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The Contribution of the Sisters of Mercy to Education

16 September 2011


On Thursday September 15th 2011, the official presentation of ‘The Contribution of the Congregation of the Sisters of Mercy to Education: a joint project of the Congregation of the Sisters of Mercy and the Department of History, National University of Ireland, Maynooth’ took place in Rhetoric House, Maynooth. This study was commissioned by the Congregational Leadership Team of the Sisters of Mercy and was researched and written by Dr. Máire Ni Chearbhaill. 

Sisters of Mercy

  Dr. Máire Ni Chearbhaill and Coirle McCarthy rsm, Congregational Leader

The ceremony was opened by Professor Marian Lyons, Head of the History Department, Maynooth, who reminded those gathered of the importance of the day and the great heritage of the Sisters of Mercy in the area of Education.

Coirle McCarthy rsm, Congregational Leader of the Sisters of Mercy, said that the story of the contribution of the Sisters of Mercy to Education was a proud story and that great service had been given to the Irish people. She was particularly happy that the presentation took place in September as September 24th is a special feast day for Sisters of Mercy. It was on this day in 1827 that our Foundress Catherine McAuley opened the house in Baggot St, Dublin. Sr. Coirle thanked the History Department, Maynooth for overseeing the project and especially thanked Professor Vincent Comerford, who helped with the early stages of the work. Professor Marian Lyons then formally presented the two volume work to Sr. Coirle McCarthy. 

Prof Colm Lennon Professor Colm Lennon, who became closely connected with the project in the latter stages, commented that “The completed work is a massive achievement, not just in terms of its avoirdupois, but also, of course, in terms of its quality and content”. He was “struck by the adaptability and resourcefulness of the members of the Congregation of the Sisters of Mercy in their response to social and cultural changes from the early nineteenth century.” Professor Lennon remarked that “The Sisters were ahead of their time in such areas as vocational, domestic and teacher training. In many ways, their work anticipated and indeed contributed to the curricular developments in later twentieth-century comprehensive and community schooling.”
Dr. Máire Ni Chearbhaill rose to speak and gave an entertaining and enlightening talk about the process she engaged in throughout the research and writing of the work. She especially thanked all the Sisters of Mercy who assisted her and provided information and answers to her many questions. Marianane Cosgrave, Congregational Archivist was especially thanked for her marvellous support. Dr. Maire also expressed her appreciation for her colleagues in the History Department and thanked them wholeheartedly for their support and expertise. She ended by saying “The story is only beginning”.

Cait O'Dwyer rsm

                  Cáit O'Dwyer rsm, Congregational Leadership Team

Cáit O’Dwyer rsm, Congregational Leadership Team, addressed the gathering and reflected on Mercy Education from the viewpoint of the Congregation of the Sisters of Mercy. She said “I believe we can claim to have been pioneers, innovators and dedicated educators. We have always tried to read the signs of the times, been adaptable, and when called upon, were not afraid to take difficult, risky and sometimes painful decisions.” Sr. Cáit added “For this reason the present exacting work of Maire Ni Chearbhaill is welcome, timely and relevant. Her collation of the Mercy education story offers the opportunity to acknowledge and give thanks for what has been. I believe that it is most important to record for posterity the broad story of schooling and education - so far - within our Congregation.” 

Dr. Jacinta Prunty expressed her appreciation for the work and thanked everyone concerned for following up her tentative suggestion many years ago that the history of Mercy Education be written, lest it become invisible. 

Susan DeGuide rsm, Congregational Leadership Team, then presented the two beautifully bound volumes to each of the Irish Provincial Leadership Teams represented and the evening ended with informal conversation and an opportunity for all involved in the project to meet and relax.

Sisters of Mercy

Peggy Collins rsm, Provinial Leader South Central Province receives the two volumes from Susan DeGuide rsm, Congregational Leadership Team.  Pictured in the centre is Nuala O'Gorman rsm, Southern Provincial Team

Sisters of Mercy

Ailish O'Brien rsm

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