JOPLIN, Mo. — You may not be familiar with her name, but she and her followers have had a profound impact on the Joplin area, and beyond. Mary Catherine McAuley was born in Dublin, Ireland in 1778.

After losing both parents at an early age, she and her siblings were adopted by a wealthy couple. After their passing, she devoted her time and treasure to the care and education of the sick and the poor. She started her own order of Catholic nuns called the Sisters of Mercy. Their influence is felt all over the world as well as the Four States.

“The Mercy Sisters brought Catholic education to Joplin and also Catholic healthcare to Joplin, so Mercy Hospital, McAuley High School, St. Peter’s, this was all started by the Mercy Sisters. And we’re so grateful, so they have a beautiful, powerful legacy of education and healthcare here in the Joplin area,” said Edward Rice, Bishop, Springfield-Cape Girardeau.

Catholic education in Joplin started by the sisters of mercy actually predates public education. And it was Catholic education that lead Joan Schwager to join McAuley’s order. She was one in a group of nuns that renewed their vows at an all-school mass celebrating Mercy Day.

“When I was going to college at Mount Mercy University, the Sisters of Mercy were my professors, and I saw the joy and the happiness that they had and how they intermingled with each other and had fun, and took their work seriously but enjoyed their life. And so I wanted to be part of that,” said Sister Joan Schwager, Sister of Mercy.

After mass, students of St. Mary’s Elementary, St. Peter’s Middle School and McAuley High School gathered to pay it forward for patients at the local Mercy Hospital.

“Today, we’re making stickers and Mercy cards for people in the hospital,” said Gianna Buccieri, St. Mary’s Elementary 4th Grade.

“That’s pretty cool, coming over here and working with little kids, getting to know them. I think it’s pretty cool,” said Kendall Jones, McAuley High School Senior.

Sister Mary Catherine McAuley is now just two steps away from being named a saint by the Catholic Church, and members of the order she founded, who hope that happens by their 200th anniversary.