Sisters of Mercy

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Sisters of Mercy
Photo mcauley.jpg
Mother Catherine McAuley, foundress of the Religious Sisters of Mercy
Formation12 December 1831
Founded atDublin, Ireland
TypeReligious congregation
Key people
Catherine McAuley Edit this at Wikidata

The Religious Sisters of Mercy (R.S.M.) are members of a religious institute of Catholic women founded in 1831 in Dublin, Ireland, by Catherine McAuley (1778–1841). As of 2019, the institute has about 6200 sisters worldwide, organized into a number of independent congregations. They also started many education and health care facilities around the globe.



The Congregation of the Sisters of Mercy began when Catherine McAuley used an inheritance to build a large house on Baggot Street, Dublin, as a school for poor girls and a shelter for homeless servant girls and women. She was assisted in the works of the house by local women. As the number of lay co-workers at Baggot Street increased, so did severe lay and clerical criticism of the House: Why did these women look like a religious order, yet not abide by the normal regulations of religious orders? Who was this "upstart" Miss McAuley? Why was the "unlearned sex" doing the work of the clergy?

By 1830 Catherine and her co-workers realized that the stability of the works of mercy they performed, including visiting the sick poor in their homes and in hospitals, and their continued appeal to co-workers, called for revision of their lay community. So, on 8 September, Catherine McAuley, Anna Maria Doyle, and Elizabeth Harley entered the Presentation Convent in Dublin to begin formal preparation for founding the Sisters of Mercy.

On 12 December 1831, Catherine McAuley, Mary Ann Doyle, and Mary Elizabeth Harley professed their religious vows as the first Sisters of Mercy, thereby founding the congregation. The rule and constitutions of the congregation were not completed until 1834, nor approved until 1835, yet they contained in substance only that which had been observed from the year 1827.


The rapid expansion of the Sisters of Mercy in the six years 1835-1841 flowed from Catherine McAuley's ever generous response to human need. She founded nine additional autonomous Convents of Mercy in Tullamore (1836), Charleville (1836), Carlow (1837), Cork (1837), Limerick (1838), Bermondsey, London (1839), Galway (1840), Birr (1840), and Birmingham (1841), and branch houses of the Dublin community in Kingstown (1835) and Booterstown (1838).

Catherine McAuley died on 11 November 1841.

In May 1842, at the request of Bishop Fleming, a small colony of Sisters of Mercy crossed the Atlantic to found the congregation at St. John's, Newfoundland. In December 1843 Sr Frances Warde led the first group of Sisters to The United States, beginning in Pittsburgh. The sisters arrived in Perth, Australia in 1846, and in 1850, a band from Carlow arrived in New Zealand. Sisters from Limerick opened a house in Glasgow in 1849, and in 1868 the English community established a house in Guernsey.[1]

In 1992 the leaders of the various congregations created the Mercy International Association to foster collaboration and cooperation. The purpose of the association is to provide support and foster collaboration, organisation and inspiration for the ministries of the Sisters of Mercy and their associates.[2]

Historical events[edit]

The sisters were the first nurses to respond to the British Government request for nurses in the Crimea in 1853. They ran several hospitals during the war and provided nurses who were not under the control of Florence Nightingale. However their involvement was overshadowed by hers for political reasons.[3]

Vows and activities[edit]

Sisters of Mercy is an international community of Roman Catholic women religious vowed to serve people who suffer from poverty, sickness and lack of education with a special concern for women and children. Members take vows of poverty, chastity, and obedience, the evangelical counsels commonly vowed in religious life, and, in addition, vows of service. They continue to participate in the life of the surrounding community. In keeping with their mission of serving the poor and needy, many sisters engage in teaching, medical care, and community programs. The organization is active in lobbying and politics.


The Sisters of Mercy are constituted as religious and charitable organizations in a number of countries. Mercy International Association is a registered charity in the Republic of Ireland.[4]


On 20 May 2009, the institute was condemned in an Irish government report known as the Ryan Report, the work of the Commission to Inquire into Child Abuse. The Sisters of Mercy were named as the chief among the institutes under whose care girls "endured frequent assaults and humiliation designed to make them feel worthless ... personal and family denigration was widespread".[5]

In 2011, a monument was erected in Ennis at the site of the former industrial school 'in appreciation' of the Sisters of Mercy.[citation needed]

Schools founded or run by Sisters of Mercy[edit]




  • Academy of Our Lady of Mercy, St. John's, Newfoundland
  • St. Augustine's Elementary School, St. John's, Newfoundland
  • St. Bride's College, St. John's, Newfoundland


  • Instituto María Regina (La Ceiba, Honduras)


Convent of Mercy, Templemore, County Tipperary


New Zealand[edit]

In 1849 Bishop Pompallier visited St Leo's Convent in Carlow, Ireland, seeking sisters to emigrate; eight left from St Leo's, led by Mother Mary Cecilia. They travelled to New Zealand, learning Māori along the way, establishing the Sisters of Mercy in Auckland as the first female religious community in New Zealand in 1850.[6][7]


  • Holy Infant College, Tacloban City

United Kingdom[edit]

Mylnhurst, Sheffield

United States of America[edit]

Secondary schools[edit]

Colleges and universities[edit]


Hospitals and healthcare work[edit]




  • Mother of Mercy Hospital, Tacloban

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Austin, Mary Stanislas. "Sisters of Mercy." The Catholic Encyclopedia Vol. 10. New York: Robert Appleton Company, 1911. 2 Oct. 2015
  2. ^ "Mercy World". Retrieved 27 September 2017.
  4. ^ Registered Charity no. CHY 10078.
  5. ^ McDonald, Henry; correspondent, Ireland (20 May 2009). "'Endemic' rape and abuse of Irish children in Catholic care, inquiry finds". Retrieved 27 September 2017 – via
  6. ^ Delany, Veronica. "Mary Cecilia Maher". Dictionary of New Zealand Biography. Ministry for Culture and Heritage. Retrieved 23 April 2017.
  7. ^ "Sisters of Mercy New Zealand | Auckland 1850 – A Voyage Made 'Only for God'". Retrieved 27 April 2014.
  8. ^ "Holy Cross School Papatoetoe". Retrieved 23 April 2014.
  9. ^ "St Edward's, Lisson Grove, Marylebone, London". Retrieved 27 September 2017.[permanent dead link]
  10. ^ "Black Country History". Retrieved 27 September 2017.
  11. ^ "Mount Mercy Academy". Retrieved 23 April 2014.

Further reading[edit]

  • Connolly, Mary Beth Fraser. Women of Faith: The Chicago Sisters of Mercy and the Evolution of a Religious Community (Oxford University Press, 2014)

External links[edit]