Ladies of Charity USA
FOUNDED BY ST. VINCENT DE PAUL, patron of all charity, the Ladies of Charity responded to the needs of the poor in seventeenth century France. Together with St. Louise de Mariliac, they went quietly about their tasks, seeking no recognition, satisfied with the knowledge that they were serving Christ in the person person of the poor. THE LADIES OF CHARITY, since their origin, have possessed the charism of their founder, daily prayer and personal service to the poor. That same Vincentian spirit characterizes the Association today. It asks the personal gift of self, of time, devotion, sacrifices, and perseverance in the effort to bring dignity to each person and to respond with compassion to every human misery.
- The first American Lady of Charity was a 23-year old wife and mother named Catherine Harkins. Born in Ireland, she came to America with her parents and was taught by the Sisters of Charity in Emmitsburg, Maryland. When she married, she moved to St. Louis, settling in St. Vincent de Paul Parish. There, encouraged by Father Urban Gagnepain of the Congregation of the Mission, she formed an association on December 8, 1857. It was the first American association of the Ladies of Charity. There were 12 members and she was their president.
- There were many poor in St. Louis and the new association found its services to be much needed. Aside from visiting and feeding those in need, the Ladies also assisted the Daughters of Charity who came to the parish in 1859. The Daughters staffed the House of the Guardian Angel for orphan girls. When Father Gagnepain was transferred to New Orleans, he formed a second group. Thus the movement began in the United States.
In Our Time
- With the approach of their Centennial in 1957, the members of the first American association, the St. Vincent de Paul Parish, decided to invite all Ladies of Charity Associations in the United States to send representatives to the a centennial celebration. The Ladies, who represented 22 states, voted unanimously to form a more lasting bond by means of a national organization. The first National Assembly met in New York City in 1960. This marked the establishment of the National Association now known as Ladies of Charity of the United States of America (LCUSA).
- In 1972 the Ladies of Charity of the United States joined associations around the world and formed the International of Association Charities (AIC). Thus the seed sown by St. Vincent in 1617 has become a huge tree that extends its branches to forty countries with a world-wide membership of 260,000 lay volunteers.
- Ladies of Charity continue in the mission of direct service to the poor in the spirit of St Vincent, To Serve Rather Than Be Served. with humility, simplicity and charity.
Mission Statement of the Ladies of Charity
- Assist, local associations to continue, expand and improve their charitable and spiritual works according to the directives and in the spirit of St. Vincent de Paul, St. Louise de Marillac and St. Elizabeth Ann Seton through personal service to those in need.
- Encourage and aid in communications, to promote and strengthen unity, to share ideas and information among all the associations, and to foster the formation of new associations of Ladies of Charity in collaboration with the other branches of the Vincentian family.
- Foster more vital links with the International Association of Charities (AIC) to profit from the experience of Ladies of Charity world-wide and to be supportive of sister associations in their efforts to respond to unmet needs
Following the directives of St. Vincent de Paul (1617), the association will conduct activities to assist the ill, poor and disadvantaged, giving spiritual and material help as needed to empower the recipients. Our members will:
- Perform personal and communal acts of charity for people who are ill, poor, or disadvantaged with an emphasis on the needs of women and children
- Advocate for effective public policies for the needs of women and children who are poor, ill or marginalized
- Fundraise for selected charities and projects
- Pray individually, collectively and with the poor
- Study Vincentian history and tradition
- Attend renewal days and retreats
- Link efforts with the Ladies of Charity USA (for example determine if their national focus (i.e. reading enrichment in families) is appropriate in our area, and other :*Attend Association meetings, Vincentian gatherings and Ladies of Charity USA National Assemblies
Resources for Moderators
Sr. Claire Debs, DC, during her term as Sister Moderator for the Ladies of Charity prepared the following resources for Spiritual Moderators and Spiritual Advisors:
- Spiritual Moderator: A Calling from God
- Spiritual Moderator: Show us the way
- Spiritual Moderator: Responsibilities
- Spiritual Moderator: Vincentian Laity in the Church Today
- Spiritual Moderator: Founding Stories of the Ladies of Charity
- Spiritual Moderator: Elements of a Vincentian Family Group
- Spiritual Moderator: Mission and Virtues of the Ladies of Charity
- Spiritual Moderator: Accompaniment