The Company of the Daughters of Charity of Saint Vincent de Paul was founded in 1633, in France by Saint Vincent de Paul and Saint Louise de Marillac to serve the poor. Today the Company is present in five continents and 96 countries. There are more than 12.300 Sisters all over the world, working in 1.516 communities. In Brazil there are 972 Sisters and 153 in the Province of Rio de Janeiro.
Being attentive to God`s call and to present-day needs, the Daughters of Charity work in projects that assist early childhood education institutes, schools, elderly homes, communities and hospitals, looking after underprivileged children, the disabled, the elderly, and refugees.
In History, the 17th century in France appears as the “century of the poor”. Countless wars decimated the young forces of society, devastating the countryside and consequently multiplying the amount hungry people, the disabled, and beggars. The rulers did not take any action to resolve the wars and their problems. They were much more concerned with strengthening the central power and for that, they eliminated those who seemed to offer opposition to their rules. And so, harassed the neighboring countries and over- burdened the poor people with taxes.
In this context of misery and pain, in 1617, Father Vincent de Paul founded Confraternities of Charity to help relieve the suffering of the poor. God impelled him to give a concrete answer to the miserable situation of the people. The Confraternities spread rapidly throughout France. In 1625 Father Vincent de Paul founded the Congregation of the Mission, to help forming missionaries destined to, above all, preach the Gospel to the people of the countryside. It was in this period of time he met Louise de Marillac, a widow and aristocrat that would help him with the confraternities work.
The confraternities were originally formed by ladies of the nobility, who were often prevented by their husbands from personally assisting the poor and, therefore, were replaced by their maids to provide assistance. These maids, in turn, although performing the designated work, they did not provide bring the poor with the real attention and affection they needed. So, it was necessary to reorganize the charity.
It was around this time period that a young peasant girl named Marguerite Naseau appears. She introduced herself to Father Vincent and offers to do the humblest tasks that the ladies of the confraternities weren’t able to do for the poor. With great evangelical love she became the servant of the most abandoned ones. As Marguerite’s service influenced other young women from several social classes and different parts of France, many started following her. Father Vincent de Paul then entrusted them to Louise de Marillac’s instruction.
On November 29, 1633, Louise de Marillac welcomed into her home the first group of four young women, whom she taught to strengthen their faith and union with God, to live in a community of fraternal life, and also to serve Christ by serving the poor, with gentleness and tenderness. The first Daughters of Charity was born then.
It was a novelty at that time since until then the devoted life was only found in cloister. From then on, these Sisters began to live among the people, visiting the houses of the poor and caring for the sick. They started looking after the sick people in hospitals, they also began the education of young women, abandoned children, the galleys, wounded soldiers, the refugees, the mentally insane people, the elderly and many others.
From that moment on and driven by a great missionary ideal, the Company of the Daughters of Charity of Saint Vincent de Paul went beyond the borders of France and undertook mission fronts in other countries.