May 11, 2010

Where Sisters of Mercy Minister: Scotland (13)

Last week, the United Kingdom held its elections, and these elections were one of the most passionately contested elections in the U.K. for decades.  The results of the elections have produced a hung parliament in which none of the parties has received the number of seats needed for a majority in the House of Commons.  Scotland featured prominently in blocking the Conservative party in having the majority position.

 Sisters of Mercy have been present in Scotland since 1849 when Sister Elizabeth Moore established a foundation in Glasgow with some sisters from Limerick.  A second foundation was established from Limerick in 1858 when Sisters Mary Juliana Grant who originated from Scotland and Mary Clare McNamara arrived in Edinburgh in response to the bishop’s request for the Sisters of Mercy to tend to the education of Catholic children who were economically poor.

In addition to teaching the children who were economically poor, the early Sisters of Mercy in Scotland trained pupil teachers and opened a House of Mercy.  This House of Mercy was very similar to the original House of Mercy on Baggot Street in that it accommodated young women who were employed but did not have safe housing available, cared for and trained unemployed women and orphans, had a laundry that provided income for the ministry, and held bazaars as fundraisers.

At present, Sisters of Mercy from three Mercy families minister in five different dioceses in Scotland.  Sisters of Mercy in Scotland belong to Institute of Our Lady of Mercy, Great Britain; Institute of Sisters of Mercy of Australia; and Sisters of Mercy of the Union of Great Britain.  Ministries include parish ministry; school, catechetical, and scripture education; aged care; hospice care; outreach to the homeless; congregational and group facilitation; the provision of an oasis for all in need; and prayer ministry.  Vowed members are supported in their ministries with associates in each location and a number of partners in ministry.

The foundation in Edinburgh, St. Catharine’s Convent of Mercy, belongs to the Union of Great Britain.  In addition to being a convent for the sisters, it also has conference space which is used by many support groups who meet on a regular basis and has an outreach ministry to the homeless.  The ministry to the homeless includes the offering of Mercy spirituality, hospitality, support, prayer, and friendship. 

For more information on this foundation and its present ministry, see  St. Catharine’s Mercy Centre received a visit from President McAleese (Ireland) in 2007.  To see pictures of her visit and read the text of her presentation, see

Messages to Mary Kay Dobrovolny rsm - Assistant Director Heritage & Spirituality

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