Daughters of Charity Affiliates
A Brief History of Affiliates to the Company of the Daughters of Charity
Adapted and annotated from the work of Sr. Loretto Gettemeier, DC, West Central Province, by F. Dale Whitten, Affiliate, West Central Province
Vincent de Paul first organized the Ladies of Charity – the Confraternities of Charity, as he called them, in 1617. As the work of the Confraternities increased, the Ladies needed helpers in their service of the poor, the neglected and the suffering. When Vincent preached a mission in one of the parishes, he kept his eye out for young women who were able and willing to assist the Ladies of Charity. Vincent then invited these women to Paris to be trained by his collaborator, Louise de Marillac.
November 29, 1633 marks the founding of the community of the Daughters of Charity by Louise de Marillac and Vincent de Paul. Interestingly, the Daughters were formed as Affiliates of the Ladies of Charity; i.e., the laity was in charge and the Daughters assisted them.
With the evolution of society, culture and the role of religious women in the Church, the role of the Daughters of Charity gradually changed. Rules were written down and eventually approved by Rome. Today there are 20,000 Daughters of Charity throughout the world in the Church; Daughters are known as lay women who live in a Society of Apostolic Life – not as a religious order.
For the intervening 300-plus years, the term Affiliate seemed to have dropped out of the Daughter of Charity vocabulary. During a meeting of the General Assembly of the Community of the Daughters of Charity in 1969, the concept of affiliation was brought before the Assembly. (The General Assembly is a meeting of delegates from countries all over the world; the Visitatrix and an elected delegate from each Province are called to examine what adaptations need to be made in order to better serve the Church and the people of God.)
Approval was given in 1969 for Provinces to experiment with new types of affiliation. The word went forth from the General level to the Visitatrixes, to the Provincial Councils, to the Sister Servants, and to the local houses:
- Persons or groups of persons who want to live Vincentian spirituality and assist in the works of the Daughters may live with the DC’s in community without feeling they have to commit themselves to enter more fully into the life of the Community if such is not their vocation.
Following this encouragement, there were efforts within the US Provinces to begin new programs. The General Assembly of 1975 defined affiliation and authorized continuing experimentation with the new forms, which were suggested. The 1975 Assembly said:
- The Company of the Daughters of Charity may also include affiliate members. Affiliate membership is sometimes granted by the Superior General to persons desirous of deepening their spiritual and apostolic life by participating in the work of the Vincentian community. This enables them to share in the merits, works and prayers of the Company.
During the 1980 General Assembly, it was decided not to continue approval for experimentation for Affiliates. Subsequently, all mention of Affiliates was deleted from the DC Constitution in 1980. However, responsibility for the Affiliates, though deleted from the DC Constitution, was put in the book of Directives for the Visitatrix. The 1980 General Assembly redefined Affiliate Membership as:
- Affiliated members are those who, by reason of their spiritual and/or material generosity to the Company, are deemed worthy of a share in the prayers and good works of the Company.
- In rare instances, and for those laity whose lives have reflected the Vincentian charism in the highest degree, Affiliation (honorary membership in the Company) is offered. This affiliation entitles them to share in the prayers and good works of the Company, as well as in special Community activities.
Based on available information as of January 2009, the number of Affiliates by Province is as follows:
- Northeast Province 40
- Southeast Province 41
- East Central Province 81
- West Central Province 35
- Province of the West 73
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Quote from Sr. Honora Remes, D.C., Visitatrix of East Central Province, Evansville, Indiana:
- “You, our treasured Affiliates, are the "front-line reps" of all that the Daughters hope to stand for in ministry. You have been called to affiliation because of your tested fidelity to the Vincentian charism, and your "above and beyond the call of duty generosity” in Daughters of Charity ministries. You are a special proof that the charism grows prolifically in every walk of life!”
Quote from Sr. Mary Walz, D.C., Visitatrix of West Central Province, St. Louis, Missouri:
- “I have found that you, our Affiliates, contribute greatly to our appreciation and understanding of what it means to be “the Vincentian Family.” Each of you was invited into affiliation because you embody and communicate the values of the Daughters of Charity. We are kindred spirits! Your lives and ministry remind us that the Kingdom of God is present and belongs to persons living in poverty. Thank you for being a great source of hope for the Daughters of Charity and the Church! We have been deeply blessed by the witness of your lives.”
Quotes from Affiliates:
Tom Conklin, East Central:
- “For me it is an honor and a part of my evolving vocation, resulting in more work for those in need. I am deeply grateful not just for the title, but more importantly for the continuing call which it represents.”
Diann Gilmore, West Central:
- “When I was a child, I dreamed of becoming a nun. Becoming an Affiliate of the Daughters of Charity has given me a taste of that dream, while working in a lay-person’s world with the poor and homeless.”
Linda and F. Dale Whitten, West Central:
- “We were surprised, humbled, honored and blessed to be invited as members of this impressive community. Honorary membership has given us spiritual context and guidance, as well as opportunities, for continuing God’s work in caring for those persons who are poor.”
Mary Nell Williams, East Central:
- “As a Daughter of Charity Affiliate, I feel honored, blessed and enriched to participate in an additional meaningful and spiritual way with the Vincentian Family.”
FDW 09 23 09 MNW revised 02/12/2010