Choices of the Heart: Why My Heart Chose the Daughters of Charity

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Let me set the scene -
Three good friends, two postulants and one discerner. Three amazing vocations directors, one from Baltimore, one from Indiana, one from California.
Setting: Evansville, Indiana - home of many geese, jokingly the "Witness Protection" capital of the country, and home of the Seminary (novitiate) of the Daughters of Charity and a Sisters' retirement home.

All of that made from an amazing retreat.

It really led me to reflect on how much I absolutely love this community. There is no perfect community (if you're a discerner looking for one, sorry but you won't find it) However, the Daughters of Charity are the perfect community for me. There's something exhuberantly joyful about not only fitting into a community, but also them "fitting into you". The Daughters aren't for everyone - some are looking for something more contemplative, others are looking for a community that are only teachers or nurses, others are looking for a community without a habit, others are attracted to the spirituality of St Francis or St John Bosco or St Paul, etc - but they are definitely for me.

So, why do I love the Daughters? Here are my top 10 reasons:

The Motherhouse chapel
10) Our motherhouse is in Paris, France. I mean, come on, have you been there? Okay, me neither. But to know that as a Daughter of Charity, I will be visiting Paris at least once in my life is pretty awesome. On a related Paris note, our Superior General (the Superior General of the Vincentians) grew up just a few miles from me (in the US, not France)

9) They still have a habit. Certainly not reason #1, but there's something comforting about a Sister in habit, even our simple dress in blue. Plus, there's the option of the wearing the coif (veil) or not.

8) Their life is a balance of contemplation and action. St Vincent emphasized that service doesn't mean anything if we don't pray as well. We pray as a community twice a day as well as at meals. We have "Sharing" every week, which is a way for us to share spiritual reflections with each other, whether it be about our ministry or something else. In preparation for a life of service to the poor, the Daughters have Seminary, similar to a novitiate in a religious order - almost two years of contemplation, prayer, and reflection.

7) They're worldwide. Like really worldwide. There are about 20,000 Daughters around the world serving in more than 91 countries. On a smaller national scale, I got to see that in Evansville this past weekend as I visited the retirement home and local communities and met Sisters I had never seen before in my life.

6) The Daughters of Charity have a long list of saints and blesseds, with more on the way. Of the saints, we're the community of the patron saint of social workers, a young woman whom Mary appeared to, and the first American-born saint. Of the blesseds, there's a long list including martyrs of the French revolution, the first beatified Brazilian and a French Sister who served the poor (and rich) without counting the cost.

5) Their history is fascinating. From the founding in 1633 when St Vincent de Paul discovered a sly way of getting around the canonical rule that Sisters had to be cloistered, to the French Revolution when so many Sisters were martyred, to the 1800s with St Elizabeth Ann Seton and her community (which eventually combined with the Daughters) to the present with so many Sisters serving in so many different ways.

4) Despite the fact that their vocation was something revolutionary in the Church at the time (there were no 'apostolic' Sisters before) and they live a radical life, they also cling to what is considered traditional. The Blessed Mother appeared to St Catherine Laboure, a Daughter of Charity, and was the inspiration for the Miraculous Medal. Every Daughter has a deep devotion to the Miraculous Medal and postulants (like yours truly) receive a Miraculous Medal to wear. Every year, the Company is consecrated to Mary.

3) The Daughters are so down to earth. Maybe it's part of their charism - after all, our Founders Prayer says "at their school, teach us to love in the strength of our arm and the sweat of our brow". Or their history - they were the first Sisters that went out in the world to serve others. Whatever it is, they don't pretend to be perfect and don't show themselves as anything more or less than servants of the poor. Another related reason - besides the habit, none of them are the same. There is no "cookie-cutter" Daughter of Charity. One saying goes "when you've met one Daughter of've met one Daughter of Charity"

2) Their entire mission is to serve Christ in the poor. Nothing less. And that means doing it in whatever way is needed, where it is needed, etc.

1) I feel a strong urge that God is calling me here. Things aren't perfect (but what is?) but I truthfully feel the most joyful when I am with them. I couldn't imagine myself happy anywhere else.

And that means everything.

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