Sisters of Mercy

Catherine McAuley

On September 24, 1827, the feast of Our Lady of Mercy, Catherine McAuley opened the House of Mercy (now Mercy International Centre) at Baggot and Herbert streets in Dublin, Ireland. Catherine, an Irish Catholic laywoman, used her sizable inheritance to build the House of Mercy as a safe shelter and place of education for young women who came to Dublin from the surrounding countryside seeking employment. Unknowingly, Catherine McAuley planted the seeds of a new religious congregation.

On December 12, 1831, after completing her novitiate with the Sisters of the Presentation, Catherine pronounced her vows as the first Sister of Mercy. Sisters of Mercy who minister throughout the world to persons who are poor, sick and uneducated celebrate this as their Foundation Day.

Mary Baptist Russell

Eight adventurous Sisters of Mercy left Kinsale, Ireland, and landed in San Francisco on December 8, 1854. Their leader, 25-year-old Mary Baptist Russell, led the small band first into healthcare, as they nursed the City through the cholera epidemic the next year. Their ministries branched out into protection and education of young women, care of the elderly, prison ministry, and education. Remarkable for their compassion and competence, these sisters were soon joined by other young women.

In a city dominated by the Know-Nothings and Vigilance Committees, the sisters had to withstand serious anti-Catholic prejudice at first, but San Francisco was won over by their much needed nursing expertise and their willingness to care for women of the streets, wards of the court and the elderly. They were vital strands in the “safety net” of the local community not far removed from the rowdy days of the ’49ers and the California Gold Rush.

Some think of Mary Baptist as the pioneer who founded many desperately needed institutions, but many more recall her for her big heart. When visiting the very poor, she would tidy the rooms, make a fire and often would draw on the hospitals’ linen closet for supplies. Another sister finally firmly locked the closet to keep the sheets for the patients. When Mary Baptist died she was known as “the best known charitable worker in the West.” At the time of her death in 1898, the sisters had established St. Mary’s Hospital in 1857, St. Peter’s Academy in 1878, and the Magdalen Asylum 1865 in San Francisco and Our Lady of Lourdes Academy 1877 in Oakland.

Sisters went to Sacramento and founded what became the Auburn Mercy community in 1857. This foundation became separate from the sisters in San Francisco when the Sacramento Diocese was formed in 1886.

Sisters had come from other Mercy convents in the US to establish foundations in Rio Vista, San Diego, Los Angelesand Phoenix, Arizona . By 1922 these groups had amalgamated with the sisters in San Francisco. In 1924 they acquired the former Kohl Mansion in Burlingame, 20 miles south of San Francisco, and established the Motherhouse of the Sisters of Mercy of California and Arizona there. The sisters opened Mercy High School on the campus in 1931.

Sisters of Mercy of the Americas-West Midwest

The Sisters of Mercy from California to Michigan have begun a new Mercy moment. The six former regional communities are now the Sisters of Mercy of the Americas-West Midwest. While the West Midwest Community central administrative center is in Omaha, Nebraska, sisters and associates continue their ministries in their respective geographical areas. We serve in 32 states and four countries

Mission and Critical Concerns

Responding to the needs of the poor and suffering, particularly women and children, is the special call of the Sisters of Mercy. Following the example of Jesus, the Sisters move in the midst of the world teaching, healing, and comforting those in need.

Our Mission

Sisters of Mercy are women who commit their lives to serving God's people, especially those who are sick, poor and uneducated. In the spirit of the Gospel, our mission is to help to overcome the obstacles that keep them from living full and dignified lives. A life of prayer and community animates and supports us in our mission.

Direction Statement

Animated by the Gospel and Catherine McAuley’s passion for the poor, we, the Sisters of Mercy of the Americas, are impelled to commit our lives and resources to act in solidarity with:

  • the economically poor of the world, especially women and children;
  • women seeking fullness of life and equality in church and society;
  • one another as we embrace our multicultural and international reality.

This commitment will impel us to develop and act from a multicultural and international perspective;

  • speak with a corporate voice;
  • work for systemic change; practice non-violence;
  • act in harmony and interdependence with all creation;
  • and call ourselves to continual conversion in our lifestyle and ministries.

Sisters of Mercy Links

Sisters of Mercy West Midwest
Sisters of Mercy of the Americas
Mercy International Centre
Mercy Beyond Borders