The Beginning

When Catherine McAuley was born in Dublin on September 29, 1778, the sorrows and blessings of her next forty years were still hidden in what she would later call the Providence of God.

Her father James died in 1783, and her mother Elinor, in 1798. Catherine then learned the purifying lessons of personal poverty and daily dependence on the mercy of others, especially the mercy of God. In 1803, when she became the household manager and companion of an elderly, childless, and wealthy Protestant couple, at their home in Dublin and then at their estate in Coolock, she did not dream that when William Callaghan died in 1822, Catherine Callaghan having died in 1819, she would become the sole residuary legatee of their estate and much of their savings.

In 1824, her inheritance now settled, Catherine implemented a longstanding desire: she built a large house on Baggot Street, Dublin, as a school for poor girls and a shelter for homeless servant girls and women. But in August 1827, a month before the House of Mercy was opened, her sister Mary died of consumption, leaving her husband, Dr. William Macauley, a surgeon, and five young children, ages six to sixteen. Thus a new wave of responsibilities and losses began to affect Catherine's life.


Catherine Elizabeth McAuley is born of Catholic parents in Dublin. Though the exact year of her birth cannot be verified, it is general practice to use 1778.

April 1783

Birth of Catherine McAuley's brother, James William.

July 18 1783

Her father, James McAuley, makes his will and dies shortly afterwards.


Death of Catherine McAuley's mother, Elinor Conway Mc Gauley.


Catherine McAuley moves in with Protestant relatives, the Armstrongs.


She moves into the home of a Protestant couple, William and Catherine Callaghan on Mary Street, Dublin, as household manager and companion to Catherine Callaghan. In 1809 she moves with the Callaghans to Coolock House, a twenty-two acre estate northeast of Dublin.

August 18 1804

Catherine McAuley's sister, Mary McAuley, marries Dr William Montgomery Macauley, a Protestant surgeon.

October 3 1819

Death of Catherine Callaghan.


Catherine McAuley's brother, Dr James McAuley, a surgeon and now a Protestant, marries Frances Ridgway.

January 27 1822

William Callaghan signs his last will and a codicil designating CMcA as his sole residuary legatee, after other bequests.

August 9 1822

Death of Anne Conway Byrn, Catherine McAuley's cousin. Catherine McAuley adopts ten-year-old Catherine Byrn, having adopted the baby, Teresa Byrn, in 1821.

November 10 1822

Death of William Callaghan.

May 11 1823

Dr. Daniel Murray becomes archbishop of Dublin.

1823 - 1824

William Callaghan's will is finally settled.

June 22 1824

Catherine McAuley leases property on Baggot Street in southeast Dublin to build a house to serve poor women and children.

July 1824

Dr. Michael Blake, parish priest of Saints Michael and John's and Catherine McAuley's friend, lays the first stone for the house.

August 11 1827

Burial of Mary McAuley Macauley, Catherine McAuley's sister. She leaves five children: Mary, James, Robert, Catherine, and William, ages sixteen to five.