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Daughters of Providence

Congregations of Providence (I)


Founded at Paris, by Madame Polaillon (Marie de Lumague), a devout widow. In 1643 Madame Polaillon, having obtained letters patent from Louis XIII, opened a home to provide protection and instruction for young girls, whom beauty, poverty, or parental neglect exposed to the loss of Faith and other spiritual perils, placing it under the protection of Providence, with the name Seminary of Providence. Among the many who sought admission were some capable of instructing the rest, and of these, seven, who gave evidence of a religious vocation, were selected to form a religious community under rules drawn up for their use by St. Vincent de Paul at the direction of François de Gondy, Archbishop of Paris (1647). New letters patent were granted by Louis XIV, whose mother, Anne of Austria, gave the institute its first fixed abode, the Hospital de la Santé in Faubourg Saint-Marcel (1651), previously a home for convalescents from the Hôtel-Dieu, a grant confirmed by royal letters in 1667, bestowing on the religious all the privileges, rights, and exemptions accorded to hospitals of royal foundation. The Archbishop of Paris established other houses in various parts of the city, and foundations were made first at Metz and Sedan, where special attention was devoted to Jewish converts and the reclamation of heretics. After two years of probation candidates were admitted to the simple vows of chastity, obedience, the service of others, and perpetual stability. The superior, elected every three years, and the ecclesiastical superior, appointed by the Archbishop of Paris, were assisted in the temporal administration of the community by two pious matrons, chosen from among the principal benefactresses. In 1681 some members of the congregation joined the Sisters of Charitable Instruction of the Child Jesus of Saint-Maur, established by Nicolas Barré in 1678, thenceforth known as the Ladies of Saint-Maur and of Providence; the remaining members became canonesses of the Congregation of Our Lady, founded by St. Peter Fourier. The foregoing congregation became a model for others established to carry on a similar work in various dioceses of France, whose activities, however, came eventually to embrace the administration of elementary schools for girls, orphanages, and asylums for the blind and deaf mutes, and the care of the sick in hospitals and their own homes. In 1903 the number of Sisters of Providence in France exceeded 10,000. From the original seminary of Providence also came the religious who formed the nucleus of the Congregation of Christian Union subsequently established by M. le Vachet, a priest whose counsels had encouraged Madame Polaillon.

HÉLYOT, Dict. des ordres relig. (Paris, 1859); HEIMBUCHER, Orden u. Kongregationen (Paderborn, 1908); FAIDEAU, Vie de Madame Lumague (Paris, 1659); Règlements de la maison et hospital des filles de la Providence de Dieu (Paris, 1657).

Florence Rudge McGahan.

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