Service of the Poor
Founded, Date/Place: January 15, 1815,Ireland
Foundress: Venerable Mary Aikenhead
Canonical Status: Pontifical
Motto: Caritas Christi Urget Nos (The Love of Christ Urges us on)
Charism: Service of the Poor
Mission Statement: Service of the poor calls us today to be women of and for justice
Purpose: For the glory of God and Salvation of Souls
Arrival Date In Nigeria: On January, 1961
Special Contribution To The Church: Responding to the needs of the poor through our various ministries
Location Of Generalate: Caritas, 15 Gilford Road, Sandymount, Dublin 4, Ireland
Principal House In Nigeria: Regional House, Satellite Town Lagos
Places Where We Are: Ireland, England, Scotland, Australia, California, Nigeria, Zambia and Malawi
Nigerian Sisters Working Outside Nigeria: None
Formation Houses Postulants House: Okpara Inland Novitiate: Town, Lagos.
Regional House P.O. Box 706, Satellite Town, Lagos
Regional Leader: Sr. Micheline O’Donell, RSC
Religious Sisters of Charity Nigerian Region P. O. Box 706, Satellite Town Lagos,
Mobile: 07015443442, 07068447376
Date Of Foundation: 1815
About the Foundress
Mary Aikenhead was born in Cork City, Ireland on 19th January, 1787. She was the child of a mixed marriage. Her father, David Aikenhead was a medical doctor of Scottish descent and her mother, Mary Stacpole, an Irish Catholic. Mary was baptized in the protestant Church of St. Mary’s Cork on 4th April, 1787. Due to poor health condition, Mary’s parents sent her to a cottage in the suburbs of the City, where air was better. The cottage which was located at Eason’s Hill belonged to a couple, John and Mary Rorke. With this, Mary was enabled to come in contact With Catholic religious practices and also with life, as experienced by the poor. She remained there until she was six (1787-1793). Mary returned to her parent’s home when her health got better.
On Becoming A Catholic (Parents’ Death)
When about nine or ten years of age, Mary began to visit her grandmother Mrs. Stackpole frequently.
The Stackpole’s family were genial, witty cultured hospitable and intensely Catholic. Intellectual and very pleasant people came to the house and this helped Mary to outgrow her prejudice against the Catholic faith, realizing that Protestants had no monopoly of culture. At about twelve years or age, her widowed aunt, Mrs. Rebecca Gorman, came to live in their home. Her aunt told her stories about God taught her how to pray the Rosary, brought her to Mass and explained things to her. This was also a period of struggle in Mary’s life. Love for her father and a fear of hurting him must also have kept her from an open avowal of faith. Mary’s father after retiring became ill and died on 15th December, 1801 having become a Catholic on deathbed, Mary took her father’s conversion as a sign that she should follow her desire and become a Catholic. A sermon preached by Dr. McCarthy, Coadjutor Bishop of Cork, on the parable of Dives and Lazarus, brought matters to a crisis. This sermon made a deep impression on her as she knew so many people around like “Lazarus”. She also knew some rich people like the “rich man” who were independent. She felt she would have to give her life to help the poor and also to encourage the rich to help them as well.
The struggle to reach out to the poor was so much in her that one day she exclaimed to her aunt in anguish, ‘Oh, I shall never be happy until I am a Catholic’. “And why not become one”? was her aunt’s reply. Helped by Mrs. Gorman, Mary began instruction classes in preparation for admission into the Church. She was formally received into the Church on Sunday 6th June 1802. She also made her first Communion on 29th June and was confirmed on 2nd July of the same year. A great sorrow came upon Mary and her younger ones again on their mother’s death which occurred on 24th August 1809. Her dream of becoming a religious seemed shattered. She automatically became responsible for her younger siblings, However, after placing her sisters in boarding school, she felt free enough to move on.
Mary grew up, tall and very pretty, with an attractive manner. She fitted easily into the social life around her, entering into various activities which were part of the social life of Cork. Under her frank girlish gaiety, there lay a depth of piety. She scarcely ever missed Mass. While other young girls were considering marriage, Mary had the poor to think about. Every morning, Mary and two of her friends, Cecilia and Frances visited the poor to assist in whatever way they could. So from girlhood, Mary gave much of her time to the poor, but it was not until she was about seventeen years of age, that she began to think of devoting herself to this apostolate in religious life. Mary prayed about the situation of things in her environment and felt that what was needed was a group of people completely given to this work. In the meantime, her friend, Cecilia prepared to join the poor Clare’s. Frances was discerning the married life but Mary felt God was calling her to be a sister, but not an enclosed one, The answer to her searching came when Dr. Daniel Murray, Archbishop of Dublin, proposed to establish a congregation of Sisters of Charity in Ireland. She expressed her desire of becoming a member of the Congregation. Contrary to her inclinations, Mary was appointed superior of the new congregation, having with a companion, undergone a regular novitiate training in the convent of the Institute of the Blessed Virgin Mary in York England (1812-1815).
First/Final Profession/ Apostolate
On 1st September 1815, Sr. Mary Aikenhead and Sr. Catherine Walsh took vows for one year only.
Sr. Mary Aikenhead was appointed superior general and Sr. Catherine, mistress of Novices. On 10th of September 1816, Mother Mary Aikenhead and her companion commenced visitation of the sick poor in the neighborhood which was a poverty stricken area, This was the first time in Ireland; nuns were seen in the streets, visiting the sick poor in their homes. On the 9th December; 1816, Mary Aikenhead took her perpetual vows along with her companion Catherine Walsh, She founded more communities in Stanhope Street, Cork, and Dublin. The establishment of St. Vincent’s Hospital was the realization of mother Aikenhead’s dream of providing professional medical care for the poor. St. Vincent Hospital was the first hospital administered and staffed by women to be established in Dublin.
Last Days And Death
Mother Aikenhead fell ill which lasted so long. For many years, she governed her Congregation through writings as she was unable to move about. On 22nd July 1858, after all her works and physical suffering, she died at Our Lady’s Mount, Harold’s Cross. She was buried in Donnybrook, Dublin.
We serve the poor in the following ministries: Health Care, Education, Pastoral and Social Work, Catechesis, Home visitation, Prison Ministry, Home for the Handicapped and Adult Education.
Sisters In Perpetual Vows
- Sr. Brid Greville
- Sr. Pauline Buttler
- Sr. Miriam Hennesey
- Sr. Rosaleen Desmond
- Sr. Micheline O’Donnel
- Sr. Clare Moomba
- Sr. Elizabeth Agugo
- Sr. Kelechi Kachepa
- Sr. Agatha Lucy Onye
- Sr. Francisca U. Ahumibe
- Sr. Veronica Ubanese
- Sr. Helen Eluagu
- Sr. Justina Nelson
- Sr. Sylvia Uwalaka
- Sr. Freda Ehimuan
- Sr. Monica Ichife
- Sr. Laeticia Amadi
- Sr. Augustina Offor
- Sr. Elizabeth Onyekigwe
- Sr. Angela Ogbunambala
- Sr. Gloria Ozuluoke
- Sr. Prisca Acholonu
- Sr. Eucharia Eya
- Sr. Francisca A. Ahumibe
- Sr. Rita Ajua
- Sr. Anthonia Eyelade
- Sr. Jacinta Stephen
- Sr. Gretrude Nkwocha
- Sr. Rachael Jikavworu
- Sr. Regina Okpara
- Sr. Stella Adelwole
- Sr. Rosemary Udeaja
- Sr. MaryAnn Emealo
- Sr. Maureen Anoje
- Sr. Irene Ugwoegbu
- Sr. Uche Ojukwu
- Sr. Perpetual Ihejirika
- Sr. Alozie Augustina
- Sr. Chioma Eze
Number Of Sisters In Temporary Vows – 16
- Sr. Brid Greville
- Sr. Pualine Buttler