The Venerable Mother Catherine Elizabeth McAuley (29 September 1778 – 11 November 1841) was an Irish nun, who founded the Sisters of Mercy in 1831. The Order has always been associated with teaching, especially in Ireland, where the nuns taught Catholics (and at times Protestants) at a time when education was mainly reserved for members of the established Church of Ireland.
Catherine McAuley was born in Dublin to James and Elinor Conway McAuley. Her father died in 1783, and her mother in 1798. Catherine and her two siblings moved to live with Protestant relatives, the Armstrongs. In 1803, she became the household manager and companion of friends of her relatives, the Callaghans, an elderly, childless, and wealthy Protestant couple, at their home in Dublin and then at their estate in Coolock. Catherine Callaghan died in 1819. When Mr Callaghan died in 1822, she became the sole residuary legatee of their estate.
McAuley inherited a considerable fortune and chose to use it to build a house where she and other compassionate women could take in homeless women and children to provide care and an education for them. A location was selected at the junction of lower Baggot and Herbert Streets, Dublin, and in June 1824, the corner-stone was laid by the Rev. Dr. Blake. On the feast of Our Lady of Mercy, 24 September 1827, the new institution for destitute women, orphans, and schools for the poor was opened and McAuley, with two companions, undertook its management...
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