Our History

All Sisters of Mercy worldwide trace our roots to our founder, Catherine McAuley, an Irish Catholic laywoman.

Catherine McAuley

Catherine recognized the many needs of people who were economically poor in early nineteenth century Ireland and determined that she and women like her could make a difference.

Spending her inheritance, she opened the first House of Mercy on Lower Baggot Street in Dublin, Ireland on September 24, 1827, a place to shelter and educate women and girls. Catherine's original intention was to assemble a lay corps of Catholic social workers. Impressed by her good works and the importance of continuity in the ministry, the Archbishop of Dublin advised her to establish a religious congregation. Three years later on December 12, 1831, Catherine and two companions became the first Sisters of Mercy.

In the 10 years between the founding and her death, she established 14 independent foundations in Ireland and England.

Visit Mercy International Association’s website to read more about Catherine’s life and the Cause to Canonize her.

Sisters of Mercy in America

The first Sisters of Mercy arrived in the United States from Ireland in 1843 at the invitation of the Bishop of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.  Their energy in ministering to the sick and economically poor attracted so many new members that by 1854, sisters had come from Ireland to settle in New York City; Chicago, Illinois; Little Rock, Arkansas; and San Francisco, California, spreading across the country and establishing schools and hospitals. Since then, the works of Mercy have expanded to embrace education, health care and pastoral and social services in hundreds of sites today.