Mercy has always been about caring for those who need it most. From the beginning, the Sisters who began our ministry often used methods that often were considered unconventional. That pioneering spirit and desire to change things for the better has always been part of Mercy.
There were many opportunities to improve life for people when a young Irish woman Catherine McAuley saw suffering and poverty all around her in 19th century Dublin. Born in 1778 to a Catholic family, Catherine was left a penniless orphan at an early age. She was adopted by a wealthy Protestant couple who had no children of their own, and at age 44, became heir to her adoptive parents’ large fortune.
Although she could have enjoyed a life in high society, she decided instead to invest herself and her fortune in improving the lives of Dublin's poor, sick and uneducated.
She began her work by building the "House of Mercy" on Baggot Street in one of Dublin’s fanciest neighborhoods. This shelter for abandoned and abused women and children from Dublin’s slums was the start of a ministry that continues today in Sisters of Mercy religious communities throughout the world.
To ensure their good works would continue, Catherine and companions that had joined her ministry decided to become part of a religious community. At age 52, she entered the convent, normally a testing ground for teenagers considering a life in the church. Following the completion of her religious training, Catherine professed final vows on December 12, 1831. She then established a new religious order, the Sisters of Mercy.