Foundress of the Sisters of Mercy
Catherine McAuley was born into a wealthy family in Ireland. Her father brought poor children to their home on weekends for instruction in the Catholic faith. He died when Catherine was very young but his compassion influenced her entire life. Catherine's mother taught her independence, poise and charm. After her mother's premature death Catherine went to live with the Callaghans. For twenty years she cared for them and their estate, grew closer to God through prayer and performed works of charity.
She inherited the Callaghan's fortune and used the money to build the House of Mercy for a home for working girls and orphans and a school for poor children. Other women joined her and in 1831 Catherine founded the Sisters of Mercy. Soon they were invited to other parts of Ireland and England.
Two years after Catherine's death Frances Warde led the Sisters of Mercy to the United States. Within fifty years the circle of Mercy encompassed the world.
Foundress of the Grey Nuns
Sr. Marguerite d'Youville Marguerite Dufrost Lajemmerais was born in 1701 at Varennes, Quebec, Canada. Her beloved father died when she was seven. At age twenty-one Marguerite married Francois d’Youville. When Marguerite was pregnant with their sixth child, Francois died leaving her penniless. Four of her six children died in infancy. She opened a dry goods store to pay off her husband’s debts and raise her two sons. She put all her confidence in God, as a loving Father, who would provide for her and all of her needs.
Marguerite directed her love and concern for the poor to help those less fortunate than herself. Three ladies joined her, pooling together all their resources, caring for the sick, orphans, Indians, prostitutes and wounded soldiers. Marguerite and her companions wished to serve as instruments of God’s compassionate love for the poor.
In 1737 Marguerite and her companions consecrated themselves to God, founding the Institute of the Sisters of Charity of Montreal, Grey Nuns. Upon her death, in 1771, Marguerite’s last request was that her Sisters remain faithful to the duties of their life’s path, chosen for them by God, and that they live in perfect union and selfless charity. Pope John Paul II canonized Marguerite a saint on December 9, 1990, calling her Mother of Universal Charity. Today, six autonomous Grey Nun congregations of 3,000 consecrated women, serve poor and needy persons worldwide. Like Marguerite, they serve as instruments of God’s compassionate love for the poor in United States, Canada, Brazil, Argentina, Paraguay, Colombia, Haiti, Dominican Republic, Japan, seven African Countries, First Nation of: Canada, Vietnam and Philippines. Two thousand Grey Nun Associates, along with the Sisters, continue the Mission of the Grey Nuns throughout the world.
Rev. Augustine S. Campion, pastor of St. Francis de Sales Church in Toledo, Ohio, pleaded the Grey Nuns for Sisters to care for the sick, homeless, orphaned and destitute. In 1855 four Grey Nuns and one lay woman volunteer arrived, establishing the first Grey Nun Mission in the United States. They treaded muddy streets to serve all in their homes. They opened St. Vincent Asylum, now known as Mercy Health - St. Vincent Medical Center, which today is a tertiary care facility, a member of Mercy Health.