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Mary Aikenhead

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Foundress of the Irish Sisters of Charity, born in Cork, 19 January, 1787; died in Dublin, 22 July, 1858; daughter of David Aikenhead, a physician, member of the Established Church, and Mary Stacpole, a Catholic. She was brought up in the Church of England , but became a Catholic 6 June, 1802, some time after the death of her father who had been received into the Church on his death-bed. Accustomed as she was to an active life of charity, and feeling called to the religious life, she looked in vain for an order devoted to outside charitable work. Against her will she was chosen by Archbishop Murray , Coadjutor of Dublin, to carry out his plan of rounding a congregation of the Sisters of Charity in Ireland, and in preparation for it made a novitiate of three years (1812-15) in the Convent of the Institute of the Blessed Virgin at Micklegate Bar, York, the rule of which corresponded most nearly to the ideas of the Archbishop. She there assumed the name she kept till death, Sister Mary Augustine, though always known to the world as Mrs. Aikenhead. On 1 September, 1815, the first members of the new Order took their vows, Sister Mary Augustine being appointed Superior-General. The following sixteen years were filled with the arduous work of organizing the community and extending its sphere of labor to every phase of charity, chiefly hospital and rescue work. In 1831 overexertion and disease shattered Mrs. Aikenhead's health, leaving her an invalid. Her activity was unceasing, however, and she directed her sisters in their heroic work during the plague of 1832, placed them in charge of new institutions, and sent them on missions to France and Australia. After a long period of trial and suffering she passed away in her seventy-second year, having left her Order in a flourishing condition, in charge of ten institutions, besides innumerable missions and branches of charitable work.

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