Founding Women

Catherine McAuley founded the Sisters of Mercy in Dublin, Ireland, in 1831 in a brave attempt to improve the conditions of many women. Poverty was a significant issue in Ireland at the time, and as other women joined Catherine, the works of the Sisters of Mercy included the education of the poor, the visitation of the sick, and the training of young women.

Catherine McAuley prepared young Ellen Whitty for her religious Profession, and they came to have mutual respect and affection for each another.

As she lay dying in November 1841, Catherine specifically asked that Sister Mary Vincent remain at her bedside. Mother Catherine commended her various penitential items to the young sister to be secretly burned, and entrusted the care of the Novices to her in the codicil of her will.

Sister Vincent, regarding the final moments of Mother Catherine, wrote to Mother Cecilia in Birmingham:

I had the consolation – for it is a pleasing though melancholy consolation – to read the last prayers for her, close her eyes, and that mouth from which I have received so much instruction.

(from story board in Mercy Heritage Centre)


Read more about our founding women

» Catherine McAuley (1778 – 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.

» Mother Vincent Whitty (1819 – 1892)

Born in Olygate County Wexford on 1 March 1819, Ellen Whitty was the third youngest of the six children of William and Johanna Whitty.

» Jane Gorry (1844 – 1891)

Jane Gorry, born in Ipswich on 16 February, 1844, was educated by the Benedictine Sisters at Subiaco, Sydney.

» Florence O'Reilly (1846 - 1929)

Florence O’Reilly was an heiress, inspired by the Sisters’ story, who came to Brisbane in 1872.