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McAULEY, CATHERINE (1787–1841), foundress of the Order of Mercy, born at Stormanstown House, in the neighbourhood of Dublin, on 29 Sept. 1787, was the daughter of James and Eleanor McAuley, who were descended from ancient catholic families. Losing her parents in her childhood, she was educated in the household of Surgeon Conway, a rigid protestant, and ‘grew up without fixed religious principles,’ though she stubbornly refused to join in protestant worship. At the age of eighteen she was adopted by Mr. and Mrs. Callahan of Coolock House and demesne, a few miles north of Dublin. She converted them both to the Roman catholic religion, and Callahan, on his death in 1822, left her his immense wealth. Resolving to establish some permanent institution for the relief of the destitute poor, she purchased a site in Lower Baggot Street, Dublin, and there erected the ‘House of our Blessed Lady of Mercy,’ which was completed in 1827. Miss McAuley and two companions entered the Presentation convent of George's Hill, Dublin, and received the religious dress in December 1829. They returned to Baggot Street in December 1830, and in January 1831 the religious dress was given to the six sisters who had been conducting the establishment in their absence. In this way the important and flourishing order of Sisters of Mercy was founded, with the approbation of Archbishop Murray. The institute was extended to England in 1839, to Newfoundland in 1842, to the United States in 1843, to Australia in 1845, to Scotland and to New Zealand in 1849, and to South America in 1856. The foundress took the title of her order from that of St. Peter Nolasco; its rule, with some slight modifications, from that of the Presentation nuns. Besides the three essential vows, the sisters take a fourth—to devote themselves for life to the service of the poor, sick, and ignorant. In 1887 the order had 115 establishments in Ireland and sixty in Great Britain. Its foundress died in Dublin on 11 Nov. 1841, and was buried in the cemetery adjoining the Baggot Street convent. Her portrait was engraved by A. G. Campbell.

[Life, by a Member of the Order of Mercy, New York, 1866; The First Sister of Mercy, Lond. 1866; Dean Gaffney in Dubl. Rev. March 1847, pp. 1–25; Catholic Opinion, 8 June 1867, p. 181; Addis and Arnold's Catholic Dictionary, p. 766; Religious Houses of the United Kingdom. 1887, p. 179.]

T. C.