Catherine McAuley, an Irish Catholic laywoman, recognized the many needs of people who were economically poor in early nineteenth century Ireland and was determined that she and women like herself could do several things to relieve their suffering. With an inheritance, she opened the first House of Mercy on Lower Baggot Street in Dublin, Ireland, on September 24, 1827, as a place to shelter, feed and educate women and young girls.
Catherine’s original intention was to assemble a lay corps of Catholic social workers. Impressed by her good works and wanting the work to continue after her death, the Archbishop of Dublin suggested that she establish a religious congregation.
On December 12, 1831, Catherine and two companions took their religious vows and returned to Baggot Street as the first Sisters of Mercy.
The Sisters of Mercy quickly spread throughout the globe establishing convents in the Americas, Australia, Great Britain, Ireland, New Zealand, Newfoundland, and the Philippines. In each of these areas they continued Catherine’s mission serving the economically disadvantaged and doing the work of mercy and justice. In 1843, the Sisters of Mercy came to the United States at the request of the Bishop of Pittsburg. By 1854, they had settled in New York and San Francisco, establishing schools and hospitals.
Today, the Sisters of Mercy are in 47 countries, working in a multitude of ministries with an ever growing group of associates, volunteers and partners all continuing the spirit of Catherine McAuley. The Sisters sponsor sixty schools in over twenty states in the United States, one territory, and six countries which are all part of the Mercy Educational Network.
Sisters of Mercy – Critical Concerns
We believe in the need to work toward the sustainability of life and support movements and legislation that secure the fundamental right to water for everyone, and that address climate change. That leads us to examine our own behaviors and policies and to adopt more environmentally sustainable practices. We also advocate against hydrofracking; against mining that impacts indigenous and impoverished communities; for regulations that protect land, air and water; and for national and international agreements that mitigate climate change and ensure support for those most vulnerable to its effects.
We reverence the dignity of each person and believe everyone has the right to a decent home, livelihood, education and healthcare. In the United States we work for just and humane immigration laws,a reduction in deportations that tear families apart, and an end to the detention bed quota. We look at the root causes of immigration, including U.S. policies that contribute to the economic and social conditions that push people to flee their countries, and the global impact of migration through our reality as an international community of women
We believe racism is an evil affecting us all. We work to mobilize sisters and associates in recognizing and dismantling institutional racism in order to become an anti-racist multicultural community. We advocate for upholding the voting rights of marginalized Americans and for a fair criminal justice system, and point out racism wherever it exists.
We work for peace through prayer, education, and personal and communal practices of nonviolence. We support nuclear disarmament, reduction of arms, and the use of dialogue instead of armed conflict. We work to prevent domestic violence and abuse of women and children, stop human trafficking and reduce violence in our communities. That leads us to advocate for common sense gun violence prevention legislation, an end to the death penalty, an end to the U.S. military presence in Afghanistan, and dialogue with Syria and Iran.
We believe that women’s education, health and spirituality need special attention. We continue this mission in our schools, colleges, health-care institutions and spirituality centers. We advocate for equal pay, for services for domestic violence victims, and for the rights of girls and women in especially repressive societies.