The Handmaids of Charity (Ancelle della Carita) were founded in 1840 at Brescia, Italy, by Saint Maria Crocifissa di Rosa (1813-1855, canonized in 1954) for care of the sick, lepers, and elderly. Saint Vincent is considered one of their patrons.
Initially the Founder’s inspiration was essentially focused on providing nursing assistance, always inextricably linked to prayer and community life. However within the first ten years of the foundation of the order the tasks of the nuns became channeled in three directions: healthcare, social assistance and education. With time, these became institutionalized within the service. Due to various factors from both within and outside the Congregation itself, the service of the Handmaids has undergone various changes: from the exclusive organization of the form and traditional places of assistance by the Handmaids to an increasingly more active and necessary cooperation with the laity, right up to the present day fruitful collaboration involving multiple and diverse energies, with the common goal of providing care to the most needy.
Their motherhouse is in Brescia, Italy. They have communities in Italy, Croatia, Rwanda, Brazil, and Ecuador.