12 Girls in 1633
The Daughters of Charity of St. Vincent de Paul were founded in 1633 by St. Vincent de Paul and St. Louise de Marillac in Paris, France. Deeply concerned with the poverty and suffering around them, they brought together a group of young women who shared their dedication of helping the poor and the sick.
unlike other Sisters
These 12 peasant girls were unlike other Sisters of the time in terms of both social and economic status as well as in their desire to live and work among those in need. This challenged conventions when Sisters predominately lived cloistered lives and had less interaction with those suffering in the streets.
On the eve of St. Andrew’s Feast, the girls bound themselves to Christ with simple vows that were to be reaffirmed annually. St. Vincent de Paul wrote:
The Daughters of Charity have… for a convent, the houses of the sick; for cell, a rented room; for chapel, the parish church; for cloister, the streets of the city; for enclosure, obedience; for grille, the fear of God; and for veil, holy modesty.”
Sisters in Service
Serving together as Sisters, the newly formed Daughters of Charity set up soup kitchens, organized community hospitals, established schools and homes for orphaned children, offered job training, taught the young to read and write, and improved prison conditions.
Dedicated to Mary
At the start of the Daughters of Charity, St. Louise dedicated the Community to the Blessed Mother. In 1830, Our Lady appeared to St. Catherine Labouré, a Daughter of Charity, and entrusted her with the Miraculous Medal. The Daughters’ Motherhouse in Paris marks the location of St. Catherine Labouré’s apparitions of Our Lady of the Miraculous Medal.
Daughters in United States
In the 19th century, inspired by the work of these original Daughters, St. Elizabeth Ann Seton founded a community of Sisters in the United States that later joined with the Daughters of Charity in France. This became the first community of Daughters in the United States.