Today is the 377th anniversary of the day St. Louise de Marillac and four Daughters of Charity pronounced vows for the first time.

On 25 March 1642, St. Louise, as well as four sisters, pronounced vows for the first time “for life.” Later, other sisters did as well, but freely: some made vows, some did not; for some, they were temporary, for others, perpetual, not that these differences created any obstacles or sense of inequality in the Community. In 1648, the vows began to be annual, and the sisters also asked permission of St. Vincent for first pronouncements as well as renewals.

The great concern and effort of the Founders was inculcated in the Sisters that, even if they pronounced vows, they would not be as religious but they would continue to be secular.

Thus, the Founders wanted to safeguard the mobility of the service of the poor, to be where the poor are found.

Fear and danger remained in the fact that in making vows, they could be considered as religious, which would be an inescapable consequence leading to the risk of enclosure: “If he (the bishop) asks you who you are and if you are nuns, you will tell him you are not … but that if you were religious you would have to be enclosed and consequently would have to say good-bye to the service of the poor. Tell him you are poor Daughters of Charity who have given yourselves to God to serve the poor…. If he asks you: ‘Do you make religious vows?’ tell him: ‘Oh, no, Sir, we give ourselves to God to live in poverty, chastity and obedience, some of us forever and others for a year.’” (Coste, Conferences to DCs, 474)

– Quintano, Fernando C.M. (2001) “Vows of the Daughters of Charity,” Vincentiana: Vol. 45: No. 4, Article 9. Available at: Depaul University Libraries

Sister Elisabeth Charpy, D.C. writes:

“Louise explained the beauty of the annual vows: Do you not think my dear Sisters, that this will be very pleasing to Our Lord since, having your freedom again at the end of the year, you can sacrifice it to him anew (SWLM:346 [L.300]).

The vows were renewed every year on the feast of the Annunciation because Mary shows us the way to God. With her openness and her willingness to follow the plans of God, Mary made it possible for the Son of God to become man and in this way opened the path of redemption. Like Mary, every Daughter of Charity is invited to enter fully into her vocation which is a gift that is received from God and is also invited to discover and recognize Christ in all those persons whom they encounter.”

For further reading, see these articles:

Feast of Annunciation, Vow Day for Daughters of Charity, Daughters of Charity Provincial Archives

Renewal of Vows of Daughters of Charity Explained, .famvin

Life of St. Louise de Marillac Part 4: “A New Community” by Sr. Elisabeth Charpy, D.C. on vincentians.com

Quintano, Fernando C.M. (2001) “Vows of the Daughters of Charity,” Vincentiana: Vol. 45: No. 4, Article 9. Available at: Depaul University Libraries


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