Mary Aikenhead Is Declared Venerable By Pope Francis

Mary Aikenhead Is Declared Venerable By Pope Francis

19 Mar 2014

The founder of the Sisters of Charity, Mary Aikenhead (1787-1858), who established the Congregation in 1815 to provide services to “the suffering poor”, has today been declared Venerable by Pope Francis; the second of four steps in the Catholic Church’s Canonisation process.

Throughout the world today Religious Sisters of Charity are in Ireland, England, Scotland, Zambia, California, Nigeria, Malawi and Australia. Religious Sisters of Charity continue to work courageously and creatively with people who are poor in the areas of healthcare, education, pastoral and social work. They actively engage in advocacy, action and prayer for people in need, linking and networking with others in the quest for justice, peace and the integrity of creation.

When Mary Aikenhead set up her Congregation two hundred years ago, there were only a hundred women religious in Ireland, all enclosed contemplatives. Mary applied to Rome for permission for her Sisters to take a fourth vow of ‘Service of the Poor’, enabling them to visit poor people and her sisters became the first women religious to visit prisoners in Kilmainham Gaol. In 1830, she opened her first Catholic school for poor children in Gardiner Street, Dublin and founded St Vincent’s Hospital in 1834, the first Hospital in Ireland to be run by women to care for patients of all creeds.

In 1838 Mary Aikenhead sent five Sisters to Australia, the first women religious to set foot in this country. Sister Clare Nolan, Congregational Leader of the Sisters of Charity of Australia notes “All around her Mary Aikenhead saw the plight of people who were poor and suffering. Her great faith and trust in Divine Providence enabled her and
the first Religious Sisters of Charity to provide education for poor children,
establish medical facilities for those in need of health care and to visit the sick
and poor in their homes”.

Today the Sisters legacy across the healthcare and education landscape in Australia is profound. Along the East Coast, St Vincent’s hospitals have pioneered medical breakthroughs and provided outreach and care to the marginalised in a way that has made a profound difference to the lives of millions of Australians over the years.

For more information contact David Faktor on 02 8382 2866