The First 300

Waldron Mercy Academy

A 1932 aerial survey of the Sisters of Mercy Convent and Schools. Waldron Academy for Boys is shown in the right forefront.

The vision of two Sisters of Mercy, Mother Catherine McAuley and Mother Mary Patricia Waldron, enabled the establishment of Waldron Mercy Academy and its sister high school, Merion Mercy Academy. Mother Catherine McAuley, an Irish heiress who dedicated her entire fortune to helping the poor in Dublin, founded the Sisters of Mercy in Ireland in 1831. In 1861, under the leadership of 26-year-old Mother Mary Patricia Waldron, the first ten Sisters of Mercy arrived in Philadelphia from Manchester, New Hampshire, to serve the poor, the sick and the uneducated.

The Move to Merion

In 1884, Mother Mary Patricia Waldron purchased the eight acre Baner property in Merion as a country retreat for sisters who became ill while ministering in the city. In 1885, the Sisters of Mercy acquired the adjoining Morgan estate, a 13-room stone homestead that served as St. Anne’s Convent, and a farmhouse which accommodated the Village School for poor, local farm children.

Separate Schools Established

In 1885, in this same convent, the Sisters of Mercy started Mater Misericordiae, an academy for young ladies and little boys under 12 years of age. By 1892, the academy facility was inadequate and a new building named Mater Misericordiae Academy was begun. The building had classrooms, accommodations for female boarding students and living quarters for the sisters. The male boarding students remained at St. Anne’s until 1923 when Waldron Academy for Boys was built on its site.

Further Developments

To meet the ever-evolving needs of students, significant growth and changes have taken place within the historic walls of Waldron Mercy Academy throughout the years. In 1946, the practice of boarding students ended. During the 1950s, in addition to the sisters, others joined the Waldron faculty in increasing numbers. A pre-school and a Montessori program followed, enrolling both boys and girls.

In September 1987, Waldron Academy for Boys and Merion Mercy Academy for Girls (Lower School) officially merged and reopened as Waldron Mercy Academy in a newly renovated facility. Today students from pre-school to eighth grade attend Waldron Mercy Academy, an educational ministry of the Sisters of Mercy, where academic excellence is achieved in the spirit of openness, trust, hospitality and outreach.

Sister Mary Walburga, principal at Waldron Academy for Boys from 1929 to 1957, interacts with her “gentlemen in gray.”
A view of Waldron Mercy Academy as seen from along Montgomery Avenue.
The 1930 graduating class of Waldron Academy for Boys.
The Waldron Academy for Boys Band.
May Day activities at Mater Misericordiae Academy c. 1930s.
Academy students continue to serve the poor through the school’s community outreach program.