Association Internationale des Charités (AIC)
Our story begins with a Sunday sermon in 1617 given by St. Vincent de Paul, a priest at the small parish of Chatillon-les-Dombes in the Diocese of Lyons, France. Fifty women were so moved by the dire needs of a poor suffering family and by Vincent’s stirring words that after church together they provided for the family’s needs. That same spirit characterizes the Association around the world today, 400 years later.

Timeline of the Ladies of Charity of the United States of America, member of the International Association of Charities of St. Vincent de Paul.

8/22/1617

Châtillon-les-Dombes

The first inspiration occurred in Châtillon-les-Dombes in a homily by Vincent de Paul, to which more than 50 women responded and provided services to a family in need. St. Vincent founded the first lay organization to work with the poor (all women) and called it the Confraternity of Charities. This was in August 1617 and on December 8 the official rule of the Confraternity was accepted by the Bishop of Lyons.

1/25/1625

Congregation of the Mission

In 1625, St. Vincent and three priests pledged to, in his own words, “...to live together as a Congregation… and to devote ourselves to the salvation of the poor country folk.” The Congregation of the Mission is later approved in the Papal Bull Salvatoris Nostri. It is affirmed that the Congregation was founded for the evangelization of the poor and must ensure the founding of Confraternities of Charity so that the poor are served and that lay people are included in the evangelization.

1629

St. Louise de Marillac, Visitor of the Confraternities of Charity

Vincent de Paul named Louise de Marillac Visitor of the Confraternities of Charity, saying “Go, therefore, Mademoiselle, go in the name of Our Lord…shelter in rain and cold, your soft bed in weariness, your strength in your toil, and, finally, that He may bring you back in perfect health and filled with good works.”

1632

St. Louise Organizes the Charities

Louise visited and organized the Charities in Paris and the surrounding villages.

11/29/1633

Daughters of Charity

The Company of the Daughters of Charity was founded, to which Saint Vincent entrusted the expansion of the Charities.

1634

Spread of Confraternities

The Charities expanded to Italy (1634) and then Poland (1651). The Confraternity was already international during St. Vincent’s lifetime. Over centuries it developed in numerous countries, including Belgium and Germany.

1789

Effects of French Revolution

The French Revolution obliged the Confraternity of Charity to stop its activities in Paris and throughout France. This broke the connection with associations in other countries where the Confraternity of Charity continued to flourish.

1840

Reestablished After the Revolution

At the request of the Archbishop of Paris the Charities were reestablished in Paris and the rest of France and contact with the associations in other countries was renewed.

1857

First Association in the United States

Catherine Harkins established the first Ladies of Charity Association in the United States at St. Vincent’s parish in St. Louis, MO. She was inspired by a vision of St. Vincent walking through the streets collecting homeless children. In 1860, Fr. Urban Gagnepain. Catherine Harkins' pastor, was moved to New Orleans and started the second association in the United States. It spread from there.

1909

Junior Ladies of Charity

During the nineteenth century in France and in Italy, many groups of young girls are engaged in various charitable works. The organization of a Junior Confraternities of Charity branch is canonically recognized. In many countries the young girls were called Louisettes after St. Louise de Marillac.

1921

First U.S. National Meeting

Due to the rapid growth in the United States, Miss Marie Harkins, Catherine Harkins’ granddaughter, organizes the first meeting of all the associations of the Ladies of Charity in St. Louis, Mo.

1930

First International Congress

The first International Congress of the Ladies of Charity was held in Paris.

1957

U.S. Centennial Celebration

A centennial celebration of the founding of the Ladies of Charity in the United States is celebrated in St. Louis, Mo. The decision to establish a national organization is made. 350 were present representing associations in 22 states, along with 20 Vincentian Fathers and 50 Daughters of Charity.

1960

ALCUS Established

The national organization, Association of the Ladies of Charity United States (ALCUS) was established. A National Service Center was established at Guardian Angel Settlement in St. Louis, Missouri. Sr. Catherine Sullivan D.C. was instrumental in helping the ladies establish ALCUS. There was a 3-fold purpose: to serve as a bond between the associations of the Ladies of Charity in the United States and the International Headquarters in Paris, France; to promote unity among the associations in the exercise of charity according to the spirit of St. Vincent de Paul through personal service to the poor; and to encourage the activities of the associations in existence and to assist in the organization of new ones. The first National Assembly was held in 1960 in New York City. 250 members from 17 dioceses (representing 13 states and the District of Columbia) were in attendance. Mrs. Diane Downey became the first National President. The assembly was held in conjunction with the National Council of Catholic Charities. The governing laws were read and ratified by delegates representing the local associations. The national association continued to hold biennial assemblies with Catholic Charities until 1998.

1968

First Sister Moderator

Sr. Mathilde Comstoc, D.C. serves as the first Sister Moderator to the national board of the Association of the Ladies of Charity of the United States. Since then 16 religious women representatives of the Daughters of Charity or Sisters of Charity have served in that role.

1971

New name: AIC, International Association of Charities, is adopted

At the Extraordinary International Meeting in Rome, delegates from 22 countries voted on the new constitution, elected an Executive Board and an International President and drew up Lines of Action to renew the association. The new name AIC, International Association of Charities, was adopted. The international secretariat moved from Paris to Brussels.

1977

360th Anniversary

This year was highlighted by the celebration of the 360th anniversary of the Charities and drafting of a “Declaration for AIC’s 360th Anniversary.” Also during the 1970s the Ladies of Charity of the United States were listed in the Kennedy Official Catholic Directory.

1980

AIC Basic Document

The International Association of Charities of St. Vincent de Paul (AIC) publishes the Basic Document, a more flexible document than a constitution. This document allows each locality around the world to develop its own style of service and commitment according to the basic model of Vincentian evangelization and service to people most in need. Entitled “Against All Forms of Poverty Acting Together”, the document was officially presented with the objective to define the fundamental project of St. Vincent, adapting it to modern realities.

1986

Legally Recognized

The Ladies of Charity in the United States were incorporated in the State of Missouri and legally recognized as a 501 C3. At that time there were 230 affiliated associations and 30,000 members in 25 states. Also, AIC International acquired legal personality under civil law; it was officially recognized as an International not-for-profit association under Belgian law and its constitution was approved.

1998

1st Meeting Independent of Catholic Charities

The Ladies of Charity of the United States convenes a biennial meeting for the first time independent of Catholic Charities USA, in Orlando, Florida. The theme is "Whatsoever You Do To the Least of Our Brethren."

2007

Ladies of Charity of the U.S. 150th Anniversary

Ladies of Charity of the United States celebrated its 150th anniversary in St. Louis, Mo.

2010

350th Anniversary of Death of Founders

A Grand Jubilee marked the 350th anniversary since the death of the founders St. Vincent de Paul and St. Louise de Marillac.

2017

400th Anniversary

International celebration of the 400th founding of the Confraternity of Charities (AIC) and the beginning of the Vincentian charism is held in France and around the world. Today the International Association of Charities of St. Vincent de Paul (AIC) is a source of information and guidance for the Ladies of Charity of the United States of America ® (LCUSA) and represents their membership on the international level as a Non-Governmental Organization (NGO) at ECOSOC, UNESCO, Council of Europe and the United Nations. AIC is active in 52 countries with over 200,000 local women working together against poverty... the oldest continuous lay volunteer organization in the world.

See this timeline in another format, here.



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