Catherine McAuley

Catherine McAuley was born in Dublin on the 29th September 1778. Catherine was orphaned at an early age, only to be later adopted by a wealthy couple, becoming their heiress. Her inheritance provided her with the means to help the poor of Dublin. She personally nursed the poor during the cholera epidemic. As the foundress of the Sisters of Mercy, Catherine instilled in the Order her ethos of praxis, hence the Sisters came to be known as the “walking nuns”, walking the streets of town and city visiting the poor in their homes.

Both as educator and social worker, she personally, and through the order which she established, has done more for suffering humanity than any one woman or group of women in history. Catherine died in 1841.

Catherine McAuley

She was beautiful, she was daring and she was rich. Catherine Elizabeth McAuley was an heiress with a difference. Unlike most young women in her position, it never occurred to her that she would travel the world, visiting exotic places. Instead, she travelled the backlanes and alleyways of nineteenth century Dublin city. She sought out the poor, the sick, the homeless and those who had lost all hope of ever rising out of their dreadful, miserable conditions. This gentle woman of mercy had a plan to change all this. God had a plan too.

To find out more about Catherine's life, download a pdf of Anne Reid's book, Daring to be different (241k).

Dates in Catherine’s Life

Year of birth


She goes to live in Coolock


She becomes an heiress


Foundation stone laid in Baggot Street


Studies French Educational System


House of Mercy opened


December –  She establishes the Congregation of the Sisters of Mercy


Begins to expand from Dublin


Makes first English Foundation at Bermondsey


June – Her Rule is confirmed by Gregory XV1


11 November – Catherine dies


Sayings Of Catherine McAuley

Our whole life should be a continual act of prayer and praise to God.
Love of God … love of neighbour are cause and effect.
… the poor shall not be deprived of the comfort that God sent them while we can avoid it.
God can bend and change and form and reform any of his creatures to fit them for the purposes of designs.
If the love of God really reigns in your heart, it will quickly show itself in the exterior.
“My God, I am thine for time and eternity.”
The time given to prayer … we must consider as employed to obtain grace, strength and animation, without which all our efforts would be fruitless.
There are three things the poor prize more highly than gold, though they cost the donor nothing.  Among these are the kind word, the gentle compassionate look, and the patient hearing of their sorrows.
“We can never say:  It is enough.”
“We hope to get on, taking short, careful steps, not great strides.”
"God knows I had rather be poor and hungry myself than that one of God’s poor should suffer want."
“The poor need help today, not next week.”


Catherine McAuley

Prayer For The Beatification Of Catherine McAuley

Heavenly Father, you have given us in your servant Catherine McAuley, an example of steadfast faith, love for you and service of the poor through the spiritual and corporeal works of Mercy.  Show by external signs the power she enjoys in your sight, so that through your loving kindness she may be declared blessed by the church.  We ask this through Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen.

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