The Order of the Blessed Virgin Mary of Mercy is an international community of priests and brothers who live a life of prayer and communal fraternity. In addition to the vows of poverty, chastity and obedience, their members take a special fourth vow to give up their own selves for others whose faith is in danger.
The Order, also called the Mercedarians, or Order of Mercy, was founded in 1218 in Spain by St. Peter Nolasco under the direct inspiration of the Blessed Virgin Mary to redeem Christian captives from their Muslim captors. For St. Peter, the captives were most poor and impoverished of all people for one reason: because their faith was in serious danger.
Today, friars of the Order of Mercy continue to rescue others from modern types of captivity, such as social, political, and psychological forms which place their faith in danger. They work in jails, marginal neighborhoods, among addicts, and in hospitals. In the United States, the Order of Mercy gives special emphasis to preserving the faith of families through education and parish work.
The Order exists today in 17 countries, including Spain, Italy, Brazil, India, and the United States. In the U.S., its student house is in Philadelphia, and it also has houses in New York, Florida, and Ohio.