Ever since their conception as an organization, the Sisters of Mercy have been a tenacious and courageous group of women.
It was because of the faith-filled vision of Catherine McAuley, Frances Warde and Mother Borgia Egan that the Sisters of Mercy have remained an influential, dedicated and strong presence in the world today.
Each year on Sept. 24, the Sisters of Mercy celebrate “Mercy Day” as the anniversary of Catherine McAuley founding the House of Mercy in Dublin, Ireland. McAuley chose this day to officially open the house so that it would coincide with the feast of Our Lady of Mercy, allowing the two to be celebrated each year together.
“It makes me feel wonderful to be a part of the celebration at Mercyhurst,” Sister Kathy Preston, of the Sisters of Mercy, said. “To know what the sisters had to go through to build the school up to what it is today is amazing.”
Sister Mary Paul Carioty, of the Sisters of Mercy, is always very excited for the festivities of Mercy Day.
“It is a big day for all of the Sisters of Mercy around the world,” Carioty said. “Mercy Day represents our life. It celebrates life, mercy and compassion.”
The Sisters celebrated the joyous occasion this past Saturday beginning with a solemn Mass as they renewed their vows of poverty, chastity, obedience and service. The vow of service is especially important for the Sisters of Mercy because they are the only order that takes this fourth vow. The day concluded with a large dinner in gratitude for the Sisters’ service to Mercy.
“It is wonderful to be a part of something this big and see how the culture of Mercy is within the spirit of the students,” Preston said.
McAuley was imbued with a strong charity toward the uneducated street children and the poor of Dublin during the 1800s. She purchased the House on Baggot Street, an affluent part of the city, with her family inheritance. The House of Mercy opened there on Sept. 24, 1827. From their humble beginnings in Ireland, today there are more than 6,000 Sisters of Mercy all over the world.
“Catherine McAuley was a gutsy lady” Carioty said. “You have to have guts to do what she did.”
Mercy Day is not only a celebration of the opening of the House of Mercy, it is the biggest celebration for the Sisters of Mercy as they commemorate the Sisters’ jubilees. A jubilee is the anniversary of a sister joining their religious order. This year, Sister Carol Ann Voltz was honored for her 60 years of service to the Sisters.
“I love celebrating the jubilees for the sisters,” Preston said. “It makes for a special day because it celebrates the day we were founded too.”
This year also marks a special celebration for the Sisters of Mercy in that they are celebrating 175 years since coming to the United States. The order of the Sisters of Mercy began with McAuley in 1830, but it was Warde and six other sisters who established the Sisters of Mercy of the Americas on Dec. 21, 1831, in Pittsburgh.
The Sisters’ influence has only grown over the past 175 years. The legacy of Warde in the United States still lives on through the Sisters’ established hospitals, schools and convents in four main locations in Rochester, N.Y., Buffalo, Pittsburgh and Erie. Students in Campus Ministry have been making 175 cards to give to the active Sisters today for the occasion.
“Once you know the history, you know the Sisters,” Carioty said. “We all have that same strength.”