Catholic University of America Press

The Path of Mercy the Life of Catherine McAuley

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Breaking new ground in presenting the life of Catherine McAuley (1778-1841), the Dublin woman who founded the Sisters of Mercy, Mary C. Sullivan has written the first full-length, documented narrative of McAuley in more than fifty years. This work places McAuley in her Irish context, particularly in post-penal Dublin, where the destitution, epidemics, and lack of basic education, especially of poor women and young girls, led her to a life of practical mercifulness.

Using extensive primary sources and questioning aspects of earlier accounts, The Path of Mercy illumines Catherine's personality and details her life. It recounts her efforts, using her inheritance from her foster parents, to address the poverties of Irish people in her time. Together with those who eventually joined her when she founded the Sisters of Mercy in 1831, she sheltered homeless women, taught them employable skills, opened a school for the daughters of the very poor, and visited the sick and dying in the slums of Dublin.

Later she founded the same works of mercy in nine other towns in Ireland, and in two cities in England. An intelligent, courageous, humorous woman, she was, even when exhausted by the rigors of her travel and ministries, always moved to ""get up again,"" as she said, for the sake of those in need. She wrote poems and letters to novices and others, urged the community to ""dance every evening,"" and never wished to be called ""Reverend Mother."" At age sixty-three she died of tuberculosis in the Baggot Street convent. During the past 180 years more than 55,000 Sisters of Mercy have served among the poor and needy throughout the world.

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