Saints and Holy People

Find out about their lives and how they changed the world

Venerable Catherine McAuley (1778–1841)

Venerable Catherine McAuley (1778–1841)

Feast day: November 11

Venerable Catherine McAuley was born to devout Catholic parents in Dublin, Ireland. Her parents lived out their faith by ministering to the needs of the poor. Sadly, Catherine’s parents passed away, and she was sent to live with relatives. Catherine’s relatives were Protestant and urged her to join their church. However, Catherine refused their wishes and remained a faithful Catholic.

At the age of 25, Catherine was asked to be a live-in helper to a wealthy elderly couple. Catherine attended to their needs, as well as the needs of the poor people in their neighborhood, with such loving and tender care that the elderly couple was inspired to join the Catholic Church. When the elderly couple passed away, they left all of their wealth and possessions to Catherine. Their generosity blessed Catherine with the funding she needed to establish a house to serve those in need.

In 1827, the House of Mercy opened its doors. The establishment included a school, a church, an area used to train residents for the workforce, and living quarters for the poor and for women who wished to be part of Catherine’s ministry. Although she initially did not want to form a religious order because she feared it would take her away from her work with the poor, she was convinced by the archbishop of Dublin to train to become a nun.

When she took her vows of poverty, chastity, and obedience, she was also permitted to take a vow of service to the poor, the sick, and the uneducated. Catherine began her order, the Religious Sisters of Mercy, in 1831.

She and her sisters dressed in plain clothing instead of in habits, and were known as “walking nuns” because they spent the majority of their time ministering to those in their local town.

(Image in public domain-70)