Sisters of Mercy & History

Mercy McAuley High School is part of the Mercy Education System of the Americas, a ministry of the Sisters of Mercy.

Catholic Mercy education has a long and rich history in Cincinnati and throughout the United States. This history is rooted in Ireland in the ministry of Catherine McAuley, the founder of the Sisters of Mercy, and her companions. Catherine recognized the many needs of people who were economically poor in early nineteenth century Ireland and determined that she and women like her could make a difference.

Spending her inheritance, Catherine opened the first House of Mercy on Lower Baggot Street in Dublin, Ireland, on September 24, 1827, as a place to shelter and educate women and girls. Catherine's original intention was to assemble a lay corps of Catholic social workers. Impressed by her good works and the importance of continuity in the ministry, the archbishop of Dublin advised her to establish a religious congregation. Three years later, on December 12, 1831, Catherine and two companions became the first Sisters of Mercy.

In 1843, Mother Frances Warde and six Irish sisters crossed the Atlantic to establish the Sisters of Mercy in the United States, initially in Pittsburgh. Since then, the sisters’ work in ministering to the sick and economically poor has expanded to embrace education, health care and pastoral and social services in hundreds of sites as they respond to the changing needs of the times. Now an international congregation, the Sisters of Mercy dedicate their lives to God through vows of poverty, chastity, obedience and service.

The Institute of the Sisters of Mercy of the Americas comprises nearly 3,000 sisters in the United States, Central America, South America, the Caribbean, the U.S. territory of Guam, the Philippines, and Jamaica. Through prayer and service, the sisters address five Critical Concerns: the causes and effects of violence, racism, degradation of Earth, and injustice to women and immigrants. They serve in more than 200 organizations, called “ministries,” that help thousands of people annually. These include healthcare systems and clinics; schools, colleges and universities; pastoral care such as retreat and spirituality centers and programs; and social service ministries that focus on a variety of needs such as housing, poverty and issues faced by immigrants and refugees.

The Sisters of Mercy’s ministry in education has been thriving in Cincinnati for more than 100 years. They established Mother of Mercy High School in Westwood in 1915 and McAuley High School in 1960, and together, these schools graduated over 23,000 Women of Mercy through the year 2018. Today, this legacy, and this commitment to Catholic Mercy education in Cincinnati, lives on through the establishment of Mercy McAuley High School, which opened in August 2018 and is now part of the Mercy Education System of the Americas.