On August 20th 1900, Saint Otteran’s School – dedicated to the patron
of Waterford Diocese – was officially opened. This school was located
in Philip Street. It was built to provide education for the young
children of the local parish. On the first day 210 pupils enrolled.
Within four years there were 400 students. The Mercy sisters teaching in
the school commuted each day in a covered carriage from their convent,
which was located at John’s Hill, adjoining St Patrick’s Hospital. In
1906 the present convent was built on Military Road and the formal
opening took place on the 24th September of that year.
St Otteran’s School provided a broad and good quality education, with the result that enrolments continued to increase. An extra building – the present St. Bridgid’s Family and Community Centre – was constructed to accommodate senior students.
The need to provide secondary education for pupils attending the school became apparent. In 1935 it was decided to open a ‘secondary top’. This meant that the school officially remained a primary school, but it prepared pupils for the Intermediate and Leaving Certificate Examinations. Had a full secondary school been opened the pupils would have had to pay fees and this would have deprived many of them of the chance of an education. Located in St Bridgid’s, the secondary top eventually had 120 pupils. Six girls sat the Intermediate Examination in 1936.
In the 1960’s the Mercy Order decided to build new schools at Military Road. The Holy Family Junior School and Our Lady of Mercy Secondary School were opened in February 1965. The secondary top pupils were accommodated in the new buildings.
With the advent of free secondary education in 1967, the Mercy Sisters decided to establish a secondary school. This happened in 1968. However, accommodation in the Military Road buildings proved inadequate as enrolment increased to 400. A new secondary school was built on Ozanam Street, Meanscoil Mhuire na Trocaire – Our Lady of Mercy Secondary School – could accommodate 550 students and was opened in September 1977. The total number of students was 336 and there were 22 teachers. Since 1977 additional classrooms have been added to cater for the increasing number of students. The present enrolment is 600.
The Mercy Schools have come a long way since that August morning years ago when a small school was opened in Philip Street. In the past century thousands of young girls have received their education at the Mercy.
Mother Catherine McCauley – founder of the Mercy Sisters
Catherine McCauley, the founder of the Sisters of Mercy, was born at Stormanstown House, Dublin, on the 19th September 1778. Her parents died when she was young and at eighteen Mr and Mrs Callaghan of Coolock House adopted her. Catherine was left a fortune of £28,000 (€32000) by her adoptive father in 1822. She decided to use this money to set up an institution, which would educate poor children, distribute food and clothing to the needy, and visit the sick. The site chosen for this work was a new building in Lower Baggot Street. Catherine, and the like-minded women who joined her in her work, lived in community, sharing their goods and taking private vows. On the 12th December 1831 the Mercy Congregation was founded. When Catherine McCauley died in 1841, the Mercy Sisters were well established in many Irish towns. The congregation was to spread to other parts of the world, including Australia, Africa and South America.