Catherine McAuley is the foundress of the Sisters of Mercy. This religious order for women started in Dublin, Ireland in the 1830's and came to the Americas in 1843.
The problems of 19th century Ireland were not that different from those facing the world today. The poor needed adequate living conditions, healthcare, and education; women especially needed encouragement and support to make a better life for themselves and their families.
When Catherine McAuley unexpectedly inherited a fortune at age 50, she spent it all to build a house in Dublin for homeless and abused women. Her radical action was a result of her lifelong love of God and desire to live as a follower of Jesus.
The House of Mercy opened on September 24, 1827. Soon other women joined Catherine's small community, which lived and prayed together and provided training for residents of the House of Mercy. Catherine and her associates also visited the sick in their homes and in hospitals.
Local Roman Catholic bishops, impressed by Catherine's work, encouraged her to establish a religious order in the Church that would ensure that the Mercy mission would continue after her death. After studying for a year with another order, Catherine McAuley took vows as the first Sister of Mercy on December 12, 1831, and the new congregation was born. Many women were attracted to join Catherine; when she died in 1841, there were 14 Mercy foundations in Ireland and England. Within 15 years, the congregation spread overseas to Newfoundland, the United States, Australia, New Zealand, Scotland, and South America.
Catherine McAuley founded an order that has spread throughout the world. In April 1990, in completion of one stage of the process by which the Catholic Church defines sainthood, Pope John Paul II declared Catherine McAuley Venerable.
-from Sisters of Mercy of the Americas published by the Institute Communications Office, 1996For more information, please visit Sisters of Mercy of the Americas website.
The Sisters of Mercy
By 1854, Sisters of Mercy from Ireland had settled in New York, Pittsburgh, and San Francisco and from these cities, the Mercy order spread throughout the United States. By twos, threes and fours, sisters traveled. When they arrived in a city, they lived in whatever space was available, sometimes in stables, railway cars and pest houses, while they nursed victims of cholera, earthquakes, and floods. In some towns, anti-Catholic feeling ran high and they were driven out, but more often, they were able to survey the needs, establish a school or a hospital, and welcome new members to the order.
By the end of the Civil War, throughout the Northeast, down the Atlantic seaboard, in the South and the Midwest, and along the Gulf Coast, the name of Mercy was linked with the Church's mission to care for the poor, the sick and the uneducated. By 1928, almost 140 convents had been established and in 1929, 39 of the then 60 motherhouses in the United States formed the Sisters of Mercy of the Union.
The Sisters of Mercy are women who commit their lives to serving God's people—especially those who are sick, poor, and uneducated. In the spirit of the Gospel, their mission is to empower people to overcome obstacles that keep them from living full and dignified lives. A life of prayer and community animates and supports their mission. This mission is carried out in schools, hospitals, affordable housing developments, emergency shelters, retirement centers, women's centers, and retreat centers; it extends to programs in parishes, rural areas, inner cities, and prisons, in North and South America, the Pacific, and the Caribbean. In addition to meeting the needs of people today, Mercy seeks ways to change the social and political systems that create problems. From grassroots letter-writing campaigns and socially responsible investing, to witnessing for justice and praying for peace, Mercy takes action. Today there are over 12,000 Sisters of Mercy worldwide.
In 1965, all of the Mercy congregations in the United States became aligned within a federation. This federation facilitated communication and common goal setting and evolved into the new Institute of The Sisters of Mercy of the Americas, which was formally established July 20, 1991.
Assumption High School is owned and sponsored by the Sisters of Mercy South Central Community, which is part of the Sisters of Mercy of the Institure of the Americas.