The Catherine McAuley Center (CMC) was founded in 1989 by the Sisters of Mercy, working in partnership with a community of individuals and organizations in Cedar Rapids, Iowa. The Center was named in honor of Catherine McAuley (1778-1841), who founded the Sisters of Mercy in Dublin, Ireland, and devoted her life to educating women and serving the vulnerable. Catherine’s values (and love of tea!) continue to influence the organization today, and the Sisters of Mercy remain faithful supporters of the Center through sponsorship, volunteer service, and leadership on the Board of Directors.
CMC was initially founded to offer education to women studying for their General Education Diploma. A few months later, the Transitional Housing Program was introduced for women without children in their care. After outgrowing the space in the original “building on stilts” location on 10th Street, CMC moved to a new location at 866 Fourth Avenue SE in 1993.
Throughout its history, CMC’s programs and services have adapted to meet changing community needs. In response to a growing immigrant population in Cedar Rapids in the mid-1990s, the Center added English as a Second Language tutoring and U.S. Citizenship Exam preparation, establishing the Adult Basic Education Program, open to both men and women. In 2017, CMC launched added services for immigrants and refugees, including a refugee resettlement program as an affiliate site of the U.S. Committee for Refugees and Immigrants.
The Center has grown from serving 15 people in its first year to serving approximately 600 people annually today. Even as it has grown and evolved, the Catherine McAuley Center has stayed true to its core mission of offering hope and opportunity to individuals seeking to gain the knowledge and skills that will help them lead self-sufficient and fulfilling lives.