Mercy Day: Celebrating Nearly Two Centuries of Service

September 24, 2023

Mercy’s story began with Catherine McAuley and two companions; today, it’s carried out by hundreds of thousands of people in hospitals, schools and community programs across the globe.

Sunday, Sept. 24, marks 195 years since Sisters of Mercy Founder Catherine McAuley opened the House of Mercy in Dublin, Ireland. Its doors have remained open since 1827 to serve the poor, sick and uneducated.

Catherine had been given a vision to build a large, three-story house where the poorest of the city would find mercy - and it had taken years of costly planning and construction to make it a reality. But with the house now complete, the work of caring for vulnerable women and children could truly begin.

Today, we continue Catherine’s legacy of caring and compassion, not only within Mercy’s hospitals and clinics, but also within our communities where the need remains great.

House_of_Mercy_Mercy_Day_2022_Comms The iconic red doors of the House of Mercy on Baggot Street in Dublin, Ireland

Sister Roch: A Lasting Legacy

This year, celebrations are bittersweet as Mercy continues to mourn the passing of its modern-day foundress, Sister Mary Roch Rochlage.

"I found myself thinking about Mercy Day as we honored the life of Sister Roch last week," said Steve Mackin, Mercy's president and CEO. "Catherine heard a call from God to build a house so a new ministry could begin, and Sister Roch heard a call from God to build a health care system so a new level of ministry could begin. Both of these women, whose hearts and ears were attuned to God and the needs of the poor, saw the vision entrusted to them fulfilled, and built a ministry so ambitious that it required the love, gifts and sacrifice of hundreds of thousands who would follow them.

Many months ago, Jeremiah 29:11 was chosen as Mercy's verse to celebrate Mercy Day 2022: "For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not harm you, plans to give you hope and a future."

"It is a personal and precious promise from God to each of us," Mackin added. "But it is also an invitation to partner with God in His work. Every day, Mercy welcomes patients and families who look to us for hope that their condition can be cured, their illness treated, their lives improved. It is hope for a healthier future that pushes us all forward - and in dependence on God, we will continue to realize that vision. I hope you will pause to remember Catherine, the Sisters of Mercy and our much loved Sister Roch. It is an incredible legacy we build on."

sr-roch-mercy-ballas-2020 Sister Mary Roch Rocklage, a Sister of Mercy and an iconic health care leader, died Tuesday, Aug. 23, at 87, following a lengthy illness.

From the Archives: Sister Roch Reflects on Mercy Day

"When I first entered the convent, there were several Sisters who made a deep impression on me. One Sister was in the Dietary department and worked all day preparing trays for the Sisters who were bedridden. Another Sister was very sick with tuberculosis and was very limited in what she could do. So she chose to walk up and down the halls greeting others as her ministry, and she was a gentle, permeating presence. We also had a Sister who was a seamstress who worked tirelessly creating vestments. These were women of substance, called to this life – and they gave everything to it. They had little formal education but their selfless service shaped the rest of us. 

"I recently had an extended stay at Mercy Hospital St. Louis. Each night, a voice announced visiting hours were over and then offered a prayer for all the family members to have a safe journey home – and for all the sick remaining in their rooms. It touched me, and I found myself looking forward to hearing that prayer every night. I’m glad to think of that prayer continuing to be proclaimed every night.

"As the Sisters of Mercy say in our constitution, 'We know mercy from one another.' That’s why we must pray for and encourage one another."

Learn More About Mercy's Roots

The Sisters of Mercy

Catherine McAuley was born in Dublin, Ireland, and founded the Sisters of Mercy. A woman of deep faith, Catherine spent her entire inheritance building a home to educate children and care for women in need. Her “House of Mercy” still endures today, as does the ministry of the Sisters. Find out more about Mercy’s legacy of excellent care.

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The First Sisters of Mercy in America

Sister Francis Xavier Warde and the five young women who accompanied her across the Atlantic left everything behind them to answer a call from the Bishop of Pittsburgh. As the first Sisters of Mercy in America, they spread rapidly across the country, meeting the needs of rapidly growing communities. Their legacy of innovation continues today, with Mercy building the world’s first virtual hospital, caring for patients from coast to coast.

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Care for Women

When the Sisters of Mercy were founded, women and children were especially vulnerable to illness and poverty. For this reason, the Sisters gave special attention to their needs. Today, Mercy remains deeply committed to helping women live healthier lives. From heart specialists to same day mammography appointments, we partner with women to make it easier to care for themselves… and everyone else.

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Caring for Communities

Being drawn by need, the Sisters of Mercy settled across the American frontier, building hospitals and establishing the health care infrastructure that would support growing populations, especially during epidemics of small pox and other diseases. The men and women of Mercy remain committed to bringing care wherever it is needed most, with state of the art hospitals, clinics and specialty services.