By Sr. Jane Gerety, RSM, Chief Mission Officer, Mercy Care, Atlanta, GA
On Dec. 12, 1831, the Sisters of Mercy, original sponsors of many of our Trinity health ministries, were officially founded. Catherine McAuley, the founder of the order, never wanted to be a nun. In nineteenth- century Ireland nuns lived behind cloistered walls and didn’t go out. Catherine recognized the many needs of people who were economically poor and determined that she and women like her could make a difference — but they had to go out, had to go where the need was.
Spending her inheritance, Catherine opened the first House of Mercy on Lower Baggot Street in Dublin, Ireland, on Sept. 24, 1827, as a place to shelter and educate women and girls. From there she and her companions went out to homes and hospitals to care for the poor, the sick, and the uneducated. Impressed by her good works and the importance of continuity in the ministry, the Archbishop of Dublin advised her to establish a religious congregation.
Three years later, on Dec. 12, 1831, Catherine and two companions became the first Sisters of Mercy. Today there are Sisters of Mercy worldwide, continuing the spirit of the founder —responding to the needs of our suffering world wherever they find them and trusting in God, for whom, as Catherine said, “We go forward or stay back.”
Catherine expressed her reliance on God in a prayer she called her Suscipe:
My God, I am yours for time and eternity.
Teach me to cast myself entirely
Into the arms of your loving Providence
With a lively, unlimited confidence in your compassionate, tender pity.
Grant, O most merciful Redeemer,
That whatever you ordain or permit may be acceptable to me.
Take from my heart all painful anxiety;
Let nothing sadden my but sin,
Nothing delight me but the hope of coming to the possession of You
My God and my all, in your everlasting kingdom.