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MERCY


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MERCY


rrligious picture, or any pious article in the house, nor did they make any pro\-ision for fast days. Her sacrifices anil prayers were rewarded by the con\er- sion of Mrs. Callahan, on her death tx^d; and in 1822 Mr. Callahan also, when d>ing. was duly reconciled. To Catherine he left his entire fortinie. She inunedi- atoly devised a system of distrilnitinp food and cloth- ing to the poor who Mocked to Coolock House, and her time was fully devoted to these works of charity, to visiting the .sick and to instructing the poor. When Catherine came into full possession of her property, she felt that Ciod required her to do something jx-r- manent for the poor, and she was now aljle to carry out her early visions of founding an institution in which women might, when out of work, find a t<>m- porary home. In this undertaking Rev. Dr. Blake and Rev. Dr. Armstrong were her advisors.

After some delilieration, these clergj'mcn selected a site for the new building at the junction of lower Baggot and Herbert Streets, Dublin, and in June, 1824, the corner-stone was laid by the Rev. Dr. Blake. As Dr. Blake was called to Rome soon after, the Rev. Edward Armstrong undertook to assist her, but died before the work was completed. On the feast of Our Lady of Mercy, 24 September, 1827, the new institution for destitute w-omen, orphans, and poorschools was opened and Catherine, with two com- panions, undertook its management. There was no idea then of founding a religious institution; on the contrary, the foundress's plan was to establish a society of secular ladies who would spend a few hours daily in instructing the poor. Gradually the interior life of these associates and their external occupations and relations became too much like the monastic life to he allowed to remain under secular rule. The ladies had already assumed a sombre dress and play- fully called each other "Sister"; moreover, they occasionally took a meal on the premises and even at times remained over night. In 1828 the archbishop permitted the staff of the institute to assume a dis- tinctive dress and to publicly visit the sick. The uniform atlopted was a black dress anil cape of the same material reaching to the belt, a white collar and a lace cap and veil — such a costume as is now worn by the postulants of the congregation. In the same year the archbishop desired Miss McAuley to choose some name by which the little community might be known, and she chose that of "Sisters of Mercy", having the design of making the works of mercy the distinctive feature of the institute. She was, moreover, desirous that the members should combine with the silence and prayer of the Carmelite, the active labours of a Sister of Charity. The position of the institute was anomalous, its members were not boimd by vows nor were they restrained by rules and Dr. Blake held a consultation with the archbishop in which it was de- cided that the Sisters of Mercy must declare their in- tentions as to the future of their institute, whether it was to be clas.sed as a religious congregation or to Ix;- come secularized. The associates unanimously de- cided to become religious. It was deemed better to have this congregation unconnected mth any already existing community.

The Sisters of Mercy wero now bound to the labori- ous duties of instructing the ignorant, visiting the sick and imprisoned, managing hospitals, orphanages, and homes for distressed women ; in fact to every work of mercy. They were to make perpetual vows, observe choir, and spend some six or seven hours daily in spiritual exercises and about tliree weeks altogether in strict retreat; the midsummer retreat proper covering eight full days, a triduum occupying the last three days of each year, and the first Sunday of every month except two being devoted in silence to a preparation for death. On the Octave of the Ascension 1829 the archbishop blessed the chapel of the institution and dedicated it to Our Lady of Mercy. This combination


of the contemplative and the active life necessary for the duties of the congregation called forth so much opposition that it seemed as though the comnumity, now numbering twelve, must disband; but it was settled that several of the sisters should make their novitiates in some approved religious hovLse and after their profession return to the institute to train the others to religious life. In June, ISHO, the institute received from Pope Pius VIII a Rescript of Indulgences dated 23 May, 1830. The Presentation Order, whose rules are based upon those of St. Austin, seemed the one best adapted for the training of the first nox'icos of the new congregation and Miss Catherine McAuley, Miss Elizabeth Harley, anil Miss Anna Maria Doyle be- gan their novitiate at George's Hill, Dublin, on 8" Sept., 1830. On the secontl day of the Octave of the Immac- ulate Conception 1830 the three postulants received the habit and on 12 Decemlier, 1831, they pronounced the usual tlirec vows to which tlie.y adiieil a fourth, that of persevering in the congregation imtil death. Miss McAuley, now known as Sister Mary Catherine, was appointed first superior of the congregation, an office which she held for the remainder of her life. The office of superior of each mother-house of the con- gregation is held for thi-ce years except in the case of a foundress when it may be held for six years.

The costume ailnjitcd by the sisters consists of a habit of black material falling in folds from the throat to the feet and lengtlieneil into a train behind, which is worn looped up except in the chapel , the conuimnity- room, and the parlour. The haljit is confinetl to the waist by a leather girdle, or cincture, from which de- pends a black rosary with the ebony cross of the con- gregation. The sleeves are long and wide with close- fitting underslceves of the same material as the habit. The veil is black, long, and flowing. The novices wear shorter veils of white cambric, otherwise their dress is the same as that of the professed sisters. Church cloaks of white woollen material are worn on great feasts in the chapel anil for certain ceremonies. The gimp is a white linen collar, very deep in front. The coif is of white linen. The rule and constitutions of the congregation were not conijiktfd until 1834, nor approved until 1835, yet they contained in substance only that which had been observed from the year 1827. The basis of the rule was that of St. Austin al- though circumstances required many alterations be- fore its approval. Kingstown was the first place out- side the capital in which a house of the congregation was opened, and outside of the archilioccse Tullamore was the first town to welcome the sisters. In 1838, at the suggestion of Rev. Peter Butler of Bermondsey, some English lathes came to Ireland to serve a novitiate for the purpose of introilucing the congregation into England. Upon their return. Mother M. Clare Moore was appointed the superior of the Bermontlsey Con- vent. Lady Barbara E.yre, daughter of the Catholic Earl of Newburgh, was the first one to Ix^ receivcil into the new congregation. As Sister Mary de Sales, she made her vows in 1841 and after a very edifying life died in 1849.

From England the congregation rapidly spread, beginning with Guernsey, one of the Chaimel Islands (1868). Tlu-ough the efforts of Bishop Murdock, the sisters from Limerick opened a house in Glasgow (1849). Under the patronage of Dr. Brady, Bishop of Perth, the sisters w'cre introduced into Australia (1846). Three years later, Bishop Pompallier, of New Zealand, brought a band from Carlow, Ireland. In May, 1842, at the request of Bishop Flemniing, a small colony of Sisters of Mercy crossed the Atlantic to found the congregation at St. John's, New Foundland. In September, 1843, Bishop O'Connor, of Pittsburg, Pennsylvania, U. S. A., applied to Carlow for a colony of Sisters of Mercy for his diocese. Seven religious were appointed for this mission of whom Mother Francis Warde (see Warde), was the first superior.