Category Archives: Vows

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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Daughters of Charity Vow Day

Today, Daughters of Charity around the world are renewing their vows. We pray for all the Sisters, especially the Sisters curently serving on the Archives staff: Sr. Joan Angermaier and Sr. Rosa Lee Kramer.

“I ask Our Lord to bless you and to fill you with His Spirit so that, from now on, you will live by this same Spirit, humble and obedient like Him. In that way, dear Sisters, you’ll be living of His life. O Savior, this is what I ask of you, that they may live only of Your life by imitating Your virtues. To obtain this grace, Sisters, let’s have recourse to the Blessed Virgin, Mother of Mercy and your great patroness. Say to her, ‘Since the Company of Charity has been established under the standard of your perfection, if we’ve hitherto called you our Mother, we now entreat you to accept the offering we make you ofthe Company in general and each of its members in particular. And because you allow us to call you Mother, and you are the Mother of Mercy, the channel through which all mercy flows; and because, as we believe, you obtained from God the establishment of this Company, be pleased to take it under Your protection.’

“Let’s place ourselves under her guidance, Sisters, let’s promise to give ourselves to her Son and to her without reserve so that she may be the guide of the Company in general and of each Sister in particular.”

Vincent de Paul, Conference of December 8, 1658
(From: Vincent de Paul: Correspondence, Conferences, and Documents, ed. Sr. Marie Poole, DC. Volume 10, p.500)

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Feast of Annunciation; Vow Day for Daughters of Charity

On March 25, the Church celebrates the Feast of the Annunciation. For Daughters of Charity, March 25 is the traditional day that Sisters around the world renew their vows (the actual vow date can vary slightly depending on the timing of Easter; this year the renewal of vows will take place in early April). Daughters of Charity are unique in that they make annual vows, not perpetual vows. In addition to making the traditional vows of poverty, celibacy, and obedience, Daughters of Charity make a fourth vow of service to persons who are poor.

Here is a YouTube video from the Daughters of Charity in Ireland about the history of vows in the Daughters of Charity.

Below are passages from the writings of Vincent and Louise. In the first, Louise asks Vincent for the privilege of making vows, for herself and for the early Sisters. In the second, Vincent de Paul addresses the early Sisters about the vocation of a Daughter of Charity.

Louise de Marillac.
L.615 – TO MONSIEUR VINCENT
March 25 [1659]
(From: Spiritual Writings of Louise de Marillac: Correspondence and
Thoughts. Edited and translated by Sister Louise Sullivan, D.C.
New York, New City Press, 1991)
I had promised myself the honor and the blessing of receiving Holy Communion at your Mass, my Most Honored Father, but I do not deserve this. It is already a great deal that Divine Providence reminded your Charity to be so kind as to grant me about a quarter hour of your time afterwards, otherwise I would have been severely hindered. All our sisters, from far and near, who have had the happiness of pronouncing their vows, and I, unworthy though I be, beg you, my Most Honored Father, to offer us to God in this sovereign mystery so that we may properly renew our vows, particularly the 12 sisters who will have the privilege of assisting at your Mass. We hope to share in it because of the need which your Charity knows we have of this. In all humi1ity, we ask for your paternal blessing. Allow me also to recommend my children to you and to call myself, my Most Honored Father, your very humble servant.

Vincent de Paul, Conference of July 19, 1640
THE VOCATION OF A DAUGHTER OF CHARITY
(From: Vincent de Paul. Correspondence, Conferences, Documents. Vol. 9. Brooklyn, NY: New City, 2004. Translated by Sister Marie Poole, D.C.)

“… Providence has permitted that the very first words of your Rule read as follows: ‘The Company of the Daughters of Charity is established to love and serve God, and to honor Our Lord their Patron and the Blessed Virgin.’ And how will you honor Him? Your Rule tells you, for it goes on to make known to you God’s plan in establishing your Company: ‘To serve the sick poor corporally by supplying them with all they need; and spiritually by seeing that they live and die in a good state.’ So you see, Sisters, you may do all the good you like, but if you don’t do it well, it will profit you nothing. Saint Paul taught us this: give all your goods to the poor, but if you don’t have charity, you’re doing nothing; no, not even should you give your lives. We must imitate the Son of God, dear Sisters, who did nothing except from the motive of the love He had for God His Father. So, your intention in coming to the Charity should be to come here purely for the love and pleasure of God; and, as long as you remain in it, all your actions should tend to that same love … Don’t be content with doing good, but do it in the way God wants, that is, as perfectly as you can, thereby becoming worthy servants of the poor … ”

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