Sisters of Mercy

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The Religious Order of the Sisters of Mercy (RSM) is an order of Catholic women founded by Catherine McAuley in Dublin, Ireland in 1831. As of 2003, the order has about 10,000 members worldwide, organized into a number of independent congregations.


Vows and activities

Sisters of Mercy are an international community of Roman Catholic women religious vowed to serve people who suffer from poverty, sickness and lack of education with a special concern for women and children. Members take vows of poverty, chastity, and obedience, the evangelical counsels commonly vowed in religious life, and, in addition, vows of service. They continue to participate in the life of the surrounding community. In keeping with their mission of serving the poor and needy, many sisters engage in teaching, medical care, and community programs. The organization is active in lobbying and politics.


The order began when McAuley used an inherited fortune to build a "House of Mercy" in Dublin that provided educational, religious, and social services for poor women and children. The House aroused local opposition, however, it being traditional for nuns rather than lay women to engage in this sort of activity. Eventually the church hierarchy agreed to the formation of a non-cloistered order, and the sisters became known informally as the "walking nuns" for their ability to care for the poor outside a convent. The house still sits today, as the Mercy International Centre.

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