Our Spirit, Our Story…
Mud. That was Mother Agatha O’Brien’s first impression of
They began by opening the first Catholic schools, starting the first orphanage, and founding the city’s oldest hospital.
In 1846, the needs of Irish immigrants and the insistent invitation of Rev. William Quarter, the city’s first Catholic bishop, drew the Sisters of Mercy to
When they arrived,
Many “firsts” occurred with this pioneer group. They were the first and only religious women’s group in
The sisters began “free” schools the morning after they arrived in
Blessings quickly multiplied. The sisters were soon teaching evening and catechism classes to adults. They sheltered young women; they visited inmates in the city jail; they nursed those afflicted by the frequent and deadly epidemics; and in the wake of these epidemics, they cared for orphans.
In 1850, the sisters began nursing at the
Within eight years, all but one of the original group of sisters had died. However, others had come. They established foundations and ministries in
The Chicago Fire
Then, they woke the evening of October 8, 1871, to watch their 25 years in
All the buildings owned by the Sisters of Mercy on Wabash and Michigan Avenues were destroyed by the fire of 1871. The sale of these buildings was to be finalized the Monday after the Sunday fire. Although they had buildings on the south side of the city, they had to relocate many of their ministries.
St. Xavier Convent of Mercy Motherhouse, was built after the fire: 1873 – 1901 at 29th and Wabash. Prominent award-winning architect , W.W. Boyington designed the Motherhouse which housed sisters, an Academy and other Mercy Services.. After 1901 this became Mercy Business Club for Working Girls, housing and continued as the convent.
Social services were evident in Chicago as early as 1921 when there surfaced a dire need in the diocese for unwed mothers. George Cardinal Mundelein asked the sisters to take on this work of Mercy. Misericordia Home was opened to care for these young mothers. Later, this institution transformed its work to housing and care of handicapped children. In the 1970s, the ministry extended to housing older children and young adults with mental and physical limitations.
What Agatha and her companions had sown in
The sisters also sponsor St. Catherine Residence in
Outreach to immigrants continues. Sisters wait and pray with immigrants who are in the process of being deported. They support their families.
The sisters today are still ministering in elementary, secondary, and higher education. They also serve as parish staff members, writers, artists, social workers, spiritual directors, board members, volunteers, healthcare providers, and much more.
Sisters of Mercy