On 23 November 1832 Pastor Zwijsen founded the Congregation of the Sisters of Charity of Our Lady Mother of Mercy in Tilburg.
He started on a small scale together with three sisters from a small house in the Tilburg neighbourhood of ’t Heike. He was concerned about the suffering of the people. The social conditions were extremely bad and child labour in factories and workshops were a very common occurrence at that time. He hoped with the aid of thirteen sisters to provide education to poor children in Tilburg and to take care of the sick who were abandoned to their fate.
This is how the house with the thirteen cells originated, which is now an authentic part of the Motherhouse at number 1 Oude Dijk in Tilburg.However, the history of the congregation took a different turn. After the beginning in Tilburg soon many requests were received from parishes in villages and cities to ask sisters to provide education and care for the sick and the elderly. Thus the congregation expanded very quickly.
In 1840 the first sisters left for Belgium and later for England and the United States. In 1885 the first sisters left for Indonesia and in 1894 for Suriname.In 1950 the by then International Congregation already consisted of well over 4000 members, living and working inspired by the spirituality of Mercy.
In the following years the number of members in the European countries and the USA diminished considerably, because ever fewer young people entered the congregation and because of the death of the older sisters. Gradually the activities in education and care for the sick and the elderly were taken over by laypeople.
A number of sisters then went to work in pastoral and social care.
At present the Dutch province still consists of 193 sisters. Their average age is very high. Mercy, sisterhood and connectedness are lived in various ways. During this phase of life it is very important “to be present for each other”.
A number of sisters are still active or involved in parochial work, refugee projects or other social activities. Fortunately there is now also more time to meet each other and to work on spiritual development.
The largest group of sisters lives in Tilburg, on the location where the Congregation was founded in 1832. A small group of sisters lives in Insula Dei in Arnhem and in Angeli Custodes in Raalte.
In addition another 30 sisters live distributed over the country. These sisters who live independently will come to Tilburg in the future, to the place where they all started out as Sisters of Charity.
We are happy that we have a number of companions and associates who share our spirituality.
There are two groups: Bezield Verband (Inspired Association) and the Barach groep. The members of these groups meet regularly with some of the sisters, to have discussions and to pray.
By means of the charism of the congregation whose core values are Trust in Divine Providence, Mercy and Simplicity people may connect themselves in various ways to the congregation.