The Order of the Sisters of Mercy was founded in Ireland in 1831 by Catherine McAuley. Catherine was an extraordinary woman of deep faith and trust in God. She died in 1841, a mere 10 years after founding the Order. The Order focused on improving the wellbeing of poor women. Initially she welcomed these women and girls into her home where she provided them with accommodation, education and health services. The Sisters later became known as the 'walking nuns' as they visited the poor and sick in their homes. The Sisters of Mercy continue to provide educational, health and wellbeing services today.
Catherine said, "The Lord and Master of our House and Home is a faithful Provider. Let us never desire more than enough —He will give that and a blessing."
In 1846, the first foundation in Australia was made in Perth. In July 1891, descending from Carrick-on-Suir, County Tipperary, a convent at Mansfield was established. From that foundation, a branch house was opened in Lilydale in 1896.
In 1975, Mount Lilydale College became a coeducational school after serving as a school for young ladies since its foundation. Through careful and continuous expansion, Mount Lilydale Mercy College today has an enrolment of 1460 students and serves the educational needs of families in the outer eastern region of Melbourne and the Yarra Valley.
The ongoing development of Mount Lilydale Mercy College has given continual witness to the spirit of Mercy, courage, trust and confidence in God. As a Mercy school we have a uniqueness in our spirituality. The first-class learning environment is animated by the spirit of freedom, hospitality, love and mercy. Each student experiences respect, self-worth and unconditional acceptance.
Mount Lilydale Mercy College endeavours to emphasise cooperation and justice, leading students to play their role in protecting and enhancing human values in the world of the 21st century.
In 1846, the first foundation in Australia led by Ursula Frayne was made in Perth. In 1857, Ursula travelled to Melbourne to establish the first foundation of the Sisters of Mercy in Victoria. Today there are over 1000 Sisters of Mercy in Australia who work in education, health, social welfare and parish work as well as on the Mission in Malaysia, Pakistan, the Philippines, New Guinea and Africa.
The 180th anniversary of the founding of the Sisters of Mercy by Venerable Catherine McAuley in Ireland was celebrated on 12 December 2011.
On this date, 14 of the 17 Australian Mercy congregations, along with the sisters from the Autonomous Region of Papua New Guinea (PNG), came together as one new organisation known as the Institute of Sisters of Mercy of Australia and Papua New Guinea.
Mercy Education Limited is engaged in the ministry of Catholic Secondary Education in Victoria, Tasmania and Western Australia. The responsibility for the schools varies according to the nature of the particular school.