February 05, 2004

Celebrating 150 Years in Belfast

An event of special significance took place in Our Lady’s Home Beechmount on the Falls Road Belfast. The occasion was the celebration of the Founding of the first Convent of Mercy in the Diocese of Down and Connor in 1854.The sisters came at the request of a group of Catholic businessmen in the town who saw the urgent need for help for their co-religionists who were flocking into the area during the post famine years.

The first three Sisters Sister M. Philomena Maguire, M. Ignatius Crolly and Mary Lister, accompanied by a young monitress named Kate Molloy-arrived in Belfast in January 1854.They immediately began day schools for children and evening schools for the mill girls and women and began their visits to the sick and dying and to the prison.

The care of the sick and dying is a major apostolate of Mercy and a far sighted woman Mother M. Magdalene Malone saw the need for a hospital in Belfast which though ministered by the Sisters of Mercy, would provide for the relief of the sick

‘Without Distinction or Creed’. Thus the Mater Infirmorum Hospital came into being, and is still flourishing today.

The apostolate of teaching, nursing, visitation and other works of Mercy continued and the Belfast Mercy foundation saw regular expansion into new ventures-in education, nursing care and pastoral ministry as the need arose.

‘To grow is to change and to be perfect is to change often’. Change is not taken lightly and after many years of prayer and discernment, and in response to changing circumstances, in particular the need for expansion of the Mater Hospital, the Community agreed to give up the site of their school, convent and grounds and eventually the beautiful chapel for the new tower block now known as the Dorrian Building. The convent site is now the new Mc Auley Building. Into it the unique front door of the convent through which so many of the Sisters of Mercy, friends, pupils, the poor and benefactors, passed for almost a century and a half has been beautifully restored and incorporated.

We pray that the spirit of Catherine may continue to live on in the Hospital, and in all the works and lives of the Belfast Mercy Sisters wherever they may be, especially this year as we remember and celebrate. The main public event will be held near the Feast of Our Lady of Mercy 26th September 2004 in St Patrick’s Church Donegal Street Belfast.

For all that has been Thanks…For all that will be –Yes! For so much more, what return can we make? Amen

(Sr Marie Duddy)

Veronica O'Brien rsm

Communications Contact, Northern Province, Congregation

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