Category Archives: Formation

Sister Formation Movement and Marillac College, St. Louis

Marillac College students in class, 1960. Some twenty-five communities sent Sisters to Marillac and all took classes together (used with permission of Daughters of Charity Provincial Archives)

Marillac College students in class, 1960. Some twenty-five communities sent Sisters to Marillac and all took classes together (used with permission of Daughters of Charity Provincial Archives)

Forty years ago, Marillac College in St. Louis closed its doors and graduated its last class of Sister students. Marillac, begun in the late 1950s and located on the grounds of the provincial house of the former St. Louis Province, was unique in that it was a Sister Formation College. It combined a liberal arts education with the spiritual formation of young Sisters. A 1963 article in The SIGN Magazine described Marillac as:

“a nun’s place, a shining, modern $5.5 million place on a 180-acre estate where college life is lived to its fullest in a nun’s habit. In this sense Marillac is a college like any other, but it is also unique because of its position at the forefront of the Sister Formation Movement, which aims at improved training of nuns. Ultimately, some 170,000 U.S. nuns are involved in the consequences of the movement, as well as six million students in Catholic elementary and high schools who come under the influence of nuns in the classroom.

Marillac, aware of the stake and its role, prizes its sudden success as a new college whose first degrees were awarded only four years ago. Yet, it already has achieved accreditation with highest commendation from the North Central Association of Secondary Schools and Colleges, the same prestige accreditation accorded undergraduate studies at Chicago or Saint Louis Universities. Moreover, the Sacred Congregation for Religious in Rome has singled out the college for special praise.

Both accolades stem from Marillac’s pursuit of excellence under the aegis of the Sister Formation Movement, which came to the fore in the past ten years in response to directives from Pope Pius XII stressing the best possible training tailored for religious. Many orders established special college programs for their members, but the Daughters of Charity of St. Louis Province went a few giant steps further. They not only built Marillac for their own members but opened its classroom doors – free of charge – to religious communities throughout the country. Besides the 25 orders represented in the student body of 350, a cross-section of 15 different orders have members on the faculty.

… For Daughters of Charity, who comprise about two-thirds of the student body, Marillac provides a five-year program, with the novitiate year coming between freshman and sophomore years in the college. Students from other orders normally enter in sophomore year and live off campus in their own juniorates under the direction of a mistress. This enables the young nuns to maintain the distinctive spirit of their orders. Moreover, Marillac turns the nuns over to the rules of their respective orders every day between noon and three o’clock, producing a kaleidoscopic round of religious life, manifested in twenty-five different ways.”

After the College closed, the College grounds and buildings were sold to the University of Missouri-St. Louis. They are now used primarily for studies in the health sciences.


Filed under Education, Formation, Ministries, Pius XII

Feast of Annunciation, Vow Day for Daughters of Charity

DC Community seal

Daughters of Charity Community Seal, seen in the entrance lobby of the Provincial Archives

(Text used with permission of Sister Mary Gilbart. Image used with permission of Daughters of Charity Provincial Archives)

On March 25th, feast of the Annunciation, over 17,000 Daughters of Charity in 91 countries all over the world will renew their vows.

This will not be simply a renewal of devotion,but, as their vows will have expired the night before, they will be free to choose to commit themselves to God by making them all over again.

Our vows differ from those of most religious in so far as they are annual, taken for one year at a time, and also we take a vow of service of persons who are poor as well as the usual vows of Chastity, Poverty and Obedience.

To understand these differences we must go back in history to the roots of our Company in 17th century France. At that time, there was great poverty, both in the cities and in the country areas which were ravaged by war and disease. St. Vincent de Paul felt urged to respond to the terrible needs he saw daily all around him. He had already organized some ladies into what became known as the Confraternities of Charity. In Paris many of the grand ladies were involved in ministering to the poor. This arrangement went well for a time, but then some ladies grew lax and sent their servants to replace them. This was not good enough for Vincent, and he and his collaborator, Louise de Marillac agonized seeking a solution. Divine Providence provided an answer. A good country girl, Marguerite Naseau, arrived in the capital and offered her services to help in caring for the sick.

Vincent was delighted, and soon other girls followed. At first they helped the Ladies in the parishes, and Louise kept in touch with them. The time came when she saw the need to gather them into a community for their protection and formation. After some initial reluctance Vincent agreed and in 1633 Louise took four girls into her house, and thus was born the Company of the Daughters of Charity.

Vincent and Louise wanted these girls to give their lives totally to God in order to serve Christ in the poor, but they avoided anything that would classify them as nuns. The reason for this was that, at that time religious women were cloistered, and this would prevent the girls being free to go into the hovels of the poor to care for the sick. For eight years there was no question of vows, though the girls lived a life of total dedication in imitation of Christ. Then Vincent tentatively mentioned the possibility to them, and a year later, on the feast of the Annunciation 1642, Louise and four others made perpetual vows of Chastity, Poverty and Service of the Poor. Vows were optional for many years. Louise, with her great devotion to Mary, chose this feast, and saw Mary as a model for her Daughters in her complete surrender to the call of God, and in dedicating her life completely to the person and mission of her Son. After 1660 it became standardized that all the Sisters made annual vows after five to seven years, and this practice has endured to the present day.

One might ask why continue this now, as many religious with perpetual vows are free to come and go. The answer is, I suppose that annual vows for the service of the poor has become part of our identity and is recognized by the Church. The Sisters look forward each year to the Feast of the Annunciation when they must choose to commit themselves all over again, and a great current of renewal sweeps through the entire Company, which is now established in 91 countries all over the world.

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Filed under Feast Days, Formation, Louise de Marillac, Vincent de Paul, Vows

Apostolic Experience: Sisters Whitney and Amanda

Sisters Whitney Kimmett and Amanda Kern

Left: Sister Whitney Kimmett. Right: Sr. Amanda Kern (used with permission of the Province of St. Louise)

(Photo used with permission of the Province of St. Louise)
In January of 2013, Sisters Whitney Kimmett (left) and Amanda Kern (right) were formally received into the Company of the Daughters of Charity as Seminary Sisters. Sisters Whitney and Amanda will begin the Apostolic Experience portion of their Formation Program this weekend.

Sister Whitney will be going to New Orleans, where she will work at MOVIN’ ON, a project of DePaul USA which provides a variety of services assisting the poor and homeless, including hygiene, meals, benefits assistance, a legal center, medical clinic and housing resources to help people move out of homelessness. Sister Whitney will also be working at ISAIAH 43, a parenting and mentoring Ministry of the Archdiocese of New Orleans, that engages youth and parents to encourage peaceful conflict resolution, skillful communication, constructive discipline, forgiveness, and leadership development.

Sister Amanda will be sent to Utica, NY, where she will be working with refugees at Thea Bowman House, Inc. Thea Bowman House serves low-income, at-risk children and families in and around the city of Utica, providing quality care to children and youth in the hope of breaking the cycle of poverty through a structured program of educational and social enrichment.

We send prayers and good wishes to both Sisters as they begin their lives of service to the poor.

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Filed under Formation, Ministries, Social Work