Catherine McAuley foundress of the Sisters of Mercy


Stained Glass Window of Mother Catherine McAuley – who founded the Sisters of Mercy in 1831 Dublin, Ireland – H/t Patricksmercy at Flickr.

Catherine established the House of Mercy in 1827 with inheritance money, her desire was to educate young women. She founded the Sisters of Mercy in Dublin Ireland in 1831.

Fr Willie Purcell, who gave a talk at Mother Catherine McAuley retreat centre, Peru in 2008 stated:

“Mother Catherine McAuley was illustrated as a person whose concern for the poor was limitless.”

“Catherine was a woman of God and God made her a woman of vision”.

“Catherine was a woman who noticed, who was mindful of all around her, present to people and strong in commitment. Mercy was her Mission and Mercy was her seed.  Her “far reaching eyes” could see not just in front of her – she observed potential and her trust in God was absolute.”

If one was to stack up all the evidence of this wonderful, triumphant, Victorious; Venerable Visionary and her religious ideals and work and weigh it against the atrocities that occurred in Goldenbridge and other industrial “schools” run by the Sisters of Mercy… it wouldn’t bear thinking about at all. Mercy may have been her seed, but the fruits of that seed were partially destroyed by the weeds that sprung up amongst them. Mercy was not the mission of the bad fruit, but rather – Mercilessness!

I wonder what she would make of the Ryan Report 2009 if she were alive today? What would her “far reaching eyes” have “observed” in the nuns – who had followed her in Christ – as they poured in and out of the commission to inquire into child abuse? Would she have been ‘mindful’ of the cruelty that they meted out to children and done something about it? Would she have invited them to ‘sip tea’ with her at Baggot St. residence, and comforted them whilst they relayed the CICA’s goings-on?

Mother Catherine McAuley spoke the following words to the Sisters of Mercy on her deathbed:

‘When I am dead and gone do not forget to comfort yourselves with a nice cup of tea.’

The nuns drank tea almost every single day from the best Irish china cups and saucers in the parlour. While Goldenbridge children resorted to drinking black  sugarless cocoa (and stewed tea in later years) from plastic cups. I never saw a bowl of sugar or a jug of milk on a table in all the years I was incarcerated in the institution. The nuns took their foundress at her very word, but never extended the tea to children in their care. A sad indictment.
Some of her followers at Goldenbridge saw zero potential in the children incarcerated into their care. The latter were not even deemed good enough to be seen in the company of her followers in the convent adjacent to the industrial “school”. The nuns may have lived side by side the inmates but the latter were poles apart, not only because of a partition wicket gate colloquially known as the wicked gate that separated them, but also because they were seen as the lowest of Irish society, and not fit enough to be in their holy company. Think Dalits in India.
Nevertheless, what should one expect when the nuns in the nearby convent, who were bound to obedience, never once extended the hand of friendship to children in Goldenbridge. We prayed with them every day in the chapel, but never knew them by name, as we were not allowed to have any contact. They could have been living on another planet as far as we were concerned. It was forbidden to turn our heads around in the chapel and look at them at only three feet away. When they came to the Industrial school several times a year to watch a film, they never spoke a word to us. Upon looking back, it seems so at odds with the Mercy label they carried.
There was also rampant class discrimination in Ireland within Catholicism in the past. It was such a pity that CM’s followers could not then ‘observe’ that there were 150/200 children without mothers and fathers right in their midst, who had a lot of ‘potential’ that could have been positively exploited if they had given any thought about them at all. It would have gone a long way in helping them to adjust to the big world outside when their incarceration periods ceased. After all, ‘Mother Catherine McAuley was illustrated as a person whose concern for the poor was limitless.”

I’ve been reading the Sisters of Mercy website, and there is nowhere to be found any mention of industrial “schools” from my observation, anyway. I think the Sisters of Mercy are still in so much denial about their rotten treatment of the most vulnerable children who were entrusted into their care in industrial “schools” in the past.

Establishment of Goldenbridge

The Sisters of Mercy were founded by Catherine McAuley in Dublin in 1831.

7.09 In 1855, Cardinal Cullen invited the Sisters of Mercy to provide a rehabilitation service to women who had been incarcerated in Mountjoy jail, by educating them and preparing them for final release. Cardinal Cullen originally rented the premises at Goldenbridge and paid the rent for a five-year period. The convict refuge was opened in 1856. The Sisters continued with this work until 1883.

7.10 In 1858, within two years of commencing this mission, the Sisters of Mercy had established a convent, a national school for the poor of the area, and a commercial laundry on the premises originally acquired by Cardinal Cullen, as well as the rehabilitation service for prisoners. These projects were funded by the mother house, which was then in Baggot Street, Dublin.

7.11 In 1880, a building within the complex was certified as an industrial school for girls, with a certification for 50. It was called St Vincent’s Industrial School and it opened with an initial intake of 30 girls.

7.12 In 1883, the convict refuge was converted into the Industrial School. Dormitories, a dining hall, workrooms and extra accommodation were added over the subsequent two years, at a cost of some £2,000. Within five years, the School had increased its certification from 50 to 150.

7.13 From 1885, the number of children accommodated in the School remained steady, although there was a significant increase over the 1950s and 1960s, up to a high of 193 in 1964. At the time of its closure in 1983, there were 46 pupils in Goldenbridge.

Read more:  Goldenbridge – Commission to Inquire into Child Abuse


Goldenbridge Industrial *School*: Twisted Sisters by Peter and Leni 

H/t photo goldenbridge.htm 


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