The Mercy Community (MC) history lies within the tradition of the Brisbane Sisters of Mercy, a group of Catholic women who as followers of Jesus, understand their mission as participating in God’s mission of mercy. Inspiration is drawn from Catherine McAuley, who founded the Sisters of Mercy in Ireland in 1831.
Catherine recognised and responded to the needs of those who were marginalised and oppressed by the unjust social attitudes and practices of the day. In the tradition of Mercy, MC continues its mission to support and inspire people in need to live healthy, connected lives within inclusive communities.
Catherine McAuley (1778 to 1841)
In September 1827 Catherine McAuley established a ‘House of Mercy’ in Baggot Street, Dublin, Ireland. There she and several companions provided food, clothing, housing and education for many of Dublin’s poor women and young girls. In 1831 with the approval of Archbishop Daniel Murray, she and her first companions founded the Congregation of Sisters of Mercy, with the house in Baggot Street serving as its first convent.
Over the then next ten years as new coworkers presented themselves, thirteen other convents, two of them in England, were established. Invitations to found further convents were by now reaching Baggot Street from many parts of the world. Catherine died a holy death on 11 November 1841. Within a few decades her congregation had spread worldwide. It is still one of the largest congregations of women religious in the Church.
Catherine McAuley devoted her considerable personal energy and wealth to redressing poverty. Catherine opened a school and initiated visits to the poor, primarily women and children and to the sick in hospitals and in their homes.
Other women joined her in this work and so the history of the Sisters of Mercy began.
Recognition of Catherine McAuley’s work
On 9 April, 1990, by decree of Pope John Paul II, Catherine McAuley, Foundress of the Sisters of Mercy, was declared Venerable, in recognition of her holy life, her love of God and her merciful work among the poor. Catherine McAuley once wrote: “Mercy, the principal path pointed out by Jesus Christ to those who are desirous of following him, has in all ages of the Church excited the faithful in a particular manner to instruct and comfort the sick and dying poor as in them they regarded the person of our Divine Master.” (Original Rule, approved in Rome, 1841)
Mercy in Australia
Mother Vincent Whitty, a pioneer Sister of Mercy from Dublin initiated into religious life by our foundress Catherine McAuley, came into Brisbane in 1861 with five young companions. The sisters immediately set out to provide education to the struggling community of Irish immigrants. All Hallows’ School was founded in 1861 and was the first secondary school for girls in the infant colony of Queensland. True to the spirit of our foundress , the sisters were soon engaged in community work such as visitation of the local jails ad of the poor in their homes. Within their first year of arriving, the sisters had rented cottages to care for children, who were unkempt and undernourished and had nowhere to stay.
Mother Vincent and her band of pioneering Sisters were not long established in Brisbane before they began establishing branch houses in the far-flung colony.
It is from these beginnings that MC finds itself deeply rooted in the community of Queensland. Mercy Community is committed to fulfilling its vision to build a world where people, families and communities are strong in spirit, healthy and connected.