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Daughters of Charity of St. Vincent de Paul
Franciscan Sisters of Mary
Religious of the Sacred Heart
School Sisters of Notre Dame
Sisters of Loretto

The Sarah Community St. Vincent de Paul Congregation Daughters of Charity of St. Vincent de Paul

In 1633, a French widow named Louise de Marillac and a French priest named Vincent de Paul founded the Daughters of Charity to serve the poor of France.

Saint Vincent de Paul had organized the first "Charities" (or Confraternities) in 1617. The Confraternities were composed of women from relatively modest backgrounds, who wished to devote themselves to the service of the poor and the sick in their villages or parishes.

Saint Vincent de Paul brought these Confraternities to Paris, where the number of young women serving in them grew. In 1630, Saint Vincent de Paul entrusted these young girls to Louise de Marillac, who was already assisting him in the organization, visitation and follow-up of the Confraternities. The young women were then dispersed throughout Paris, each one serving in a different Confraternity.

Louise de Marillac quickly realized the need to bring the young volunteers together so that she could give them a better formation and accompany them in their corporal and spiritual services. With Saint Vincent de Paul’s authorization, Louise de Marillac brought the young women together, and on November 29, 1633, she received the first six Daughters into her home. This date marks the official "birth" of the Company of the Daughters of Charity.

The Daughters of Charity were unlike the established religious communities at that time.  Up to this point, all religious women were behind cloister walls and performed a ministry of contemplative prayer. Saint Vincent de Paul, however, wanted the Daughters to be free to walk the streets of Paris in response to the needs of the poor, and to live among the people society had most abandoned. He recommended that his Daughters care for the poor in their homes, so that they might get to know the poor in their natural setting.

Almost two centuries later, Elizabeth Seton, the American founder of the Sisters of Charity of St. Joseph, adapted the rule of the French Daughters of Charity for her Emmitsburg, Maryland community. In 1850, the Emmitsburg community united with the international community based in Paris, thus beginning the first American community of the Daughters of Charity.

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"They met the needs of the times, especially the needs of people who could not access life's basic necessities." Franciscan Sisters of Mary

Our heritage of faith, love and compassion as Franciscan Sisters of Mary grew from our founder, Mary Odilia Berger. She and her companions left Germany in 1872, arriving in St. Louis determined to live a consecrated religious life, to become self-supporting and to help people in need. They came with little more than experience in caring for sick and injured persons and love for others in their hearts. They cared for the sick in their homes, sheltered single mothers-to-be, protected young working women and embraced the care of orphans.

Five years after arriving in St. Louis, while ministering to the sick and nursing persons with smallpox and other illnesses in their homes, the focus of the sisters, who had become known as the Sisters of St. Mary, began to shift to the care of the sick in hospitals.

As years passed, the sisters increased their knowledge and skills, developed technology and established institutions. Essentially their ministry was to bring the healing presence of God and the love revealed through Jesus Christ to their sisters and brothers, especially those in most need.

Seven SSM who were committed to a Franciscan way of life and guided by Mary Augustine Giesen, formed a new community in 1894, named the Sisters of St. Francis of Maryville, MO (OSF).

Throughout their histories both congregations distinguished themselves as gracious, hospitable and committed women. They met the needs of the times, especially the needs of people who could not access life's basic necessities. They became leaders in establishing hospitals and advancing health education. As hands-on healers, managers and administrators, researchers and inventors, the sisters have been compassionate leaders in health care administration, nursing education and the development of allied health professions.

Following Vatican II, both congregations began renewal and planning for their futures. By the early 1980's, there was an awareness among them of being called to a shared future. To this end, they began serious conversations, socialization and shared programs to deepen their relationships.
In May 1985 members from both congregations made a momentous decision. Casting individual ballots, the OSF and SSM voted to reunite as a single congregation. In August 1987 sisters from each tradition met to elect leadership for the reunited congregation, resulting in the formation of the Franciscan Sisters of Mary.

During devastating epidemics and societal ills, the sisters have cared for their needy sisters and brothers, believing with Mary Odilia Berger, that "all are God's children" and, as sister to all, heeded the admonition of Mary Augustine Giesen, to "turn no one away."

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The Sarah Community Religious of the Sacred Heart Congregation

Religious of the Sacred Heart

At the beginning of the 21st century the Society of the Sacred Heart is a group of nearly 3000 women in over 500 communities in 45 countries. We work in universities, secondary and elementary schools; with handicapped children and adults; in popular education centers in rural and urban areas; with migrants, indigenous people, and refugees; in parishes, retreat centers, ashrams; in prisons; in advocacy work, especially with women and children; as teachers, administrators, lawyers, nurses, doctors, artists, writers, therapists, pastoral counselors, spiritual directors, and social workers. Most live in communities of three to seven people near those we serve.

Nearly 500 RSCJ live outside the country of their birth. Our central administration in Rome fosters our international communion and gives leadership and direction for the Society's mission. The 34 provinces of the Society seek to discern God's calls to us and in concrete ways to respond to these calls in our local settings.

The Society was founded in France in 1800 by a young Burgundian woman, Madeleine Sophie Barat. Her original inspiration was to honor the Sacred Heart of Jesus and spread his love through efforts to fill the educational vacuum that resulted from the French Revolution. She and her first companions opened schools for girls, both rich and poor, throughout France. In 1818 she sent one of those first companions Philippine Duchesne with four others to the Diocese of Louisiana. Their first intention was to work with Native Americans, but the bishop sent them to work with white children in St. Charles, Missouri, whence the Society’s mission spread throughout the United States and Canada. Subsequently the Society spread to the other continents.

Philippine Duchesne realized her ambition to serve the Native Americans only in the last years of her life when she spent a year among the Potawatomi in Sugar Creek, Kansas. She died in St. Charles in 1852 and was canonized by Pope John Paul II in 1988. Her shrine in St. Charles is a place of pilgrimage.

Madeleine Sophie Barat governed the Society as superior general until her death in 1865; she was canonized by Pope Pius XI in 1925.

Mission Statement of the Society of the
Sacred Heart of Jesus, United States Province

The Society of the Sacred Heart of Jesus is an international community of women in the Catholic Church, founded in 1800 by St. Madeleine Sophie Barat. Sharing her vision and mission, we are convinced of the centrality of prayer and contemplation in our lives. We are committed to discover, live and announce God’s love through the service of education for transformation, in diverse ministries, particularly addressing the needs of children, young people, women and those in society who are marginalized.

What the Mission Entails
The love of Christ impels us:

  • to work for justice and reconciliation, especially in the face of racism, sexism and violence of every kind;
  • to join the struggle of the poor for the resources and conditions essential for human well-being;
  • to build community;
  • to be challenged and broadened by other cultures;
to live in interdependence with others and with all of creation.

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The Sarah Community School Sisters of Notre Dame Congregation

School Sisters of Notre Dame

Our mission as School Sisters of Notre Dame is to proclaim the good news, directing our entire lives toward that oneness for which Jesus Christ was sent.”

The School Sisters of Notre Dame [SSND] were founded in Bavaria in 1833 by Blessed Theresa of Jesus Gerhardinger for the purpose of educating poor girls, based on the conviction that women properly educated would transform families and society.  In 1847, Blessed Theresa and five sisters came to the United States in response to a call to teach German

immigrant children.  The congregation grew rapidly in the new world.  Under the leadership of Mother Caroline Friess, they reached out to all children, establishing a viable parochial school system and staffing orphanages and schools for children with special needs.As members of an international congregation, SSNDs continue to respond to needs in various cultures and geographic areas resulting in a diversity of membership and ministries.  They are actively engaged in teaching, adult education, parish administration and ministry, spiritual direction, counseling, peace and justice ministries, prison ministry, literacy efforts, social services and health care.  Wherever there are unmet needs, they attempt to share the all-encompassing love of God.

Rooted in the charism of Blessed Theresa, they minister to women, youth and the poor
or marginalized.  Their contemplative-active lifestyle is a witness to God’s love revealed in Jesus.  As apostolic women religious, they are committed to living simply, reverencing all of creation, believing that education can transform persons. Through collaboration and peace-making efforts, they strive to change systems of poverty and injustice throughout the world as they seek to bring all to that oneness for which Jesus Christ was sent.

In 2007, the School Sisters of Notre Dame are a multicultural, international congregation of 3,800 vowed women religious, ministering in 36 countries.  In North America, the congregation is divided into six provinces.  The St. Louis Province has over 500 members ministering in 20 U. S. states and eight foreign countries.

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Sisters of Loretto

The Sisters of Loretto at the Foot of the Cross was founded in 1812 in Kentucky.  The first members, Mary Rhodes, Christina Stuart and Ann Havern, recognized the need of children in the area for education and religious formation.  It was not long before they expressed to their pastor, Father Charles Nerinckx, their desire to devote themselves entirely to God and neighbor, as a religious community. He composed for them a simple rule, outlining the nature and intentions of “The Little Society of the Friends of Mary under the Cross of Jesus.”  For nearly 200 years, the Sisters of Loretto, as friends of Mary, continue to be a dedicated community of faith and service which exists to praise God and to minister to people.

Mary, Ann and Christina began their religious life together on April 25, 1812, a day celebrated as Loretto Foundation Day each year.  They called the cabin complex which served as their home and teaching quarters “Little Loretto,” after the shrine in Italy which honors the home of Jesus, Mary and Joseph at Nazareth.  After the departure of Father Nerinckx for Missouri in 1824, the Sisters of Loretto moved a few miles from their original cabins along Hardin’s Creek to St. Stephen’s Farm, where the present Loretto Motherhouse is located, 60 miles south of Louisville.

From the beginning, the Sisters of Loretto engaged in teaching as the primary focus of their apostolate. The Sisters of Loretto moved west from Kentucky in almost parallel years with the pioneer settlers and opened schools in Missouri (1823) and Kansas (1847), the latter for Osage Indians.  In 1852, four years after the United States annexed the Southwest Territory, Loretto sisters responded to the appeal of Bishop J. B. Lamy to work with the Spanish-speaking children of Santa Fe. There a school flourished for over a century and served as a nucleus from which Loretto spread to other New Mexico towns and also to Colorado (1864), Texas (1879), and California (1886).  The Loretto Normal School (1896) led to more advanced teacher training, graduate study, and the establishment of two colleges for women, Webster College (1916) in Saint Louis and Loretto Heights College (1918) in Denver. By the twentieth century, the Sisters of Loretto established schools in China and South America. Now Loretto is planning to establish a foundation in Pakistan.

Today, in addition to the traditional work of education, Sisters of Loretto minister to victims of violence and abuse, advocate for equality in church and society, shelter the homeless, and nurture the Earth.  Our ministries are diverse and represent many individual responses to the demands of gospel living.  Our spirituality follows the rhythms of praise to God and service to neighbor.

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The Sarah Community
The Sarah Community