Sorry, you need to enable JavaScript to visit this website.

Mission + Planning

You are here


Gwynedd Mercy University is founded and sponsored by the Sisters of Mercy and is one of the 17 colleges and universities that comprise the Conference for Mercy Higher Education (CMHE)

Our Catholic Identity and Mercy Charism
A Mercy institution of higher education stands within the lineage of the Catholic intellectual tradition in its pursuit of truth and integration of knowledge for the common good. It participates in the Church’s mission under the sponsorship of the Institute of the Sisters of Mercy of the Americas through the ministry of education, giving tangible evidence to its mission through ongoing teaching, scholarship and service. It demonstrates the values of mercy, justice and compassion as communicated through the traditions of the Sisters of Mercy. These common characteristics are uniquely given expression within each campus community.

Graduates of Mercy institutions are informed and shaped intellectually, socially and spiritually through a faith-inspired education. The academic study of the liberal arts and sciences and mastery of the professional disciplines enable Mercy graduates to be responsible leaders in their communities and professions. They appreciate and are informed by a Christian commitment to mercy and justice in the world. The living tradition of a Mercy college or university is sustained by a strong collegial community, with hospitality to new ideas and energies, and through collaboration within the Conference of Mercy Higher Education.

Statement approved by the CMHE Board April 20, 2010,
and by the Canonical Sponsor Council April 26,2010


Our Mission and identity are shaped in a particular way by the charism  of the Sisters of Mercy and Catherine McAuley who founded the order.

Catherine McAuley was born in Dublin, Ireland, in September, 1778 to a prosperous Catholic family. Though her father, James McGauley, died in 1783 when Catherine was just five years old, his compassion for the poor, especially children and families who lived nearby, was a lifelong example for his eldest daughter.

[[{"fid":"703","view_mode":"default","type":"media","attributes":{"height":314,"width":206,"style":"margin: 10px; float: left;","alt":"Catherine McAuley","class":"media-element file-default"}}]]Fifteen years after her father's death, Catherine was orphaned in 1798 and chose to live in the home of relatives, some of whom were non-Catholic and had little tolerance for her pious practices. In 1803 Catherine was invited to live in the home of William and Catherine Callaghan as a companion to Mrs. Callaghan. The Callaghans were childless and upon Mr. Callaghan's death in 1822, Catherine inherited their fortune: about £25,000, their estate, "furniture and plate." 

In 1824, Catherine used her inheritance to lease property on Baggot Street, a fashionable neighborhood in Dublin, for the purpose of building a large house for religious, educational and social services for women and children. Other women, intrigued by the house and the work for which it was intended, were attracted to Catherine and began to join her preparations for the ministry she planned.

On September 24, 1827, the Feast of our Lady of Mercy, the first residents came to live in the house they called the House of Mercy in honor of the day and two years later the Chapel was dedicated. Between late 1829 and 1830, after prayerful deliberation and consultation, Catherine and her associates agree to found a new religious congregation. Though this was not her original intention, Catherine began the founding of a new religious congregation of women dedicated to service to the poor. 

Catherine and two of her associates entered the Convent of the Presentation Sisters in Dublin on Sept. 8, 1830, to begin formal preparation for founding the Sisters of Mercy. Fifteen months later the trio pronounced vo[[{"fid":"704","view_mode":"default","type":"media","attributes":{"height":175,"width":266,"style":"width: 266px; height: 175px; float: right; margin: 10px;","alt":"Catherine McAuley ","class":"media-element file-default"}}]]ws of poverty, chastity and obedience, and to persevere until death in "the Congregation of the Sisters of Mercy." Thus the new community was founded on Dec. 12, 1831.

Catherine lived only ten years as a Sister of Mercy but in that time she established nine additional autonomous foundations in Ireland and England, and two branch houses near Dublin. When she died in 1841 there were 150 Sisters of Mercy. Shortly thereafter, small groups of sisters left Ireland at the invitation of bishops in Newfoundland, New Zealand, the United States, Argentina and Australia.

The Sisters of Mercy of the Americas now serve in North, Central and South America; the Caribbean; Guam and the Philippines, with more than approximately 4,000 sisters responding faithfully to the needs of the poor in these countries.

For more information on Catherine McAuley, visit the Mercy World website.

Brief History of Gwynedd Mercy University

  • 1946:  Property in Gwynedd Valley purchased from the Taylor family.
  • 1948:  Founded by the Religious Sisters of Mercy of Merion, PA as a junior college to serve the educational needs of women who were unable to pursue a 4year degree.
  • Mother Mary Bernard Graham, RSM was the founding president succeeded by Sister Mary Gregory Campbell,RSM and then by Sister Isabelle Keiss,RSM. In 1993 the Board appointed Sister Linda Bevilacqua, OP as the first non-Mercy president and in 2002 Dr Kathleen Owens was appointed as the first lay president of the University.
  • 1958:  First Middle States accreditation which has been maintained ever since.
  • 1960:  the Board of Directors requested the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania to change the charter to a four year institution.
  • May 23, 1963, State of Pennsylvania changed the charter and name to Gwynedd-Mercy College.
  • Biology, English, History, Latin, Math, Humanities and Medical Technology were the first baccalaureate degrees.
  • 1973:  Men were first admitted to the University.
  • 1982:  First graduate program in Nursing.
  • 1996-97:  the University changed from nine academic divisions to five Schools. In 2013 the schools of nursing and allied health professions consolidated to become the France M. Maguire School of Nursing and Health Professions.
  • 1996:  the University moved from the NIAA to the NCAA Athletic Division III and currently fields 19 intercollegiate programs.
  • 1999:  The Center for Lifelong Learning(CLL) in Fort Washington was created for adult accelerated programs. The CLL in Center City in the Public Ledger Building at 6th and Chestnut St. opened in 2006, and in 2010 The Center for Lifelong Learning moved from Fort Washington to a new facility in East Norriton. A new site in Bensalem opened in 2011.
  • A new sports complex at the front of campus opened 2010.
  • In Spring 2012 the Gustav Martin Building was demolished and the groundbreaking ceremony for a new academic building (opening Spring 2014) was held in March.

The Strategic Plan

Gwynedd Mercy University’s Plan: 2010-2015

Our Vision for Excellence

As greater Philadelphia’s Catholic and Mercy College, Gwynedd Mercy University is dually influenced by our Catholic identity as well as our Mercy heritage and charism.  Our connection to the local Catholic community dates back to 1861 when the Sisters of Mercy arrived in Philadelphia, at the invitation of Archbishop Wood, to educate immigrant children and to nurse the wounded of the then-ongoing Civil War.  Our Mercy charism is the distinctive style we bring to our Catholic Christian core belief system and it infiltrates every aspect of our teaching/learning community.  Mercy underpins and infuses our commitment to academic excellence and lifelong learning; our respect for the dignity of every human person; our commitment to education of the whole person—mind, body and spirit; and through action and education, the promotion of compassion and justice toward those with less, especially women and children.  Therefore, the educational process at Gwynedd Mercy University strives to prepare students for leadership roles in our global community.  We anticipate our graduates will be well-prepared to live responsible, productive, and creative lives in a dramatically changing world—prepared for productive careers, and for fruitful lives, as well.  Our Catholic and Mercy higher education community is fully engaged in disovering the Next by preparing students with those habits of mind and heart that will enable them to meet the great challenges of their day and assist them in their quest for truth and knowledge, for faith and reason and in their struggle to create a more just society for and with their fellow citizens.

Our 4 Strategies for Excellence

Between now and 2015, our Catholic and Mercy higher education community will be fully engaged in discovering the Next through four strategies, including:

Distinguish Ourselves in Mercy Education by leveraging our desired outcome—Distinctive Mercy Graduates—to recruit and retain an outstanding faculty and staff committed to preparing students who are professionally competent, have a strong foundation in liberal learning and who are committed to the Mercy tradition of service to humanity.

Put Students First by creating a vibrant campus culture and environment with curricular and co-curricular programs that support our Mercy-influenced educational objectives, including spaces that promote academic, social, spiritual and recreational interactions and activity.

Be Responsive to Market Forces by leveraging our branding study and our geographic adjacency to life science industries while delivering graduate and undergraduate learning experiences that promote the development of the whole person through integrated curricular and co-curricular programs that prepare students for jobs and for lives and careers of deep meaning.

Be  Wise and Prudent Stewards of all our Resources including our financial and physical resources, our human potential and our sponsor-relationship by investing in mission-critical areas that will increase revenues and decrease expenditures in areas not fiscally viable and/or mission effective.

Mission and Identity Resources:

        Office of Mission and Planning

 Assists the President and Administration by providing mission orientation programs for trustees, administration, faculty and staff; coordinates the Mission Leadership Academy, is the liaison to the Mission and Values Committee and maintains resources on identity,  heritage and mission.

Campus Ministry

The role of Campus Ministry at Gwynedd Mercy University is to support all members of the University community in their spiritual growth.  

Mission and Values Committee

The Mission and Values Committee includes members from the student body, faculty, staff, and administration of Gwynedd Mercy University. The Committee seeks to promote the integration of the mission and values of Gwynedd Mercy University in all areas of campus culture and to challenge the University community to model effectively Catholic and Mercy identity in the spirit of Catherine McAuley.

Resources :

Conference for Mercy Higher Education

Sisters of Mercy of the Americas Mid-Atlantic Community

Sisters of Mercy of the Americas

Mercy International Association  

Mercy Volunteer Corps

Mission and Values Orientation Presentation (PDF)