The Sisters of Mercy were founded in 1831 in Dublin, Ireland, by Catherine McAuley, a woman who sought, through her service to the poor, the sick and the uneducated, to reveal the mercy of God in our world. Catherine’s particular concern for women manifested itself in her efforts to help women to recognize their inherent dignity, to become self-directing and self-sustaining. Education was at the heart of this effort as was a desire to meet needs not being addressed by others.
When the Sisters of Mercy arrived in Pittsburgh in 1843, their first ministries arose from the needs presented by this burgeoning city – education and health care. Saint Mary’s Academy and the Mercy Hospital of Pittsburgh (now UPMC Mercy) were established within two years of their arrival.
In the late 1920s, another need presented itself – the lack of baccalaureate level education for the Catholic women of the city. After consultation with the bishop and the heads of the already existing institutions of higher learning, the Sisters of Mercy founded Mount Mercy College (now Carlow University) on September 24, 1929. These Mercy traditions of a particular focus on the concerns of women and of response to unmet needs have become hallmarks of the University. Carlow University is now sponsored by the Sisters of Mercy of the Americas through the Conference for Mercy Higher Education. The conference, comprised of 16 Mercy-sponsored colleges and universities, was created for “the preservation and development of the core Catholic identity and mission of Mercy higher education in accord with the spirit, mission and heritage of the Sisters of Mercy.”