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St. Louise de Marillac


Orphaned as a teen and rejected by one religious order, St. Louise de Marillac persevered and eventually became the co-founder of the Daughters of Charity in 17th-century France – the first congregation of non-cloistered women dedicated to charitable service. Her talents for inviting, teaching and organizing were essential to making the vision of co-founder St. Vincent de Paul a reality. Today, more than 13,000 Daughters of Charity serve throughout the world.

Louise never knew her mother but enjoyed an elite education and lifestyle as the daughter of a French aristocrat. After her father’s death, she lived with a devout spinster and became drawn to the cloistered life. When she was rejected by an order, she was told that God had other plans for her, which she took to heart. Louise married at the age of 22 and became a devoted wife and loving mother to a son, Michel. She became a leader in a group of wealthy women committed to helping the poor, while continuing to maintain a deep prayer life. At the age of 32, Louise experienced a vision in which a priest appeared to her and she saw herself caring for the poor as a vowed religious. A short time later, she met St. Vincent de Paul, who became her spiritual advisor.

After Louise’s husband died, St. Vincent invited her to assist him with the Confraternities of Charity in French parishes. He soon realized that her ability for working with and among the peasants was an answer to his prayers. In 1633, with 12 young women, Vincent and Louise founded the Daughters of Charity, a community devoted to serving the poorest of the poor while living among them. The fact that the women in the order were not cloistered meant that they could travel to people’s homes and work with medical professionals. At the time of her death 27 years later, Louise had helped establish more than 40 congregations in France. She was canonized in 1934.