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St. Louise de Marillac,
a committed woman
Part 3: abandoned children
During one of the meetings of the
Confraternity of the Ladies of Charity,
Vincent described their extreme misery:
They are in extreme-- or almost
extreme-- need, and each of us is
obliged to come to their aid. It’s obvious
that it’s extreme since, without your help,
they will all die. They have been
abandoned by their fathers and
mothers and everyone else.
(CCD:XIIIb:405).
Children abandoned at church
doors or on the streets of Paris
were finally “seen”, at some
point, as persons in distress.
How could all of these children be
provided for? One group was living
at the Motherhouse in Chapelle
while another group was living in a
house located on the rue des
Boulangers.
These houses that provided shelter
for the children were not adequate
to receive a large number of
children.
On January 1, 1638 the
decision was made to
receive some of these
children.
Louise then established procedures for the
recruitment of wet-nurses. They should be
irreproachable in their behavior and should present
a reference from the pastor of their parish.
Louise also calculated the monthly cost for
providing food and clothing to each child (100 livres
in 1640).
In order to receive this subsidy, a certificate had to
be presented from the pastor indicating that the
child was in good health.
Louise envisioned the possibility
of entrusting some of these
children to people living in the
rural areas (the fresh air would
be beneficial for the children).
Louise noted the name of each child and the
name of the wet-nurse*. In the course of three
weeks, twenty children were placed in different
villages. Louise was not satisfied, however, with
this situation; she wanted to assure the future
health and education of these children and
therefore she organized regular visits to the
wet-nurses.
On March 30, 1638 the wet-nurses
began their ministry.
*La Compañia de las Hijas de la Caridad en sus Orígenes: Documentos,
Editorial CEME, Santa Marta de Tormes, Salamanca, 2003. (p. 271)
Louise provided for the education of the older children
in the former castle at Bicêtre, a building that in 1647
had been converted into a home for the foundlings.
When the children arrived there they learned a trade
and this instruction took into consideration the child’s
likes and abilities: The Sister Servant must take care to
point out to the Lady Treasurer of the Children the
necessity of placing the children, particularly the boys,
as soon as she sees that they are ready for domestic
service or to learn a trade. She should try to recognize
their inclinations and desires without their noticing it
(SWLM:739 [A.91]).
Thanks to the care that was provided by
the Daughters of Charity, numerous
children survived and grew to become
adults.
Source:
“Louise de Marillac, a committed woman”
[This article appeared in Volume II of En tiempos de San Vicente de Paúl … y hoy,
Editorial CEME, Santa Marta de Tormes (Salamanca) Spain, 1997, p. 257-272. The
above cited work was translated from the French by Martín Abaitua, CM (Au temps
de St. Vincent-de-Paul… et aujourd ‘hui), Animation Vicentienne, 16, Grande rue
Saínt-Michel, Toulouse, France … this work is not attributed to any one author but it
is stated in the Introduction that the articles were written by various authors].
Images: Depaul Image Archive

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St. Louise de Marillac and Abandoned Children

  • 1. St. Louise de Marillac, a committed woman Part 3: abandoned children
  • 2. During one of the meetings of the Confraternity of the Ladies of Charity, Vincent described their extreme misery: They are in extreme-- or almost extreme-- need, and each of us is obliged to come to their aid. It’s obvious that it’s extreme since, without your help, they will all die. They have been abandoned by their fathers and mothers and everyone else. (CCD:XIIIb:405). Children abandoned at church doors or on the streets of Paris were finally “seen”, at some point, as persons in distress.
  • 3. How could all of these children be provided for? One group was living at the Motherhouse in Chapelle while another group was living in a house located on the rue des Boulangers. These houses that provided shelter for the children were not adequate to receive a large number of children. On January 1, 1638 the decision was made to receive some of these children.
  • 4. Louise then established procedures for the recruitment of wet-nurses. They should be irreproachable in their behavior and should present a reference from the pastor of their parish. Louise also calculated the monthly cost for providing food and clothing to each child (100 livres in 1640). In order to receive this subsidy, a certificate had to be presented from the pastor indicating that the child was in good health. Louise envisioned the possibility of entrusting some of these children to people living in the rural areas (the fresh air would be beneficial for the children).
  • 5. Louise noted the name of each child and the name of the wet-nurse*. In the course of three weeks, twenty children were placed in different villages. Louise was not satisfied, however, with this situation; she wanted to assure the future health and education of these children and therefore she organized regular visits to the wet-nurses. On March 30, 1638 the wet-nurses began their ministry. *La Compañia de las Hijas de la Caridad en sus Orígenes: Documentos, Editorial CEME, Santa Marta de Tormes, Salamanca, 2003. (p. 271)
  • 6. Louise provided for the education of the older children in the former castle at Bicêtre, a building that in 1647 had been converted into a home for the foundlings. When the children arrived there they learned a trade and this instruction took into consideration the child’s likes and abilities: The Sister Servant must take care to point out to the Lady Treasurer of the Children the necessity of placing the children, particularly the boys, as soon as she sees that they are ready for domestic service or to learn a trade. She should try to recognize their inclinations and desires without their noticing it (SWLM:739 [A.91]). Thanks to the care that was provided by the Daughters of Charity, numerous children survived and grew to become adults.
  • 7. Source: “Louise de Marillac, a committed woman” [This article appeared in Volume II of En tiempos de San Vicente de Paúl … y hoy, Editorial CEME, Santa Marta de Tormes (Salamanca) Spain, 1997, p. 257-272. The above cited work was translated from the French by Martín Abaitua, CM (Au temps de St. Vincent-de-Paul… et aujourd ‘hui), Animation Vicentienne, 16, Grande rue Saínt-Michel, Toulouse, France … this work is not attributed to any one author but it is stated in the Introduction that the articles were written by various authors]. Images: Depaul Image Archive