March 05, 2014

Catherine Arrives at Baggot Street, 21 July 1994

Editor: Two days before the official opening of Mercy International Centre the sculpture of Catherine McAuley that graces the entrance to MIC arrived in style at Baggot Street. Ursula Gilbert rsm recalls the great excitement of Catherine's arrival: 'The traffic in Baggot Street was stopped and from the windows upstairs the South American Sisters sang “Catalina McAuley”'.

Michael Burke, then chairman of the Sculpture Society of Ireland, and who had earlier been chosen to sculpt the bust of Catherine, had completed his second piece - a magnificent life-size bronze...

Mary Trainer rsm had given Michael the descriptions of Catherine (PDF) by Clare Moore, Clare Augustine Moore, Vincent Whitty, Mary Anne Doyle among others and sent him off to 'do his best' in sculpting the bust. Sometime later he returned, utterly frustrated. He said, 'We don't have a photo and we don't have a portrait, so no matter what these good ladies say, we really don't know what Catherine looked like. I'm going to fashion the lady who comes through to me from all this: a strong woman of compassion.'

Keeping in mind what had been described in these accounts, Michael researched such details as hair-styles and fashions of the time, and the result was so pleasing that he was then invited to create the larger-than-life sculpture for the front of the building. A generous gift from the Allied Irish Bank (AIB) covered the cost.

Today Mercy International Centre is immediately identified from the outside by this marvellous bronze statue of Catherine with a poor woman holding a child, one hand embracing the woman, the other outstretched to welcome you inside as you approach the door.

The statue of Catherine is listed on the Dublin Statue Trail, one of only three statues dedicated to Irish women, the others being Molly Malone, the fictional fishmonger of the old Dublin song and Queen Maedhbh, the warrior Queen of Connaught.

Messages to: Mary Reynolds rsm - Executive Director MIA

If your Mercy ministry has previously commissioned a significant artpiece, such as a statue, sculpture or stained glass window, we'd be pleased to hear from you and to publish the account in Mercy E-news. Contact: the Editor

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