(021) 427 1971    

Catherine McAuley - Founder of the Mercy Order

Catherine McAuley was born on September 29, 1778 in Dublin, Ireland. As both her parents died while she was young, Catherine, her brother and her sister went to live with relatives, (the Armstrongs) and though they were not Catholic, Catherine remained committed to her Catholic faith.

When she was 25 years old, Catherine became a live in companion to Mr and Mrs Callaghan, friends of the Armstrongs. Although they, too, did not approve of Catherine's Catholicity, they were willing to financially support her charitable work. For 20 years she gave catechetical instruction to the household servants and the poor village children from Coolock House, the Callaghan's home. She also taught needlework to young women and ran a small shop to sell their goods. Upon his death, William Callaghan appointed Catherine his sole heir, which enabled her to provide social services for poor women and children and educate young girls.

In 1824 Catherine leased a property in Baggot Street, Dublin. As it was being refurbished, she studied current educational methods in preparation for her new endeavour. The House was opened  and dedicated to Our Lady of Mercy on September 24, 1827 (now known as Mercy Day).  Soon after this hundreds of girls were enrolled in the school and it was also being used as a home for young servant girls. Catherine had a group of women who helped her at the house and together with them, she visited the sick in their homes, an extremely rare undertaking at the time.

In the early years, a group of 12 women lived and worked at Baggot Street, adopting a common timetable and dressing simply. This lifestyle and dedication to the poor led Catherine to consider establishing a religious congregation and on September 8, 1830, aged 52 years, Catherine joined the novitiate of the Presentation Convent in Dublin with two companions from Baggot Street. They were professed on December 12, 1831 and the Institute of the Sisters of Mercy was established.

Catherine's dream was now reality. She encouraged her Sisters to "educate poor girls, to lodge and maintain poor young women who are in danger and to visit the sick poor". Within 10 years Catherine founded nine Convents of Mercy in Ireland and England . Each new foundation was independent of the mother-house in Baggot Street but they were all linked to Catherine and each other by her frequent visits and letters.

Catherine died on November 11, 1841 after a short illness.


Mercy University Hospital - oldest part built between 1764 and 1767

The oldest part of Mercy University Hospital was once the Mansion House built for the Mayor of Cork between 1764 and 1767. The architect was an Italian by the name of Davis Ducart.
Many of the original features are still evident in the hospital today, for example, the female medical ward was originally a reception room and the current Physiotherapy unit once the Mayoral ballroom. The Minstrels Gallery is still in place high up on the wall over the doorway to this unit.



1842 to 1907

In 1842, the Corporation decided that the Mansion House was too expensive to maintain and they leased it to a priest anxious to set up a second level educational establishment. It then became known as St. Vincent 's Seminary. In 1857, St. Vincent 's Seminary moved to St. Patrick's Place and the Administration of Saints Peter and Paul requested the Vincentians to transfer the lease of the premises to them to provide a hospital for the sick and poor of the city. The cost of conversion from school to hospital was £3,793. Thus, on 17 March 1857, the story of  Mercy University Hospital began. A yearly rent was paid to the Corporation until 1927 when the Mercy Sisters bought the property.
When Mercy University Hospital first opened its doors, there were 40 beds in the hospital and four Sisters worked here. Eight admissions were recorded on the first day.  In 1907, the bed complement increased to 45.


In 1965, a new wing was built on to the hospital and this comprised of a Chapel, Convent, St. Anthony's Ward, Private Corridor 1 and an Operating Theatre.  Between 1979 and 1980 there was further development to the existing hospital which added an X-ray Department, Intensive Care Unit, St. Oliver's (Day) Ward and a Centre of Nurse Education.


In 1998, the Grenville Place Development opened comprising of: 124 public beds (medical and surgical) 50 bed acute Psychiatric Unit, (under the management of the Health Services Executive), Modern Pathology Department and Clinical Pharmacology Department.


In 2001, the Minister for Health and Children opened St. Therese's Ward which is a dedicated 15-bed Oncology Unit.  A new Care of the Elderly Unit (St. Mary's) opened in February 2002 and is a 15-bed acute assessment unit. The hospital offers inpatient, outpatient and day patient services in a wide variety of areas which can be found in the departments section of the web site.

Future Developments

In 2003 the Mercy was designated as a university hospital; and plans for the further expansion of hospital services have been prepared and submitted to the Department of Health and Children. These plans provide for both the expansion of existing services and the development of new services.