McAuley, Catherine Elizabeth

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Foundress of the Sisters of mercy; b. Dublin, Ireland, Sept. 29, 1778; d. there, Nov. 10, 1841. After the death of her parents, Catherine was reared by Protestant foster parents, who left her a large legacy. Gradually she was attracted to helping the poor of Dublin. To this end she built a school for poor children and a residence for working women in Baggot Street, called the House of Mercy, which opened in 1827. Soon after this she added an employment agency and an orphanage as other young women came to help her. After deciding to form a religious congregation, she and two companions went to the Presentation Convent in Dublin to make their noviceship. They took simple vows (Dec. 12, 1831), and the Sisters of Mercy came into existence. When Mother McAuley applied to Rome for approval of her constitution, she stated that "the principal purpose of this congregation is to educate poor little girls, to lodge and maintain poor young ladies who are in danger, that they may be provided for in a proper manner, and to visit the sick poor." In 1839 Mother McAuley established a house in London, the first one outside Ireland. Since then the Sisters of Mercy have grown to be the largest religious congregation ever founded in the English-speaking world.

Bibliography: m. b. degnan, Mercy Unto Thousands: Life of Mother Mary Catherine McAuley (Westminster, MD 1957). m. e. evans, The Spirit is Mercy (Westminster, MD 1959). e. a. ryan, "The Sisters of Mercy: An Important Chapter in Church History," Theological Studies 18 (1957) 254270.

[e. mcdermott]