The Mary Aikenhead Heritage Centre showcases the history of the Religious Sisters of Charity. Through audio-visual scenes and many short video clips, visitors gain an insight into the life and times of Mary Aikenhead (1787-1858), the history of the congregation, and its continuing expression today.
Mary Aikenhead spent the last 27 years of her life as an invalid, communicating to her congregation through countless letters. The focal point of the exhibition is her room, where she lived from 1845 until her death in 1858.
Following her training at the Bar Convent in York, Mary founded the Congregation of the Religious Sisters of Charity and the first convent opened in North William Street, Dublin in 1815.
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.
At the request of the Archbishop of Dublin, the Sisters of Charity opened their first school in 1830 in Gardiner Street, Dublin.
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 nursing to the convalescents. Only one sister contracted the disease, and she survived.
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.
The Children’s Hospital in Temple Street 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 which they did in July 1876.
Our Lady’s Hospice, Harold’s Cross was opened in 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’.
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.
Open Tuesday to Sunday 10.30 am – 4.00 pm.
Our Lady’s Hospice, Harold’s Cross Rd, Harold’s Cross, Dublin 6W
Admission is free. Please phone in advance to arrange a visit.