a program to auction high end items on eBay as a means of generating additional support for the thrift store.

About Us

McAuley Ministries is an independent nonprofit 501(c)(3) organization sponsored by the Sisters of Mercy and rooted in the ideals of its founder, Catherine McAuley. Our ministries provide the basic needs of food, shelter, clothing, health services, emotional support and guidance, and respect for the most vulnerable in our community through our core values of Hospitality, Compassion, and Dignity.