McAuley, Catherine

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McAuley was born to a happy, devout, wealthy Catholic family but her father died when she was seven. Her mother moved the three children from their country mansion to Dublin and converted to Protestantism, although she returned to the Catholic church just before she died a few years later.

Catherine was first fostered by a Protestant surgeon named Conway, then by the Armstrong family. Both families were well-to-do and both fell on hard times, but when she was 18 she was adopted by a Mr. and Mrs. Callahan, distant relatives, who were childless and wealthy. They, too, were Protestants, but McAuley converted both of them to Catholicism. When Callahan died in 1822 shortly after his wife, she was left his entire fortune.

She had long wished to do something to help poor women, and set about founding a religious order, the Order of Mercy, in 1829. The order has grown to be one of the largest women's orders in the church.


Dictionary of National Biography
Dever, Maria, and Dever, Aileen. Relative Origins: Famous Foster and Adopted People. (Portland: National Book Company, 1992)
The Catholic Encyclopedia
A Dictionary of Irish Biography, edited by Henry Boylan. (Dublin, Gill & Macmillan, 1998)


18th Century
19th Century
Financial Problems, Poverty, Bankruptcy
School-age Years, Adolescence
Orphaned (Both Parents)
Others ("Strangers")
Wealthy, Famous, Noble or Divine Adoptive or Foster Families
Very Poor (Financially) Adoptive or Foster Families
Other or Unknown Reasons for Serial Placement
Adoptees/Fosterees from Wealthy, Famous, Noble or Divine Birth Families
Parent(s) Died, Disappeared or Became Incapacitated
Birth Siblings Placed Together
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