A 19th century Irish nun has been put on the path to sainthood by Pope Francis.
Mother Mary Aikenhead dedicated herself to helping ‘the suffering poor’ and established the Religious Sisters of Charity, which opened its first convent in Dublin in 1815.
Mary was born into the Church of Ireland but became a Catholic when she was 15. In 1830, she opened her first Catholic school for poor children. The school was in Gardiner Street, Dublin. A number of today’s schools can be traced back to the Gardiner Street school including Stanhope Street Primary School, Dublin.
Mary went on to found St Vincent’s Hospital in Dublin in 1834 which was the first female run hospital to care for all creeds.
The order is still trustee for several institutions such as St Vincent’s Hospital Group, which includes St Vincent’s University Hospital, Elm Park, St Michael’s Hospital, Dún Laoghaire, and St Vincent’s Private Hospital.
St Vincent’s University Hospital is now one of Ireland’s top teaching hospitals. Mary was recently described as a ‘woman ahead of her time’ by Congregational Leader, Sr Mary Christian.
Sr Mary said: “All around her she saw the plight of people who were poor and suffering. Her life teaches and inspires us to have compassion for human pain, analyse unjust structures which are the cause of poverty, work with others to solve problems and remain resolute in the face of hardship.”
Yesterday Mother Mary was declared ‘Venerable’ by the Pope. This could mean that she will be canonised in the future.