Timeline of the Ladies of Charity of the United States of America, member of the International Association of Charities of St. Vincent de Paul.
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.
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.
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.”
St. Louise Organizes the Charities
Louise visited and organized the Charities in Paris and the surrounding villages.
Daughters of Charity
The Company of the Daughters of Charity was founded, to which Saint Vincent entrusted the expansion of the Charities.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
First International Congress
The first International Congress of the Ladies of Charity was held in Paris.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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."
Ladies of Charity of the U.S. 150th Anniversary
Ladies of Charity of the United States celebrated its 150th anniversary in St. Louis, Mo.
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.
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.