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History of the Catherine McAuley Center

The Catherine McAuley Center traces its origins to a group of dedicated members of the Sisters of Mercy Community, led by foundress Sr. Anne Paye, RSM, who first identified the crisis in housing for women and children in Scranton in 1979.


By 1983 Sister Anne, Sister Dorothy McLaughlin, and Sister Elizabeth Brandreth began reaching out to local women in need by sharing the extra bedrooms in their convent, the former St. Joseph Lithuanian Convent in North Scranton. The first woman to be accepted into the Convent as a guest was welcomed on Sept. 1, 1984. The ministry was formally incorporated as the Catherine McAuley Center in 1985, and would go on to hold its first board meeting on July 31, 1986.


In the several decades since, the Center has expanded to meet the needs of an evolving population of women and children experiencing homelessness, extending its services to include scattered-site rapid rehousing and transitional housing for women and children, women who have been incarcerated; and chronically homeless adults and families with mental health and other disabilities.


Beyond the shelter of a roof and walls, our wide range of supportive services helps individuals and families overcome the trauma of homelessness through a client-centered approach that includes education, counseling, life skills, education, and access to employment and training opportunities. All services are provided free of charge. 

Our team and leadership

Learn more about the board of directors and staff of the Catherine McAuley Center!



Born into a wealthy family in Dublin, Ireland, Catherine McAuley's comfortable early life turned upside down when her father died in 1783. She was only five years old. Catherine's mother managed to maintain a home of relative affluence for her three children by slowly selling off parcels of land, but she too would pass in 1798. Catherine went to live at first with an impoverished uncle and later cousins with whom Catherine clashed over religious convictions. When her mother's wealthy relatives William and Catherine Callaghan returned from India in 1803, Catherine gladly moved in to manage their elegant home. She lived there for nearly 20 years, providing religious instructions to the Catholic servants and village children and helping the less-privileged in the community find resources to improve their lives.

When William Callaghan passed in 1822, he named Catherine McAuley as his sole heir. She used her inheritance to establish a 'House of Mercy' on Baggot Street in September 1827. There, she and several companions provided food, clothing, housing, medical care, and education for many of Dublin's poor women and young girls. At first, Catherine distinguished herself from nuns and their convents, but in time she came to realize that in order for her work to continue, the House of Mercy would need to become a convent. In 1831, with the approval of Archbishop Daniel Murray, the congregation of Sisters of Mercy was founded, with the Baggot Street house serving as its first convent.


On December 12 of that year, the first Sisters of Mercy took vows of poverty, chastity, obedience, and service. The Mercy Rule, approved by Rome, gave them the freedom to move beyond the convent to wherever the poor, sick, and uneducated needed help. People in Dublin would call them the "walking nuns."

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