History of the Sisters of Mercy in Jamaica

An Alpha Story

On May 1, 1880, Jessie Ripoll, holding by the hand one lone orphan whom she had named Mary, walked up the path to Alpha Cottage. Thus simply and unostentatiously began the great work which would bring wide acclaim from the Jamaican government, from the civic community, and from the poor, who knew their children would find a home should parents die and leave them orphans. Four months later, on September 29, Josephine Ximines joined her friends, while Louise Dugiol was the last of the three to take up residence at Alpha.

The work became so much for Jessie and her friends that the Religious Sisters of Mercy, a Catholic order of nuns in Bermondsey, England, were invited to assist at the invitation of Bishop Charles Gordon in 1890. The Sisters of Mercy arrive at Alpha from Bermondsey, England, on the 12th of December. Two months later, Jessie Ripoll and her friends (Alpha’s founders) join the order of Sisters of Mercy as Sisters Mary Peter Claver, Mary Joseph and Margaret Mary.

Sisters of Mercy in Jamaica

The Sisters of Mercy have a long history of ministry in Jamaica. The ministry began with a Jamaican woman of mixed heritage (French, Portuguese, and African)—Jessie Ripoll. Jessie used her money and contributions from friends to purchase 43 acres on which she could establish ministries with the poor of Jamaica. Two other Jamaican women joined her in her endeavors, and they opened an orphanage named ‘Alpha’ in May 1880.

A decade after the opening of the orphanage, the numbers of children increased such that the women needed some additional assistance. They invited the Sisters of Mercy from Bermondsey, England, to come to Jamaica to join them in their works of mercy. Four Sisters of Mercy arrived in December 1890, and a few months later Jessie and her two companions were received into the order.

Over the years, the Sisters of Mercy live and minister throughout the southern portion of Jamaica. The Alpha Campus site is a large complex that includes  Alpha Infant School,  Alpha Primary, Jessie Ripoll Primary,  Convent of Mercy Girls Academy, Alpha School of Music, and Alpha Vocational.  In addition to convent facilities and Christ the King Chapel, there are medical facilities and a corporate office.

Convent of Mercy Academy "Alpha", founded May 1, 1894
Alpha Infant
Alpha Primary
Jessie Ripoll Primary
Alpha Institute

Additional ministries of the Sisters of Mercy in Kingston Jamaica include the Laws Street Trade Training. The Laws Street Trade Training Centre trains economically disadvantaged adults in various skills including sewing, bakery, crafts, garments, home economics.

Outside the parish of Kingston, the Sisters of Mercy expanded the ministry.  Mount St. Joseph Preparatory School was founded in 1934 in Manchester Jamaica. Today, the preparatory school is a there is highly sort.  In the 1960s the Sisters of  Mercy opened St. John Bosco to vulnerable young men. Finally, in  2014, through the initiative of the then Minister of Education, Hon. Ronald Thwaites, and the Roman Catholic Bishop of Mandeville, Bishop Neil Tiedemann, on May 13, 2013, a Catholic High School in Mandeville, Manchester, was penned and framed. Mt. St. Joseph Catholic High is an affiliate of the Sisters of Mercy since 2021. 

Mt. St. Joseph Preparatory School
Mt. St. Joseph Catholic High School
St. John Bosco Vocational Training Centre
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