September 19, 2002

The Official Opening of the New McAuley Building

Visitors joined with the local Mercy Sisters and the Hospital staff and also Friends of the Mater, to celebrate the Opening of the New Wing built on the site of St.Paul's Convent of Mercy on the Crumlin Road.

Sr. Ann Itotia from Central Leadership and Sr. Betty Coughlan the Congregational Treasurer also Sr. Chris Hegarty our Assistant Provincial, were warmly greeted and welcomed by all as they took part in a very moving Liturgy in St Patrick's Church and later at the official ceremony in the Atrium of the hospital.

It is interesting to note that the New Wing was declared open by the American Senator George Mitchell currently Chancellor of Queen's University Belfast, who very clearly expressed his support for the work of the Mater in this strife torn part of North Belfast.

The sisters of Mercy came to Belfast in January 1854, at the request of a group of Catholic businessmen, who saw the urgent need for help for their very poor co-religionists, who were flocking into the town during the post famine years. Because of inadequate housing and a lack of basic amenities, there was great poverty and deprivation, widespread illness and a high mortality rate.
Care of the sick and dying is a major apostolate of Mercy Sisters. In the early 1880s a far seeing woman Mother Magdalene Malone saw the need for a hospital in Belfast, which though administered by the Sisters of Mercy, would provide for the relief of the sick, "without distinction of creed." ( Sr.Marie Duddy)

On April 24th 1900,the London based Daily Express newspaper published a special edition, containing an article headed & a splendidly equipped new hospital called the Mater Infirmorum, built under Roman Catholic Auspices, but open to patients of all denominations &

The construction of the new Mater Hospital Building has been funded by the YP (Young Philanthropists) Trustees, a charitable trust fund, whose association with the hospital dates back over sixty years.
As Lady Anne McCollum Chairman of the Hospital Trust states:

"We hope that this building will be a 'first', for this deprived part of Belfast, heralding a new beginning of growth, to provide more employment and security for a community which has endured more than its share of pain and deprivation."

This truly was a great occasion and to commemorate his visit Senator Mitchell was presented with a Painting of the Old Convent Door which is part of the entrance between the main hospital and the new wing &- signifying a step into the future.

Veronica O'Brien rsm
Media Communications, Northern Province, Ireland

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