Florence Nightingale

The Bermondsey Sisters

The Bermondsey nuns who accompanied Florence Nightingale to the Crimea to nurse the British sick and wounded were sent by their Bishop and recieved no pay. The Sisters of Mercy were a congregation of women founded in Dublin, Ireland, in 1827, by Catherine Elizabeth McAuley, born 29 September, 1787, at Stormanstown House, County Dublin. The costume adopted by the sisters consists of a habit of black material falling in folds from the throat to the feet and lengthened into a train behind, which is worn looped up except in the chapel, the community-room, and the parlour. The habit is confined to the waist by a leather girdle, or cincture, from which depends a black rosary with the ebony cross of the congregation. The sleeves are long and wide with close-fitting undersleeves of the same material as the habit. The veil is black, long, and flowing. The novices wear shorter veils of white cambric, otherwise their dress is the same as that of the professed sisters. Church cloaks of white woollen material are worn on great feasts in the chapel and for certain ceremonies. The gimp is a white linen collar, very deep in front. The coif is of white linen. The rule and constitutions of the congregation were not completed until 1834, nor approved until 1835, yet they contained in substance only that which had been observed from the year 1827. The basis of the rule was that of St. Austin although circumstances required many alterations before its approval. Kingstown was the first place outside the capital in which a house of the congregation was opened, and outside of the archdiocese Tullamore was the first town to welcome the sisters. In 1838, at the suggestion of Rev. Peter Butler of Bermondsey, some English ladies came to Ireland to serve a novitiate for the purpose of introducing the congregation into England. Upon their return, Mother M. Clare Moore was appointed the superior of the Bermondsey Convent. Lady Barbara Eyre, daughter of the Catholic Earl of Newburgh, was the first one to be received into the new congregation. As Sister Mary de Sales, she made her vows in 1841 and after a very edifying life died in 1849.

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