On Monday, 3rd of October, St. Patrick’s College, Maynooth, awarded an honorary doctorate to the Congregation of the Sisters of Mercy. As Dean of the Faculty of Philosophy, Irish Jesuit Tom Casey was there.
Maynooth pulled out all the stops to celebrate the Sisters of Mercy: special lectures, a guided tour of the college chapel, sung evening prayer with a full choir, a procession of lecturers in academic gowns, and a sit-down dinner for the hundreds of guests who attended the celebration.
Catherine McAuley, the founder of the Sisters of Mercy, came across as an Irish version of Teresa of Avila, a woman of vision and conviction, a genuine “Year of Mercy” woman, practicing the corporal and spiritual works of mercy long before she even set up her congregation: “God knows that I would rather go hungry than that the poor should suffer want”. To hear about the early history of the Mercy Sisters was fascinating: the astonishing growth of the Sisters of Mercy throughout the English-speaking world in the 19th century is every bit as impressive as the growth of the Jesuits in the 16th century. In 1854, just over a dozen years after Catherine McAuley’s death, five Sisters of mercy sailed off – at a day’s notice – to care for soldiers in the Crimean War. They had such an impact that Florence Nightingale, not easily swayed, became one of their greatest admirers. The following decade Sisters of Mercy tended the wounded during the American Civil War. “Veritable angels of mercy” were the words President Abraham Lincoln applied to them, and as a result he specially commissioned a painting of a Sister of Mercy…
It was heartening to celebrate their special charism of mercy as this Extraordinary Year of Mercy draws to a close.
Photo (left to right): Fr. Michael Mullaney, President; Fr. Declan Marmion SM; Sr. Margaret Casey RSM (recipient of the honorary doctorate on behalf of the Congregation of the Sisters of Mercy); Archbishop Eamon Martin; Fr. Tom Casey SJ.