‘Mary Sullivan has an unparalleled knowledge of her subject and a clear understanding of Catherine McAuley’s context. This book will be an important contribution to the growing literature on Catholic Ireland in the 19th century’
- Dáire Keogh, St Patrick’s College Drumcondra, DCU.
This is the first full-length, documented narrative in more than fifty years of the life of Catherine McAuley (1778?–1841), the Dublin woman who founded the Sisters of Mercy. This work places McAuley in her Irish context, particularly in post-penal Dublin, where the destitution, epidemics and lack of basic education, especially of poor women and young girls, led her to a life of practical mercifulness.
Using extensive primary sources and questioning aspects of earlier accounts,The path of mercy illuminates Catherine’s personality and details her life. It recounts her efforts, using her inheritance from her foster parents, to address the poverties of Irish people in her time. Together with the women who eventually joined her when she founded the Sisters of Mercy in 1831, she sheltered homeless women, taught them employable skills, opened a school for the daughters of the very poor, and visited the sick and dying in the slums of Dublin.
She later founded the same works of mercy in nine other towns in Ireland and in two cities in England. At the age of 63, she died of tuberculosis in the Baggot Street convent. During the past 180 years, more than 55,000 Sisters of Mercy have served among the poor and needy throughout the world.
‘This new life of a great and heroic Irish woman is the outcome of decades of devoted research by its American author, Mary C. Sullivan, herself a Mercy nun … she has filled out the details of [McAuley’s] whole life, a life devoted largely to work among the wretched of the Earth … Marcy C. Sullivan bases herself on extensive primary sources, scattered around the world, which enable her to revise some of what was popularly thought, and to sort out the difference between what she was believed to have said and done, and what she actually did. The long appendix to this book on these primary sources makes for very revealing reading … here in some 390 closely written pages are the fullest facts we have ever had … this is not just an account of a religious order: through her personality and the work Catherine McAuley’s nuns did, this is a contribution to our understanding of the development of modern Ireland and the part that the religious played in it. It is a book which its readers will find greatly rewarding in many ways',
- Peter Costello, The Irish Catholic (March 2012).