Easons-HillA Brief History of the Congregation – some significant dates

Here are just a few of the historical events you can learn about at the Heritage Centre.

Mary Aikenhead
Mary Aikenhead, foundress of the Religious Sisters of Charity, was born on 19 January 1787 in Cork City, Ireland.
She died on 22 July 1858 in Harold’s Cross, Dublin.

First Convent
Following Mary’s training at the Bar Convent in York, the Congregation of the Religious Sisters of Charity was founded and the first convent opened in North William Street, Dublin in 1815.

Prison Ministry
In 1821 the Governor of Kilmainham Gaol asked for sisters to visit two young women who had been convicted of murder and sentenced to death. The Governor was so impressed by the sister’s influence on these women that he asked that they would continue to be involved in prison visitation. To this day, prison visitation is an important ministry for the Congregation.

First Schoolsouth-chapel
At the request of the Archbishop of Dublin, the Sisters of Charity opened their first school in 1830 in Gardiner Street, Dublin.

Cholera Epidemic
In 1832 there was an outbreak of Asiatic cholera in Ireland. A temporary hospital was set up in Grangegorman but it was badly managed and under-staffed. The Archbishop of Dublin asked Mary Aikenhead to send some of her sisters to Grangegorman to help. The death rate was high, but the sisters remained at their posts bringing solace to the dying and gentle nursing to the convalescents. Only one sister contracted the disease, but none died.

St. Vincent’s Hospital, Dublin
In 1835 St. Vincent’s Hospital opened in a house on St. Stephen’s Green. It was the first hospital staffed by nuns in the English-speaking world.

Five sisters set sail for Australia on 12 August 1838. They were the first women religious ever to set foot on Australian soil. The first convent was opened in Parramatta.

In 1840 Mary Aikenhead answered a call for help from the Jesuits in Preston,rutland-street Lancashire which led to the opening of the Congregation’s first convent in England.

Temple Street Children’s Hospital
The Children’s Hospital was founded in 1872 by a group of charitable people in a house at 9 Upper Buckingham Street, Dublin. There was a steady increase in activity in the first years prompting the Governing Committee in 1876 to invite the Religious Sisters of Charity to take over the complete running of the hospital. So on 2 July 1876 the Congregation took over the hospital.

First Hospice
Our Lady’s Hospice, Harold’s Cross was opened on 9th December 1879. Newspaper reports at the time hailed the opening of the Hospice as ‘a unique charity’ and as one ‘previously unknown in these islands, or indeed in the neighbouring continent’.

Foxford Woollen Mills
In 1892 Providence Woollen Mills was established under the guidance of Sr. Mary Arsenius Morrogh Bernard as a way of improving the social and economic conditions of the people of Foxford, Co. Mayo.

In 1948 the first three sisters arrived in Zambia. The first convent was situated in Chikuni. Thirteen foundations were established between 1948 and 1992.

Also in 1948 the Congregation was established in Scotland – in Clydebank

In 1953 five sisters arrived in Los Angeles, California and began work in schools. Up to 1970 the chief apostolates were in the field of education and care of the elderly and sick, but now the work has broadened to include more formal social work and pastoral ministry.

In 1961 sisters went to Lagos to serve in the Pacelli School for Visually Impaired children. The work in Nigeria has expanded to include running hospitals and schools and pastoral work.

In 2011 the Congregation established a community in Konzalendo. Here the sisters are working in a participatory way with the local people.

Watercolours by Sr Eileen Carroll RSC  (1937-2007)