Daughters of Charity of St. Vincent de Paul West Central Province
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The cause for the beatification and canonization of the French Daughter of Charity regarded by the Church as the Founder of Mary’s House at Ephesus will open in Kansas City, January 21. In the words of one of Sister Marie de Mandat-Grancey’s biographers, Mary’s House is a remarkable place where Muslims, Orthodox and Catholics “all join together in the home of a Jewish Mother.”... full story
New documentary examines Vincent de Paul and his life and times in 17th century France...learn more
Louise was born of a noble family near Paris, Aug. 12, 1591. Her father was in the service of the king. However, Louise never knew who her mother was. Louise was sent away to a convent school as a toddler. Unlike other girls of the time, Louise received a good education in literature, Latin, art and spirituality. Her father loved her, but he died on her 13th birthday. Louise moved to a boarding house for girls. She always wanted to be a nun. At 19, she applied to a contemplative order, but was rejected due to frail health. Louise had never had a home of her own and had never belonged.
At 22, her family arranged a marriage with Antoine Le Gras, secretary to the Queen Mother. They had a son, Michel. After eight years, Antoine became ill, and Louise went into a period of darkness. She wondered if she should leave her husband to keep the promise she made to God to be a nun. She doubted the immortality of her soul, and thought she should leave her spiritual director. On Pentecost Sunday, she had a spiritual experience, which was the turning point of her life. She called it her “Lumiere” or “Light”. She felt God was telling her to stay with her husband; that God would give her a new spiritual director; that a day would come when she would make vows of poverty, chastity, and obedience. She could envision a group of women, coming and going from the house, to serve the poor. A few months later, Louise was referred to Fr. Vincent de Paul as spiritual director. They had an immediate repugnance for each other, but were to become a life-long team that revolutionized religious life and the care of persons who were poor and marginalized. Antoine died when Louise was 35 years old.
Vincent sent Louise on the road to organize his Confraternities of Charity, wealthy women who served the poor. Then the women started sending their servants. God sent Marguerite Nasseau to Vincent and Louise, a peasant girl who wanted to give her life to serving the poor. She became the first Daughter of Charity. Louise became the teacher and spiritual leader of the Daughters, who now number more than 20,000 around the world.
Over 38 years, Louise started many new programs: the education of poor girls, prison reform, housing and occupational training for the elderly, resettlement programs for refugees, food banks, work with homeless women, and she initiated the first hospital social worker. She worked for human rights. She started a system of care for babies in the Mother House, a foster care program in homes and cottage-care for children.
Louise had a childhood of not belonging. From this cross, God shaped Louise’s heart to reach out to help thousands find a sense of belonging. For almost four centuries her Daughters have continued her legacy. She died March 15, 1660, was canonized in 1934, and declared patroness of Christian Social Workers in 1960.
-by Sr. Joan Pytlik, D.C.
Read more about this founder of the Daughters of Charity of St. Vincent de Paul on famvin.org