Stained glass featuring the Sisters of Mercy prodiving education and caring for the sick and poor

Tracing Our Origins Before Our 1954 Founding

Mercy Foundation can trace the origins of its philanthropic mission back to 1857, to the Sisters of Mercy’s arrival in Gold-rush era Sacramento. Soon after establishing a Catholic school, they began visiting the sick, which was the start of their health care mission in Sacramento. Forty years later, that mission grew to include Mater Misericordiae Hospital, (Latin for “Mother of Mercy”), the Sisters’ first hospital in Sacramento, which opened in 1897. 

In 1951, a Sacramento-wide examination of the community’s health needs revealed a critical shortage of hospital beds. At Sisters of Mercy-sponsored Mercy Hospital—now Mercy General Hospital—an Expansion Committee was formed. With then California Governor Earl Warren as its honorary chair, the Committee exceeded its fundraising target, and the much-needed wing to house additional hospital beds was constructed. 

In 1954, out of this shared effort between the community, its political leadership, and the Sisters of Mercy, came the birth of Mercy Foundation. Established to provide enduring support for the works of Mercy, then Board President Fred Read, grandfather of Mercy Foundation board member Mark Read, made this commitment to the community: “We invite participation from everyone, and Mercy Foundation will see that all donations, large or small, will be devoted to the purpose intended by the donor.”

For more than six decades, Mercy Foundation has been partnering with the community to raise philanthropic support to enhance the lives of people in the Greater Sacramento area. During this time, Mercy Foundation donors have made more than $100 million in charitable gifts. Still inspired by the mission of the Sisters of Mercy, the focus—yesterday, today, and until the end of need—is to continue helping to feed the hungry, shelter the homeless, educate the under-resourced, and care for the sick at local Dignity Health hospitals and clinics.