Catherine was born into a wealthy family. She enjoyed worldly happiness and comfort in her childhood, inherited the elegant and gracious manners of her mother and staunchly unselfish faith of her father. Orphaned at an early age she was reduced to poverty and was to learn from experience the real wants of the poor.
As her work grew, however, Catherine realized that her ideals – however high – could achieve no permanence of continuity without a well organized system. The ecclesticial authorities, recognizing the work of the institution at Baggot Street, urged her to incorporate her workers into a religious congregation.
At the age of sixteen she was adopted by wealthy but intensely anti-Catholic relatives under whom she was forced to endure much for daring to follow her convictions. Eventually she was adopted by a wealthy couple, the Callaghans, who bequeathed to her their considerable fortune.
Catherine wished only to of the poor. Thus the wealth left to her gave the means to carry out her desires.
To accomplish her charitable designs she had built, in a fashionable area of Dublin, what she was pleased to call a House of Mercy. Here, with some other ladies who volunteered to work with her, she ministered to the physical and spiritual needs of the of the poor young women of Dublin.
“Oh, Reverend Mother, stay with us. What would the Order do if you died?” Mother Catherine replied “My child, if the Order is my work the sooner it falls to the ground the better. If it is God’s work it needs no one.” The spiritual wisdom expressed in these words Cod saw fit to give His answer in the spread of the Congregation.
At her death there were fourteen Convents of the order established and there one hundred of her. Today this Institute globe and nearly 30,000 in almost two thousand Colleges, Houses and bear testimony to her ideal.
The Sisters of Mercy arrived in New Zealand in 1861 since then they have opened convents all around the country. In the main they have worked in schools and hospitals.