When our Mercy community, now the Institute of the Sisters of Mercy of the Americas was stared in 1831 by a Dublin heiress, Catherine McAuley with two Sisters, and when in ten years later it had grown by such leaps and bounds in Ireland, England and the USA, it was a "matter of general wonder." The growth and expansion of the Sisters of Mercy in Guyana over the past 100+ years is also a "matter of general wonder." Besides the successes and heartbreaks of lives given in service, the spirit of Catherine McAuley's commitment to the poor, sick and ignorant spurred Sisters Antonia Chambers and Ursula Green to leave Midhurst, Sussex, in England and travel to Barbados in the West Indies in 1892. There they were joined by a young Portuguese woman from British Guiana who entered the community and took the name Sr. Pauline De Freitas in St. Patrick's Cathedral, Barbados.
On mainland South America, the colony of British Guiana, once a Dutch possession and in 1803 square miles, once a Dutch possession and in 1803 transferred by treaty to the British, was at a turning point in the ast decade of the nineteenth century. This country, rich in potential resources, was the home of the Amerindians, the indigenous people, and later became famed for its sugar produced by African slaves. At the time of the Abolition of Slavery in 1834 over 84,000 slaves had been brought in by the Dutch and the British. With the increasing demand for cheap and continuous labour, Portuguese immigrants were brought from Madeira to work as indentured servants on the sugar estates. These were followed by the East Indians in 1838 and the Chinese in 1853. The descendants of the former slaves and later the immigrants moved the country forward, working in the sugar, rice and gold industries and in the large merchant houses.
Into this once prosperous country with an increasing working class population, but in the throes of an economic decline, Bishop Anthony Butler, SJ realising the need for education, invited the three Sisters of Mercy in Barbados to come over to British Guiana.
On 23 April, 1894, the Sisters arrived. They were the third group of Catholic religious women to respond to the educational needs in the country. The three Sisters of Mercy were settled in Charlestown, a poor suburb of Georgetown, in Dettering Hall, a former Dutch residence. This two storeyed wooden building which a\was later extended to include a chapel and more accommodation, remained the Motherhouse of the Sisters of Mercy for 58 years until it was relocated in Kingston in 1951.
(This except is taken from : A Souvenir History of the Sisters of Mercy Guyana. Author: Sr. May Noel Menezes, RSM. Guyana National Printers Limited, 1994.)
A complete history is available by clicking this link to the scanned booklet.