The congregation of the Hospitaler Sisters of Mercy was founded in Rome on the 16th of May 1821, under the auspices of Pope Pius VII, as there was a dire need at that time for the care of the sick. Pope Pius VII was assisted and aided in this task by Princess Teresa Orsini Doria Pamphili who set the foundation of this congregation, and under whose promotion and direction, this society flourished. On the 29th of September 1831, Pope Gregory XVI declared his fatherly affection for this congregation “so useful and necessary,” expressing his hope that this new Institution would produce plenty of fruits for the spiritual, physical health of the sick, and the poor people. With his apostolic authority, he approved and confirmed the congregation of the Hospitaler Sisters of Mercy and its rules, and granted to all the sisters the privilege of Roman citizenship, even if born outside of Rome.
It is not easy to summarize its activities of 189 years, we can only emphasize the main characteristics of this Roman congregation. It is a Hospitaler Institute in the full sense of the word. The sisters profess a special vow for the care of the sick, and thus dedicate themselves exclusively for the “hospital apostolate,” and other social works connected to it.
There are many golden pages in the history of the congregation. In times of calamities, sisters rendered heroic acts of sacrifice, offering even their lives in the conscientious fulfillment of their apostolate. Some important incidents may be mentioned. In 1837 Rome was overtaken by an epidemic of cholera. In their earnest efforts to all and the necessities of the sick, six of the sisters died, one after another. In 1854, an attack of cholera broke out again in Rome, and the sisters ardently prayed to the Blessed Mother of Mercy to assist the city. Beside their endeavors to assist the patients, they took a vow to fast on the eve of the feast of Our Lady of Mercy for five years consecutively. During the Second World War 1940-1945, the wounded coming from various parts of Italy crowded the hospital wards. The Hospitaler Sisters of Mercy offered charitable service to all, and conformed them with their word of consolation. During those periods, many sisters had to starve and some even died of tuberculosis.
The Second Vatican Council with its spirit of renewal has given back to the Church a new life, which influenced also the congregation of the Hospitaler Sisters of Mercy. Indeed a new dawn has risen on the horizon. An institute, until then, restricted the needs of the pontifical state and afterwards to Italy, opens its vision wide in 1966 and extends its activities to new regions. At the request of His Grace Celestino Damiano, Bishop of Camden, New Jersey, U.S.A., five sisters moved to new fields of apostolate to serve the sick and the aged of that country, with enthusiasm and the spirit of generosity.
In 1974 after receiving the invitation from His Grace Mar Anthony Padiyara , Archbishop of Changanachery, India, the mother general Sr. Marcella Cavallari, in consultation with the general council, decided to start a hospital and a formation house at Chengalam. The hospital has a capacity of 125 beds, with all the modern equipment for diagnosis and treatments.
After its foundation, it has sustained growth in Italy. At present, the Hospitaler Sisters of Mercy are working in various parts of the world: United States of America, Africa, Madagascar, India, Philippines, Poland, and Switzerland.
On a whole, the future is full of hope and our Lord will surely continue to assist and guide this institute of the Hospitaler Sisters of Mercy, in accomplishing its charitable plan for His glory and the good of His people all over the world.