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Homepage > About Us > The Story of World Mercy Fund

In 1967 Fr. Thomas Rooney was a missionary in Nigeria & was sent by the Bishop, Donal Murray to the United States of America in order to raise badly needed funds for the building of a hospital in Makurdi.

In 1969, Fr. Rooney established a fund-raising organisation in the United States of America with the aim of establishing a series of small clinics to provide Primary Health Care. This organisation was legally incorporated in Washington DC and its objective was to gather funds for the maintenance and running costs of the Chemke Hospitals.

Fr. Rooney did most of his fundraising in America, where he was chaplain to a number of Hospitals in his parish. During that time he gave communion to Frank Sinatra's mother when she was in a nursing home in New York. Sinatra heard about the English Priests efforts and suggested that he get involved. He persuaded his buddy, Sammy Davis Jnr. and some others to organise a benefit concert to raise money.

Fr. Rooney began receiving appeals from many countries of the Developing World and, in order to cater for their needs, he set up World Mercy Fund Inc., which held its first meeting on 20th October 1973.

Fr. Rooney became involved in development projects, particularly in Africa. He soon became a household name in many of the most deprived areas of the developing world. The World Mercy Fund (Barmherzigkeit) established branches of the organisation in:

  • Austria - 1984
  • Switzerland - 1985
  • Germany 1985
  • Ireland 1986

In 1986 Fr. Patrick Leonard (1925-2005) took over as President of World Mercy Fund. Fr. Patrick Leonard oversaw World Mercy Fund provide millions of € worth of direct aid, mainly to Sub-Saharan Africa. Fr. Leonard immediately set about making sure that it became less dependent on one country, and set up small but efficient voluntary groups in various other countries.

He ran the fund from Dublin and with the help of volunteers, organised functions & various locations worldwide. In his quiet way, he built the fund up to become a substantial contributor to African aid over the years, long before it was fashionable to do so.

Born in Coalisland in County Tyrone in 1929, he studied theology at Kimmage Manor, the home of the Holy Ghost Order in Ireland. Fr. Leonard was ordained to the Priesthood in 1956 and made his Consecration to the Apostolate a year later. He was charged with promoting the Holy Ghost Order from Ireland and served on this team for a period of thirteen years. In 1970 he took on the role of Bursar to St. Michaels College.

He also served on the Board of Diectors' of the Geriatric Research Foundation, The Catholic Housing Aid Society, St. Anthony's Rehabilitation Centre, The Development Studies Centre and SPIRASI.

His charitable commitment to World Mercy Fund continued with the simple theme of funding small projects that would be overseen by volunteers on the ground, bud that would be executed in partnership with the community it was helping.

In 1985 when Fr. Patrick Leonard took over World Mercy Fund from Fr. Rooney, he asked Fr. Reynolds to assist him in running the organisation. Since then, Fr. Reynolds has been closely associated with World Mercy Fund and has visited most of their projects in Africa. When Fr. Leonard passed away, Fr. Reynolds was the natural choice to lead World Mercy Fund into the next phase of its development.

Michael Reynolds, born in Ireland in 1931, joined the Holy Ghost Missionary Order in 1950 and went to Africa in 1960.

As a Missionary Priest he worked in education and was Principal of a leading College of Education in 1967 when Nigerian civil war broke out. He devoted himself to distributing food and help to the starving people of Biafra until he was expelled with all other missionaries in 1970.

He spent a year in London University and in 1972 he took up a post in Nkruma Teacher Training College, Kabwe, Zambia. In 1978 he returned to Ireland and joined World Mercy Fund while working as Bursar in Kimmage Manor.

His years as a missionary in Africa were a great preparation for this work. Through the 1990's he supervised the work of many of the World Mercy projects. He visited Rwanda shortly after the massacres there and set up orphanages for the thousands of abandoned and neglected children. He was a frequent visitor to World Mercy sponsored clinics, workshops and hospitals, and helped develop The Father Rooney Hospital in Ghana. He inspected a number of water projects in Tanzania, Kenya and Ethiopia and works closely with other overseas aid organisations.

Fr. Michael Reynolds served as President for two years. During that time he encouraged the development of fundraising, raising awareness for the organisation and its work and oversaw the expansion of World Mercy Fund team in Dublin.

On Fr. Reynolds retirement in 2007, Fr. Tom Hogan CSSp was president until 2008 when Fr. Walter McNamara CSSp returned to Ireland after forty years ministry and accepted the responsibility of President of WMF (Ireland) in October 2008. He continues the legacy of Fathers Rooney, Leonard and Reynolds inspiring those with abundance who share with the deprived and suffering peoples of Africa and the Third World - an ever growing challenge in these times of global, financial and environmental crisis.

World Mercy Fund's work of development in many Developing World countries is inspired by their motto:

"The greatest good you can do to another is not just to share with him your riches, but to reveal to him his own."


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