Another Pioneer

Mary Tracey was born in 1786. There are suggestions that she was an orphan who had attended the sisters’ school in Dorset Street, Dublin. She was attracted to and joined the newly founded Harold’s Cross convent in 1809 where she received the name Sr. Michael. Seven years after she made her Final Profession she became Abbess in 1817. Sr. Michael was clearly open to new challenges and was one of a group of sisters who tried to found a convent in Dundrum.

As this was unsuccessful she and the community were then invited to take charge of an orphanage in North William Street, Dublin. However health problems forced her to hand over this establishment to the Carmelites in 1830. That same year a new challenge was presented to her and she agreed to go with four sisters to found a convent in Newry, Co. Down. This would be the first convent to be established north of the Boyne since the Reformation.

While the sisters were welcomed by the Catholics in Newry and found plenty of opportunity to help the poor there, they also met with considerable opposition from some of the Protestant neighbours. Sr. Michael Tracey’s pioneering spirit found plenty to cope with as she lived in Newry during the Famine Years when the sisters established schools, provided breakfasts, clothing and medicines for poor children. She helped to establish a Work School in 1840 that provided an income for lots of poor families at a time of great deprivation. She died in 1852 having followed her dream in a way which she would never have expected when she entered Harold’s Cross Convent at the beginning of the 19th Century.