History of Sisters of Mercy, Belize

On January 14, 1883, a ship called the City of Dallas sailed from New Orleans, Louisiana, with seven sisters en route to Central America. They were Mother Mary Evangelist Kearney, Superior, and Sisters Mary Raphael Woolfolk, Mary Colette Baker, Mary Cecilia Paula Sebastian and Mary Gabriel Lavin, together with Mother Mary Theresa Austin Carroll and her companion Sister Mary Henry Briscoe.

After crossing the Gulf of Mexico, the City of Dallas cast anchor in the harbor of Belize, British Honduras, on the morning of January 20, 1883. So began the life of the Sisters of Mercy in Central America as part of the New Orleans community.

On January 22, 1883, they began their works of Mercy in education, both at the primary and secondary level, and visitation of the sick in hospital. They were taken to visit a shut-in as well, and it wasn’t long before they visited the prison. The sisters continued these works through the years.

In 1913, the community of Belize became an independent community and six sisters from New Orleans chose to stay in Belize. Through the efforts of the bishop, they were joined by candidates from Ireland and other parts of the United States. Primary and secondary schools were staffed and the visitation of the sick and of those in prison continued through the years.

The bishop became aware of the formation of the Union of the Sisters of Mercy in the United States and applied for membership of the Belize Community. After many meetings and discussions, the Belize community received news of its acceptance as part of the Province of Providence (Rhode Island) on April 18, 1932.  Mother Mary Matthew was the Provincial. The Belize Community continued to be part of the Province of Providence until 2006, when Belize joined the emerging community of the Caribbean, Central America, and South America (CCASA). 

The education of girls at St. Catherine Academy in Belize City and co-ed education at Muffles College (high school) and Junior College in Orange Walk Town continue to be important activities of the Sisters of Mercy in the country of Belize. 

Service to the elderly poor is administered at the Mercy Kitchen, where a nutritious meal is provided. Their health needs are taken care of at the Mercy Clinic. This service is extended to the elderly poor shut-ins on a regular basis. When necessary, the doctor visits them in their homes. 

At Our Lady of Guadalupe Mercy Center, located on the second floor of St. Catherine’s Convent, workshops, retreats and spiritual direction are available. The staff also gives high school retreats and provides training for others desiring to conduct retreats and other spiritual ministries.