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Our History

The Sisters of Mercy of Elphin

In common with the West of Ireland, Sligo and surrounding countryside suffered severe privation and suffering during the years of the great Famine. In these circumstances, the Administrator of Sligo, Fr Owen Feeney, saw the need for active Religious Sisters who would serve the poor through Visitation and Education. He asked the Sisters of Mercy in Limerick to send a Foundation to Sligo. Mother Elizabeth was unable to spare any Sisters but at her suggestion, he went to Westport and succeeded in persuading Mother Paul Cullen to send Sisters to Sligo. She herself with Four others arrived in Sligo in June 1846.

Ben Bulben

Ben Bulben

Because of the exceptional circumstances of the time, St Patrick's Convent, was founded in Poverty. The only provision made was a promise of a subscription to be paid annually by a number of people in the neighbourhood. These subscriptions were never made owing to the fact that even people of comfortable means were reduced to destitution.

Mother De Sales McDonnell was appointed the first leader. Entering in Galway, she had known the Foundress Catherine McAuley. She was sent to Westport in 1843. Having Spent three years in Westport, she arrived in Sligo in 1846 and led the new Community until her death. She had a tender and devoted love for God and the poor but worn out by trouble and privation she died in 1854 aged thirty four.
In 1849 there was a Cholera outbreak in Sligo. The young community set to work, immediately, in the Cholera Hospitals. They also attended the Fevers Hospital and the Workhouse. As well as caring for the sick, they prepared children and Adults for the sacraments. This work was extended when the Schools were ready.

CrossIn 1853, the Sisters of Mercy from St Mary's in Limerick, made a foundation in Roscommon. Their first leader in Roscommon was Mother Vincent Hartnett. Their first home was in Church Street, on the site of the present AIB Bank. Before long the sisters busied themselves with Visitation of the Prison, the Workhouse and the Infirmary. They took charge of the school which was then situated in the lane opposite the Convent. They had limited space in Church Street and eventually they bought a ten - acre site which was unfortunately divided by the railway line. A beautiful Convent was erected here and was completed in 1861. A School and an orphanage were included in the building.

From Sligo and Roscommon the Sisters established convents throughout the Diocese.

Athlone was founded from Roscommon in 1857 and Elphin in 1858. The four Convents established between 1846 and 1858 were amalgamated under central authority in 1871. The first Superior General was Mother Joseph Jones. She resided in Sligo and a Diocesan novitiate was also established there.

Mt KenyaOther foundations soon followed: Boyle in 1875, Castlerea in 1887, Summerhill in 1882, Strokestown in 1891, St John's Sligo in 1899, Sacred Heart Convent, Roscommon in 1921 and Mullaghmore in 1921.

Two Convents were established in California in 1956 and a Convent and Hospital in Mutoma in Kenya in 1962. Further houses and convents in California and Kenya in the Sixties and Seventies.

In the 1980s the era of small houses began in the Elphin Diocese. Houses were opened in Cranmore, Cleeveragh, John Street in Sligo, and Battery Heights in Athlone.

In the Nineties as bigger Convents closed, smaller houses became the norm for a number of sisters.

The beautiful Convent of the Immaculate Conception in Roscommon has been replaced by McAuley House which can only accommodate a Community of nine. Likewise a magnificent stone building in Strokestown has been replaced by a smaller house in Lisroyne. Three smaller houses have replaced St Patrick's Convent in Sligo which has been there since Famine Years.

The Lake Isle of Inisfree

The Lake Isle of Inisfree

... but dreams don't last --
Though dreams are not forgotten --
And soon I'm back to stern reality.
But though they pave the footways here with gold dust,
I still would choose the Isle of Inisfree.

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