The true spirit of the Sisters of Mercy has permeated Stella Maris since its beginning in 1953. In caring for the sick, we follow the example of Catherine McAuley, showing great tenderness in all things.
Catherine McAuley, Foundress of the Sisters of Mercy
Catherine McAuley was born in 1778 in Dublin, Ireland. She recognized the needs of the economically poor and was committed to making a difference. Having received an unexpected inheritance, Catherine used her wealth to build a home to shelter and educate poor women and girls. On September 24, 1827, Catherine opened the House of Mercy on Lower Baggot Street in Dublin. With many women joining Catherine in her ministry of service, the Archbishop of Dublin advised her to found a new religious congregation so that her work may continue. After prayerful discernment, Catherine agreed, and on December 12, 1831, she and two of her companions professed religious vows as the first Sisters of Mercy.
When Catherine died ten years later in 1841, she had established 14 independent foundations in Ireland and England. The Sisters of Mercy continued Catherine’s legacy of service throughout the world. Today, there are Sisters of Mercy serving on six continents and in 46 countries, including the United States.
Sisters of Mercy Come to Baltimore
The Sisters of Mercy came to the United States in 1843, arriving in Pittsburgh on December 21. Upon receiving a request from the Bishop of Baltimore to administer a parish school for girls, Mother Frances Warde sent Mother Catherine Wynne and three others Sisters of Mercy, arriving at St. Peter’s Church in southwest Baltimore on June 28, 1855. For almost 160 years, the Sisters of Mercy have served the needs of the Baltimore area community. They have ministered in parishes, in educational and social work settings, and in healthcare facilities. In 1953, Baltimore’s Archbishop Francis P. Keough invited the Sisters of Mercy to administer a new diocesan retirement home, Stella Maris. For more than 60 years, the Sisters of Mercy have met the ever-changing needs of the elderly, providing excellent care within a compassionate community setting.[/expand]
The Mercy Cross
Catherine McAuley said that the Institute (of the Sisters of Mercy) was founded on Calvary. In the original habit, the Sisters wore a large rosary with a black ebony cross with a white ivory centre. Catherine designed this cross without a body to remind the Sisters that as the body of Christ they were the invisible ones on the cross. Thinking symbolically, they could place themselves on the cross with Jesus in his greatest act of mercy for humanity.
After the Second Vatican Council, religious life experienced a renewal during the 1970s. As the Sisters began to wear clothing other than a habit, they wished to have an identifying symbol, distinguishing them as Sisters of Mercy. Sr. Maria Josephine D’Angelo, R.S.M., designed a modern version of Catherine’s Mercy cross, which is worn by all Sisters of Mercy throughout the world. The Mercy Cross can be found in many forms throughout the Stella Maris campus.