Baggot St, Dublin opened in 1827
now the International Centre of the Sisters of Mercy.
In 1827, Catherine established a 'House of Mercy' in Baggot St, Dublin, Ireland. There she and her companions provided food, clothing, hospitality and education for many of Dublin's poor. In 1831 in order to ensure the continuance of her work, she founded the Sisters of Mercy, and the house of Mercy became her first convent. To day there are thousands of Mercy sisters working in 44 convents. Baggot St is now the International Centre of the Sisters of Mercy.
For further information on Baggot St. visit www.mercyworld.org
The spread of Catherine's vision to other counties of Ireland and England was rapid. All the early foundations except the first , Dunlaoghaire ,were made in answer to pressing requests. These came from lay people, parish priests and bishops who were very conscious of the need for education and care for the many who had little or no access to it in an Ireland which was beginning to rise to its feet after Catholic Emancipation and the repeal of the Penal Laws.
St Michael's Dunlaoghaire
On a bright cold day in March 1835, the first Sisters of Mercy came to live in Kingstown. Catherine's reason for the opening of this second convent was unique among those for her other foundations. It was opened for the benefit of the health of the sisters. Catherine became alarmed by the many deaths among the first sisters , tuberculosis was rampant at that time and the early sisters were often given to imprudent austerities. The idea of a change of air for the ailing sisters occurred to her or was put to her by the doctors who had to be called on so frequently to Baggot St. A roomy house then available in Sussex Place Kingstown was purchased and there was made the first foundation from Baggot St. The Sussex Place house later became St Patrick's convent and the sisters set out to establish a school there for the poor children of the area.
"God knows, I would rather be poor and hungry than that the poor of Kingstown or anywhere else should be deprived of any consolation in your power to offer them."
St Leo's Carlow 1837
St Leo's , was the fifth foundation made in Catherine's lifetime. Several bishops, hearing of her work in Baggot St, invited her to found convents and schools in their dioceses The sisters were invited to Carlow by Bishop Nolan. Catherine accompanied the first group: Sisters Frances Warde, Teresa Whyte, and Ursula Frayne. Cecilia Marmion and Josephine Trennor. They arrived in Carlow by coach on April the 11th 1837, the feast of St Leo. Sr Frances Warde was the first Superior; she was later to lead the first Mercy foundation to the USA, to Pittsburg. St Leo's was the first purpose built convent.
St Anne's, Booterstown 1838
St Anne's, Booterstown in the South Dublin suburbs, Opened in 1838 was Catherine McAuley's 7th foundation. A committee of wealthy gentlemen, set up to help the poor of the are invited Catherine to take over this work, especially as a typhus epidemic had left several orphans in need of care. Land and money were donated by the Hon Sidney Herbert for the building of a convent and school. Invalid sisters from Baggot St also convalesced in Booterstown. Catherine herself often stayed there and novices were brought there for outings, availing of the new steam train.
St Mary's, Limerick 1838
Present site of Catherine McAuley Nursing Home and future site for
Wheelchair Services, Limerick, and new convent.
In 1837 Most Reverend John Ryan, Bishop of Limerick, applied to Catherine for a few sisters to found a convent in his Diocese. She did so in the following year. On the 24th of September 1838, Feast of Our Lady of Mercy, Catherine reached Limerick to establish the congregation in St Mary's Parish, the old end of the city. Since 1812 Poor Clare Sisters had been serving the people in their need but due to deaths and difficulties only two now remained. At their declared wish these sisters were affiliated to the Mercy Congregation and the convent formerly used by them was available for the new foundation. After 1844 foundations from Limerick community were made to Kinsale , Killarney, Mallow, Ennis, Roscommon, Tipperary, Glasgow and Edinburgh.
Sisters of Mercy came to Naas on September 24th 1839 at the invitation of the parish priest Fr Gerard Doyle. Dr Haly, Bishop of the diocese of Kildare and Leighlin suggested he ask the Mercy Convent in Carlow for some Convent Chapel, Naas sisters. Srs Josephine Trennor, Catherine Meagher, and Agnes Green were selected to make the foundation in Naas. Mother Frances Warde accompanied them and remained in Naas until they had settled in. Due to pressure of work and failing health Catherine did not, as was her usual custom, come with the founding sisters. However,she did pay a visit to Naas in 1840 and advised and assisted the fledgling community.
Convent Chapel, Naas
St John's, Birr 1840
now headquarters of Local Health Board and Heritage Centre, Birr.
The Parish Priest Fr John Spain, having been eloquently persuaded by Fr Matthew OFM Cap,the apostle of Temperance, invited Catherine to make a foundation in Birr. He hoped that the sisters would be a healing presence in the parish, which was in the throes of the Crotty schism. On the 26th December 1840 Catherine and four companions set out for Birr. They travelled to Tullamore by canal and spent the night there. Next day they journeyed by coach to Birr, breaking their journey in Eglish, where they were met by Father Spain. On New Year's Day they attended Mass in the local church. There they renewed their vows and were presented to the Congregation by Fr Spain in the following words...
"My dear people, I have a present to make to you ... I present to
you the Sisters of Mercy, who by their example and pious instruction
will draw upon our town the blessing of heaven."
The Convent in Birr was Catherine's last Irish foundation.
Coolock House built for William and Catherine Callaghan, sold by Catherine in 1827. Re-purchased by the sisters of Mercy in 1955.
Catherine's association with Coolock House began in 1803 when she went there to live with William and Catherine Callaghan, a wealthy Quaker couple who were distant cousins of her mother. She acted as companion to Mrs Callaghan who was chronically ill, and assumed some responsibility for running the household. Mrs Callaghan died in 1819 and William Callaghan in 1822 naming Catherine as his sole heiress.
In order to help realise her plans to better the lot of the many poor children and young women in the Dublin of her day, Catherine sold Coolock. It passed through several hands including the then Governor of the Bank of Ireland. In 1955 the Sisters of Mercy bought it back and used the rooms as Classrooms until a new school built in 1960. Between 1960 and '63 the house was extensively renovated. On the 23rd March 1963 a new community took up residence in Catherine's old home, bringing her journey full circle.