Vincent dePaul’s radical vision for women in ministry. I could not help thinking of this on the feast of St. Francis de Chantal.
Vincent succeeded in opening up new ministries for women where his contemporary St. Francis deSales, who had a similar vision, failed.
American Cathnolic.org writes…
“Francis deSales told her (Frances de Chantal) of his plan to found an institute of women which would be a haven for those whose health, age or other considerations barred them from entering the already established communities. There would be no cloister, and they would be free to undertake spiritual and corporal works of mercy. They were primarily intended to exemplify the virtues of Mary at the Visitation (hence their name, the Visitation nuns): humility and meekness.
The usual opposition to women in active ministry arose and Francis de Sales was obliged to make it a cloistered community following the Rule of St. Augustine.”
In those days, nuns and the cloister meant the same thing and there would be opposition to a community of women who were free “to go through the streets and into houses.”
St. Vincent realized that he would face the same difficulties if he called the Daughters of Charity “religious”. So, as his biographer Coste (Vol 1 pa. 229) points out, Vincent was adamant in saying, “It cannot be maintained that the Daughters of Charity are “religious,” because they could not be Daughters of Charity if they were, for to be a “religious,” one must be cloistered.”
He found a constructive way of rethinking the church law and mentality of his day. The Daughters of Charity would not take public vows for life as religious did. They were to take private vows for a year at a time with the intention of renewing them every year.
In so many way he was a trailblazer. A more recent historian highlighted this when he titled his work “Vincent, the Trailblazer” (Pujo)
Even before the Daughters of Charity Vincent’s first foundation, “the Ladies of Charity”, today remains as one of the oldest functioning organizations of women in ministry. They will celebrate their 400th anniversary in 2017.
Listen to his own words…