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Sisters of Mercy

Our Founder

Catherine McAuley, an Irish Catholic laywoman, recognized the many needs of people who were economically poor in early nineteenth century Ireland and determined that she and women like her 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 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 vows and returned to Baggot Street as the first Sisters of Mercy. This work grew even more under her successors.

Sisters of Mercy of the Americas

The first Sisters of Mercy arrived in the United States from Ireland in 1843 at the invitation of the Bishop of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. Their energy in ministering to the sick and economically poor attracted many new members. By 1854, sisters had come from Ireland to settle in New York and San Francisco, California, and continued to spread throughout the country, establishing schools and hospitals.

Today, the Sisters of Mercy of the Americas are located in North, Central and South America; the Caribbean; Guam and the Philippines, with more than 4,000 sisters responding faithfully to the needs of the economically poor in these countries.

These Sisters of Mercy are women who commit their lives to God, deepening their relationship with God and serving God’s people, especially those who are sick, poor and uneducated. In the spirit of the Gospel, their mission is to help people to overcome the obstacles that keep them from living full and dignified lives. A life of prayer and community is at the heart of their shared mission.

Spiritual and Corporal Works of Mercy

"The spiritual and corporal works of mercy which draw religious from a life of contemplation, so far from separating them from the love of God, unite them more closely to Him and render them more valuable in His holy service." -Catherine McAuley
The spiritual works of mercy are:
  • Instruct the ignorant;
  • Counsel the doubtful;
  • Admonish the sinner;
  • Bear wrongs patiently;
  • Forgive offences willingly;
  • Comfort the afflicted;
  • Pray for the living and the dead.
The corporal works of mercy are:
  • Feed the hungry;
  • Give drink to the thirsty;
  • Clothe the naked;
  • Welcome the stranger;
  • Visit the sick;
  • Visit the imprisoned;
  • Bury the dead.

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