February 08, 2010

Where Sisters of Mercy Minister: Ireland (1)

The series of country profiles of the ministry of Sisters of Mercy begins with Ireland since the Sisters of Mercy were founded in Dublin, Ireland. 

Catherine McAuley followed in the footsteps of her father James (d. 1783) who reached out to the poor of Dublin and also catechised neighbourhood children in the Catholic faith.  Catherine had the opportunity to expand her ministry when she was bequeathed the estate of William and Catherine Callaghan, with whom she lived for nearly twenty years from 1803 until 1822.  She used the inheritance, which in today’s currency was worth around €3,000,000, (1) to provide education and protection for servant girls and to care for poor women and children.  She established the Sisters of Mercy on 12 December  1831 and stated the principal aims of the Congregation were 'to educate poor girls, to lodge and maintain poor young women who are in danger...and to visit the sick and poor.'

In the 179 years since Catherine’s establishment of the Sisters of Mercy, Mercy has continued to minister throughout Ireland.  Today, there are Sisters of Mercy who minister in this country belonging to the Congregation of Sisters of Mercy (Ireland), Institute of Sisters of Mercy of the Americas, Institute of the Sisters of Mercy of Australia, and Sisters of Mercy of the Institute of Our Lady of Mercy (Great Britain).  The Congregation of Sisters of Mercy (Ireland) is represented in three provinces and three regions beyond Ireland, whose ministries will be featured in subsequent weeks.  Within Ireland, this Mercy congregation which amalgamated in 1994 has four provinces: Northern, Southern, South Central, and Western. 

The Sisters of Mercy are engaged in a wide range of ministries in Ireland including: education; health care; pastoral care and parish work; spirituality, counseling, and retreat work; visitation of prisoners and those homebound and/or lonely; ministry with refugees, asylum seekers, and those in recovery from addiction; ministry in support of family relationships; social justice advocacy and education; residential child care; addressing housing and homelessness needs; and providing creative expressions of Christianity through art and sacred dance.  To read more about the ministry provided by members of each province, visit:
Northern: http://www.sistersofmercy.ie/ireland_britain/northern/our_work.cfm,
South Central: http://www.sistersofmercy.ie/ireland_britain/south_central/our_work.cfm,
Southern: http://www.sistersofmercy.ie/ireland_britain/southern/our_work.cfm, and
Western: http://www.sistersofmercy.ie/ireland_britain/western/our_work.cfm.

The mission statement from the 2006 Chapter at the University of Limerick, Ireland, presents all of us in the Mercy family with challenging questions:

THIS IS THE TIME WHEN…. Centred in the God of Mercy WE WILL engage with the questions and struggles of our time.  Conscious of the interconnectedness of all life together we will REFOCUS OUR MERCY MISSION committing our lives and resources to the alleviation of EXTREME POVERTY in all its forms, acting collaboratively at LOCAL AND GLOBAL LEVELS.  AND SO WE ASK…

  • How will we be faithful to this focus?
  • How will we engage with others around the questions and struggles of our time?
  • How will we share generously the resources we hold in trust?
  • How will we deepen our awareness of the interconnectedness of all life?
  • How will we invite and support new life?
  • How will we encourage each other in community for mission?
  • How will we nurture the hunger for God?


(1). Estimate provided by The Central Bank & Financial Services Authority of Ireland in January 2010.

For further information about the Congregation of the Sisters of Mercy (Ireland), visit their website

Mary Kay Dobrovolny rsm - Associate Director Heritage & Spirituality (heritage@mercyinternational.ie)

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