The Mercy Story
The word ‘Mercy’ is one which is both ancient and yet ever fresh.
In the First and Second Testaments of the sacred
Today our world cries out for healing relationships, for loving compassion, for inclusiveness, for
In our uniqueness we each respond to the cry for Mercy,
Catherine McAuley 1778 - 1841
Catherine McAuley was born in Dublin in 1778. Her father died before she was five; life for her, her sister Mary, her brother, James and her mother Elinor, became difficult, both economically and socially.
Catherine McAuley was a single woman approaching her fiftieth birthday when this unexpected inheritance made it possible for her to realize her dream of assisting the poor of Dublin. She constructed a sizable building on Baggot Street in a fashionable section of the city.
She wanted to connect the rich and the poor by establishing a
The House of Mercy was opened on September 24, 1827, the feast of Mary, Mother of Mercy.
Catherine’s work led to controversy. Who were these women, working under their own management, seeming like nuns, but – unlike nuns, who belonged behind walls in the cloister – walking into all kinds of
When some priests and then the bishop suggested that Catherine and her companions should become sisters – nuns – she was uncomfortable with the idea. She had never wanted to be a nun! While the community of women who had gathered at Baggot Street shared life and prayer, dressed simply, and spent themselves in works of mercy, Catherine was keenly aware that convent life would mean being cloistered. Catherine wanted to be of service to those in
“There are three things the poor prize more highly than gold, though they cost the giver nothing - the kind word, the gentle compassionate look and the patient hearing of their sorrows.” Catherine McAuley
Three years after the House of Mercy opened, Catherine and her companions came to the decision she’d never foreseen: For the sake of the work – to lend it stability and to quell criticism – they would become Sisters. Her decision relied on the promise of the Archbishop of Dublin that he would help her secure Church approval for a new form of religious life for women - as Sisters, they would remain free to continue the works of mercy in the outgoing style in which they had begun. Accordingly, Catherine and two companions went to the
Presentation Sisters for training as sisters while the work at Baggot Street continued under the care of the other women serving there.
On December 12, 1831, Catherine McAuley, Elizabeth Harley, and Mary Ann Doyle professed the vows of poverty, chastity, and obedience at the Presentation Convent in Dublin and hurried back to Baggot Street where others were waiting to begin their own journey into religious life.
In the early days her work was mostly among the people of Dublin, but in time the Congregation spread and became one of the largest Congregations of women in the world.
Her life as a Sister of Mercy only spanned ten years. In that time she worked tirelessly to respond to the need of the poor and sick. She set up a number of foundations for this purpose both in Ireland and England and was about to make her first foundation in America when illness overtook her. She died in 1841.
She was a woman of prayer and of deep faith. Her philosophy was
"Let us take one day only in the hands at a time, merely making a resolve for tomorrow. Thus we may hope to go on, taking short, careful steps, not great strides ... Each day is a step we take towards Eternity ... The final step will bring us into the presence of God"