Catherine McAuley school was established in 1961 by the Mercy Sisters in Limerick as a response to the perceived needs for a minority of students who were experiencing difficulties in mainstream education. The first class of twelve students were taught in a single room in St John's Primary School. As the numbers of students grew in the early years, the school moved to a classroom block in Our Lady of Lourdes Primary School in Rosbrien, Limerick. By the 1970's, the school was catering for pupils of both primary and secondary school age, which also brought an increase in staffing. A purpose-built school was built on the beautiful grounds of Westbourne Convent and opened in 1979. By the mid 1980's there were over two hundred students in the school.
Sr Killian Bugler, the school's first Principal, retired in 1993 after more than thirty years of dedicated service to the school and was succeeded by Mr. Liam Lawlor, then by Mrs.Kay Barry and recently by Mr. Greg Browne. The school has embraced many of the recognised secondary school programmes and consequently, a vocational unit and P.E. hall were added in the early 2000's. A dedicated staff has ensured that pupils receive a broad based curriculum, encompassing literacy and numeracy along with a wide variety of vocational subjects including horticulture, woodwork, home economics, hair care and information technology. The development of the whole person is integral to the school philosophy and consequently subjects like religious education, art, drama, physical education and social education are also on the curriculum for each student.