In January 2020, Rome will host a meeting of the Superiors General and Presidents of the Vincentian Family. We continue this series of posts to deepen our knowledge of the many Vincentian Branches. Here we interview Sister Nunzia de Gori, Superior General of the Sisters of Charity of Saint Joan Antida Thouret.
Video (English transcript below):
How and when did your foundation take place?
We were established in Besançon (France) between the end of the 18th century and the beginning of the 19th century. The date that we celebrate as our Foundation Day is April 11, 1799. It was then that Giovanna Antida Thouret began (as she stated) to “walk alone in the Vincentian charism.” Previously, she lived among the Daughters of Charity for six years (during the time of the French Revolution). She had to leave the Company because of the events that took place during that time. She returned to Besançon and soon thereafter, like a faithful follower of Vincent de Paul, became involved in service on behalf of the poor. She began to minister alone some time between the end of the 18th century and the first 10 years of the 19th century, in Besançon and Naples. She went there in response to the request of Napoleon’s mother and Gioacchino Murat [King of Naples]. Indeed, the spiritual and temporal service of the poor became the leitmotiv, the true raison d’être of this new foundation that ministered in accord to the spirit of Vincent de Paul. In all her writings, Giovanna exhorted her followers to remain faithful to the spirit of Vincent de Paul, their founder, their father, their teacher, their role model. Even today, Vincent continues to inspire the members of our Institute.
How does your Congregation reflect the Vincentian charism?
It reflects it fundamentally in two ways. From the very beginning we have attempted to give life and meaning to the Vincentian charism by ministering on behalf of those men and women who are poor. We view those individuals as the suffering body of Christ. We serve those who are poor with cordiality, with compassion, and especially with reverence. An aspect of our Vincentian heritage is to show reverence to those persons who are the beneficiaries of our service, that is, to bow before the poor. This, in fact, has become part of our Rule. We feel that Vincent de Paul inspires the members of the Sisters of Charity. It is no coincidence that for two centuries most of our works have been given the name of Vincent, or Monsieur Vincent, as our founder used to name him.
Your hopes and expectations for the Vincentian charism as we approach the meeting of the leaders of the Vincentian Family, scheduled for January 2020, in Rome.
From my perspective, I would say that there is an expectation of a more intentional collaboration in our service. We meet members of the Vincentian Family in almost every part of the world and we always feel at home with them. We dream of stronger collaboration between branches, so that the charism can be lived in all its fullness. Another expectation revolves around the issue of formation. I would also like to see greater collaboration and sharing of best practices with regard to Vincentian formation of members and being able to have common formation between branches.