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Celebrating 180 Years of the Sisters of Mercy

13 December 2011


Foundation Day 12th December 2011 was surely a day with a difference. On this day, we celebrated 180 years since our foundress Catherine McAuley was professed in the chapel of George’s Hill Presentation Convent. It was there that she served her 15 month novitiate and from where she returned with great anticipation to Baggot Street Convent with her two novitiate companions, Mary Anne Doyle and Elizabeth Harley to start the work of the Sisters of Mercy, which continues to this day. 


                                                George's Hill Chapel

What made this celebration so special was that it took place in the very chapel where Catherine professed her vows as the first Sister of Mercy 180 years ago. During the Mass, every Sister of Mercy present renewed her vows and there was also a renewal of commitment for the Associates and friends of Mercy present. To preserve a tangible link between Catherine McAuley’s profession day and this moment, Catherine’s profession ring was displayed on the altar and became a symbol of the continuity of Mercy since the foundation of the Congregation and also of the presence of Catherine among us. 

The music chosen for the celebration was joyful and reflected well the mood of the day. Everyone present sang with great energy and enthusiasm. We were told that since the first three Sisters of Mercy professed their vows, fifty five thousand women have joined the Sisters of Mercy and there are nine thousand Sisters of Mercy in the world today. We minister in 44 countries and young women are still being inspired by the spirit of Catherine McAuley to join the Sisters of Mercy.
The Mass was celebrated by Fr. Patrick Hume SJ who was taught by Sisters of Mercy and who also had relations who joined the Congregation. 


                                        Altar in George's Hill Chapel

Aine Barrins rsm gave a wonderful talk on Catherine and linked in with the readings of the day beautifully. She reminded us that “This Congregation was founded on the Cross, but it was also founded on an extraordinary capacity to trust in the unfailing providence of God. And it was also founded on great faith, on tenacious courage, and on other qualities such as fun, friendship, love, generosity, and a desire to reveal the tender mercy and compassion of God to all and especially to those who were deprived in any way.” 

Click here to download the full text of Aine’s talk. 


After receiving communion, the congregation sang ‘The Suscipe’ which was Catherine’s favourite prayer of commitment to the God whom she so dearly loved.
Lunch followed in Mercy International Centre, Baggot Street, echoing the journey home which Catherine undertook immediately after her profession ceremony in George’s Hill, all those years ago. 

Ailish O'Brien rsm

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