Catherine McAuley, Founder of the Sisters of Mercy
Catherine McAuley was born on September 29, 1778 in Dublin, Ireland. Her parents both died while she was young and she and her brother and sister went to live with relatives. The Armstrongs were not Catholic but despite this Catherine remained committed to her Catholic faith.
When she was 25 years old, Catherine became a live in companion to Mr and Mrs Callaghan, friends of the Armstrongs. Although they too did not approve of Catherine's catholicity, they were willing to financially support her charitable work. For 20 years she gave catechetical instruction to the household servants and the poor village children from Coolock House, the Callaghan's home. She also taught needlework to young women and ran a small shop to sell their goods. Upon his death, William Callaghan appointed Catherine his sole heir, which enabled her to put into effect her plan to educate young girls and provide social services for poor women and children.
In 1824 Catherine leased a property in Baggot Street, Dublin and while it was being refurbished she prepared herself for her new life by studying current educational methods. The house was opened for use on September 24, 1827 and it flourished from the beginning. Hundreds of girls were enrolled in the school and it served as a home for young servant girls. Catherine and the women who came to help her with her work also visited the sick in their own homes, something that had never been done before.
In the early years of Baggot Street, a group of 12 women lived and worked there together. They adopted a common timetable and dressed simply. As a result of this common lifestyle and their dedication to the poor, Catherine was encouraged to consider establishing a religious congregation. On September 8, 1830 at the age of 52 years, Catherine joined the novitiate of the Presentation Convent in Dublin with two companions from Baggot Street . They were professed on December 12, 1831 and the Institute of the Sisters of Mercy was established.
Catherine's dream was now fact. She encouraged her Sisters to "educate poor girls, to lodge and maintain poor young women who are in danger.and to visit the sick poor". Within 10 years Catherine founded nine Convents of Mercy in Ireland and England . Each new foundation was independent of the mother-house in Baggot Street but they were all linked to Catherine and each other by her frequent visits and letters.
Catherine died on November 11, 1841 after a short illness.
What "Mercy" Means
The Corporal Works of Mercy
- To feed the hungry
- To give drink to the thirsty
- To clothe the naked
- To shelter the homeless
- To visit the sick
- To visit those in prison
- To bury the dead.
The Spiritual Works of Mercy
- To counsel the doubtful
- To instruct the ignorant
- To admonish sinners
- To comfort the afflicted
- To forgive offences
- To bear wrongs patiently
- To pray for the living and the dead.
Mother Vincent Whitty brought the first Sisters of Mercy to Brisbane arriving on the 10th May 1861, and then leading them at the request of the Archdiocese to St Joseph’s Kangaroo Point in 1880.
There were some 130 Sisters of Mercy who ministered within our St Joseph’s community.
Today all over the world, Sisters of Mercy carry on her desire to serve.
God’s Mercy endures Forever