Louise de Marillac: Meeting the Needs of Migrants and Refugees

by | Oct 7, 2016 | Formation, Reflections

My very dear Sister.

I was sure that the goodness of your heart would cause you and, I believe, all our dear sisters who are far away to be disturbed because you are afraid that we are suffering greatly. Let us praise God, my dear Sisters, that to this point we have only been frightened, and through His mercy have not been harmed.

It is true that I was so cowardly that I allowed myself to persuade our sisters to come to the city to stay in a room we had rented. However, most of our sisters stayed where they were, as did all the sisters and nurses of the small children. Our Most Honored Father, who is still slightly incapacitated, did not move; neither did Monsieur Portail nor the rest of the household.

I am greatly distressed by our dear Sister Philippe’s illness, both for your sake and hers. I am likewise dismayed at not being able to send anyone to relieve you because, apart from the difficulty of the roads, we have never had so few sisters and been so pressed to send them to various areas. We just cannot furnish sisters because of the soup we are distributing everywhere. Here, nearly 2,000 bowls are served to the bashful poor. The same is being done in all parts of the city [Paris had reached some 100,000 refugees fleeing war].

Louise de Marillac, letter to sister Julienne Loret, July 14, 1652.



  1. The social and political situation in which this letter is located is known in history as the War of the second Fronde, of the princes, supported by the city of Paris, against the King and Mazarin. The armies of both sides left, behind them, washed away houses, burned crops, corpses and rape, death and hatred. Thousands and thousands of farmers abandoned everything and fled to Paris, surrounded by the enemy army. The battle came to the house where Saint Louise and the Daughters of Charity lived in the Chapelle. San Vicente told Miss Lamoignon: “The fierce fighting taking place right before the eyes of the wet nurses, and the men they saw killed in front of their house, so terrified them that they all ran off with the girls, each with her infant, and left the other children asleep in bed.” (St. Vincent de Paul, vol. IV, no. 1498). Louise de Marillac was forced by the sisters to go back to Paris. Embarrassed, she wrote this letter.
  2. It is a similar situation the Syrians are suffering nowadays, fleeing their land, their home and perhaps their family. We see it on TV or read in the newspapers, and it frightens and hurts us, but as something distant; sometimes, as a show on a screen. It is not our people or our family. Not me nor to me.
  3. There are evictions near us, there are migrants to our side, who daily suffer the hardship of having to leave their homes in favor of the powerful which, however, breaking the love and solidarity, are taking advantage of it.

Questions for dialogue:

  1. What is my attitude to the situation of migrants from other regions of my country, or abroad? What if it was my family who have to migrate?
  2. What is the tone of the conversations we have when we talk about immigrants?
  3. Do I trust my strength, in others, in God to solve so many evils? What do I do to give a solution?
  4. Do I denounce unjust situations, exploitations, corruptions of the powerful and parties, although their ideology pleases me?
  5. Do you think the Catholic Church hierarchy, the Congregations and the faithful are next to the expropriated? Do I know and support initiatives in my environment?

Benito Martínez, C.M.


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