Tuesday, November 8, 2016

Walking in the Footsteps of Saints Vincent and Louise

I have been a Daughter of Charity for more than fifty happy years. During this time, I have tried to be attentive to the teachings of Saint Vincent and Saint Louise and to living their spirit. Recently, I had the privilege of spending a month at our Motherhouse in Paris to participate in a Vincentian Sessions program along with 84 sisters from around the world! This immersion experience in the internationality of the Company and the spirit of our Vincentian charism was humbling, enriching, and energizing.

One piece of this experience that has had a deep impact on me was walking on pilgrimage to the places where Louise, Vincent, and the first sisters lived, worked, and formed the Vincentian charism. The building that was the Motherhouse for the longest period of Louise's life and where she died has been replaced with an apartment house; but to stand on the sidewalk across the street as our guide pointed out the building, then to turn to see the property directly across the street that was St. Lazare (the Motherhouse of the Vincentian priests, where St. Vincent spend the longest part of his life) was an awesome experience. Knowing that I was standing where Vincent actually walked regularly to give conferences to the first sisters and where Louise walked to meet with Vincent at St. Lazare was more powerful than I can describe. Being there physically was so very different from reading about it in a book, as I have so many times before.

The St. Lazare property, originally built as a monastery, was very large. None of the original buildings remain, only one back wall of a building. On that wall is a plaque recalling for everyone that St. Vincent de Paul lived here from January 7, 1632 until September 27, 1660, establishing many works and institutions to care for the poor, the sick, and the galley slaves for the great benefit of the people of Paris. New buildings now occupy the site, but part of the property has been reserved as a small park where anyone can come to rest a while. In the park is a small monument honoring St. Vincent. These things were not placed there by Daughters of Charity or Vincentian priests, but by the people of Paris who love and honor St. Vincent.

The Church of St. Laurent, situated close by in the neighborhood, was the parish church of St. Louise and the early Daughters. In the church is an alcove honoring St. Louise and the work of the Daughters while another alcove honors St. Vincent.

It was very humbling to see that the people of Paris love Vincent and Louise as much as I do, or perhaps even more. It energizes me and I hope to be more attentive to their lives and their words and to share them boldly with all whom I meet.

Written by Sister Mary Frate, D.C.

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