A Celebration of the First 150 Years of  The Daughters of Charity in Chicago

For 150 years the neighborhoods and the people of Chicago have been graced with the benefits of the hard work, dedication and endless compassion of the Daughters of Charity. During that time, the Daughters of Charity and their myriad services have continuously evolved to support the ever changing socio-economic borders and ethnic diversity that have migrated to and from the many neighborhoods that the Daughters have served for the past 150 years and continue to serve today.

The Daughters of Charity ministries that are based in Chicago began during the second half of the 19th century, continued throughout the entire 20th century and remain active and strong today in the early 21st century.

In honor of their enduring commitment to Chicago, on Friday, October 14, 2011, the Daughters of Charity celebrated the 150th anniversary of their Chicago ministries with a Mass and reception, held in the Archdiocese of Chicago’s Catholic Charities Headquarters, which is located at 721 N LaSalle Street, Chicago, Illinois. This historic building owes it’s beginning to the Daughters of Charity who had it built to house the St. Vincent’s Infant Asylum, and it was used in that capacity for 84 years from 1888 until 1972.

A number of the Daughters of Charity continue working in their Chicago Ministries today, including those at St. Vincent de Paul Center, Marillac Social Center and St. Joseph Services.

St. Vincent de Paul Center, located in Lincoln Park, provides an extensive Child Care program, Homeless Outreach and Senior Services. http://www.svdpc.org/

Marillac Social Center serves a number of communities on Chicago’s West Side and provides a Child Care program, teen and pre-teen support programs, family and senior services and a variety of after-school programs for teens.  http://www.marillachouse.org/

St. Joseph Services is located on the Near West Side of Chicago and provides after-school, literacy and English as a second language programs. http://stjosephservices.org/?q=node/1

The Daughters also lend their services to St. Peter Claver Church, DePaul University and other community-based programs in the area.

For hundreds of years around the world the Daughters of Charity have undertaken an incalculable number of challenges which have been (and are still) designed to lend assistance to others. In Chicago, like hundreds of other places around the world, the Daughters of Charity have formed an unbreakable bond through time with the local centers they support and with Chicagoans from all walks of life.

Thanks to the Daughters of Charity who continue to minister in Chicago. Your clients, staff and friends at St. Vincent de Paul Center, Marillac Social Center, St. Joseph Services and all others in need who you reach out too, bless you and thank you.

In honor of the Daughters of Charity’s historic 150 years of fellowship to the citizens of Chicago; the following pages provide a brief description of the first five major works of the Daughters of Charity in Chicago during that historic period.


The First Five Works of the Daughters of Charity in Chicago 1861-1871


The School of the Holy Name 1861-1871

In 1861, at the request of Bishop James Duggan (Fourth Bishop of the Diocese of Chicago), the Daughters of Charity came to Chicago from Emmitsburg, MD  to begin their first work in Chicago at the School of the Holy Name. The founding sisters, Sister Ann Regina Jordan, Sister Martha Sherwood and Sister Beata McFaul, donated their services for nearly a year at Holy Name. In 1862, they abruptly interrupted their teaching when they received a call from their superiors to return to the East to care for the wounded of the Civil War.

Sometime later, they returned to the school, but it was in the midst of a terrible cholera epidemic. Sister Ann Regina Jordan died on March 16, 1867 and was succeeded as principal of the school by Sister Mary McCarthy. Four years later the School of the Holy Name was completely destroyed on October 8, 1871, in the Great Fire of Chicago. Immediately after the fire, the Sisters from the Holy Name went to St. Patrick’s School, which had been spared from the fire. St. Patrick’s school house was turned into a relief center where hundreds were fed and received relief.

The House of Providence 1867-1871

In December, 1867, the Daughters of Charity established St. Vincent’s House of Providence on Huron Street between State and Wabash streets in Chicago. At St. Vincent’s House of Providence, also known as the House of Providence, the Daughters provided for those who needed shelter, such as mothers and infants and homeless children. The Daughters also provided support to the elderly, unemployed and to “ an assortment of afflicted humanity. Religious instruction and home visiting in Holy Name Parish were also part of their ministry. The sisters brought home children from their visits with families whose parents were seriously ill or dying. The sisters then tried to find other families who could care for them. Unfortunately, like the School of the Holy Name, the House of Providence was completely destroyed in the Great Fire of Chicago in 1871 having served the people of Chicago for less than four years.

St. Columba’s School 1867-1907

On May 15, 1867, the Daughters of Charity accepted charge of St. Columba’s School, first known as St. Columbkille School in St. Columbkille Parish, located at Pauline Street and West Grand Avenue. In September, 1867, Sister Barbara Clares, principal, and her faculty opened the school for girls called St. Columba’s Academy. The boys’ school at the time, run by the Brothers of the Holy Cross, was called St. Columbkille School.

Because of its location, St. Columba’s School escaped the catastrophe of the Great Fire of 1871. However the sisters at St. Columba’s received the sisters from the School of the Holy Name, the House of Providence School, as well as the sisters and patients from Providence Hospital. In their Relief Center, the sisters prepared meals for the homeless.

The school prospered during its history of forty years. When the pastor wanted increased enrollment of students, the Daughters of Charity were not in a position to supply additional sisters. The school closed at the end of the school year 1906-1907.

Providence Hospital 1868-2001

In 1868 during the deadly Cholera Outbreak, Bishop James Duggan of Chicago asked the Daughters of Charity in Emmitsburg, Maryland, for sisters to staff a hospital. In 1869, Sister Walburga Gehring, and her companions, Sister Annina Lutzkus and Sister Mary Burke, found a house to rent for their new Providence Hospital now at Diversey Parkway and Clark Street.

They soon outgrew that hospital, but as a new hospital was being built at Dickens and Burling Streets, the Great Fire of 1871 broke out while the new facility was only at the 3rd floor level. At three o’clock in the morning the city was all on fire.

On the second day, people continued to flock into the hospital famished for a drink of water. The sisters were forced to evacuate the hospital with their sick patients. Then about midnight, when the fire was only half a mile from them, the wind changed and the flames turned and went in the direction of the lake. The Hospital sisters opened their hospital daily to the hundreds of sick and wounded suffering from the fire. Many of the homeless were lodged in their “unfinished” new hospital.

The doctors of the Relief Committee then asked the sisters to take charge of one of the Barrack’s hospitals in their district. For the six sisters assigned to the mission at the time, the Barrack’s Hospital request was in addition to their normal patient load, plus the additional fire victims who were already at both Providence Hospital and the new hospital.

In April, 1872, all of the Providence Hospital patients were moved into the new (and newly renamed) St. Joseph’s Hospital. By April 17, 1964, St. Joseph’s Hospital moved into its third location, a new building at 2900 N. Lake Shore Drive. In December, 1995, St. Joseph’s Hospital became a partner in Catholic Health Partners of Chicago. On July 1, 2001, St. Josephs was transferred to resurrection Health Care of Chicago.

St. Patrick’s School 1871-1975

On September 11, 1871, the Daughters of Charity opened their third school, St. Patrick’s in Chicago, at the request of the Rev. P. J. Conway, Pastor of St. Patrick Church. The school originally stood at 724 Adams, but later moved toward Des Plaines Street.

Sister Cornelia Markey, Sister Leopold Judge and Sister Mariana Tuttle assumed responsibility for St. Patrick’s.  But in less than a month, the Great Chicago Fire destroyed a large area of the city. St. Patrick’s School itself was not touched, but it was converted into a relief center. The sisters from Holy Name School (which was destroyed) joined the sisters at St. Patrick’s where food and lodging were provided to the homeless.

At the end of October, 1871, St. Patrick’s School re-opened and pupils from Holy Name School were also admitted. The sisters who started St. Patrick’s School were reassigned to other works since they were new to Chicago. The Sisters from Holy Name School, who knew the girls and their families, stayed at St. Patrick’s.

With the help of those who were not victims and through the generosity of other cities and states, Chicago was on the way to recovery. St. Patrick’s had both an elementary school, which closed in 1962, and a high school, which closed in 1970, as the surrounding neighborhood became industrialized and there was a steady decline in enrollment. However, after the schools closed, the Daughters of Charity did maintain St. Patrick Center in the parish and the sisters continued with parish activities, as well as visiting area homes and working with the elderly. After a few years, as the need for the center diminished, St. Patrick Center was finally closed in August, 1975.