History and Beginnings

“What advantage are our works to God? It is our working hearts that he longs for.” – Catherine McAuley

Serving those in need

Catherine McAuley was born in Dublin, Ireland, in 1778. Raised with strong Catholic faith and having experienced considerable personal sadness and poverty, Catherine used her inheritance from an elderly couple, with whom she had served as a housekeeper for 20 years, to build the first House of Mercy in Baggot Street, Dublin in 1824.

Here, Catherine and other lay women sheltered homeless women, reached out to the sick and dying, and educated poor girls. Her efforts to relieve the suffering of others inspired a number of young women to join her. Over time, it became evident to Catherine that for their work to continue among the poor, she would need to found a congregation whose members would be out and about with the people.

In December 1831, Catherine and two companions Anna Maria Doyle and Elizabeth Harley, professed their vows as the first Sisters of Mercy. Before her death in 1841, Catherine had founded eleven further convents and associated works of Mercy throughout Ireland and England.

A foundation of mercy

Ursula Frayne, who had worked with Catherine McAuley, led the first group of Mercy sisters to Australia, arriving in Perth in 1846 and establishing a school there. In 1857 she came to Melbourne, founding another school and an orphanage. Since then, these seeds of mercy have continued to flourish.

In 2011, on the 180th anniversary of the founding of the Sisters of Mercy, 14 Mercy Congregations and the autonomous region of Papua New Guinea came together to form a new congregation, the Institute of Sisters of Mercy of Australia and Papua New Guinea (ISMAPNG).

In 2021, ISMAPNG petitioned the Holy See to create a new public juridic person, Mercy Ministry Companions. On December 3, 2021, the governance of the institutional ministries of ISMAPNG (schools, hospitals, aged care facilities, and community service agencies) were then transferred to the ongoing care of Mercy Ministry Companions.

Today, Mercy Ministry Companions contributes to the ministry of the global Mercy family, through its engagement with Mercy International Association and Mercy Global Action.