The Institute of Our Lady of Charity was founded (1641) by [St. Jean] Eudes, at Caen, Normandy, under the title of Our Lady of Refuge. Moved by pity for abandoned women living a life of sin, Père Eudes at first attempted to unite the penitent among them and place them under the care of good and zealous women, but he soon became convinced that the only way of dealing with them was to found a congregation of holy women, who would bind themselves by vow to work for the reformation of these unfortunate ones. Three Visitation nuns came to his aid temporarily, and, in 1644, a house was opened at Caen under the title of Our Lady of Charity. Other ladies joined them, and, in 1651, the Bishop of Bayeux gave the institute his approbation. In 1664 a Bull of approbation was obtained from Alexander VII. That same year a house was opened at Rennes, and the institute began to spread. When the French Revolution broke out there were seven communities of the order in France. From this parent-tree of Our Lady of Charity sprang the Order of the Good Shepherd (q.v.).
The Sisters of Our Lady of Charity do no limit their work to reclaiming the fallen; they also receive girls who are in danger of being lost or who are being brought up immorally. These form what is called the class of preservation. Government reformatories are attached to some of the monasteries. All the houses of this order are independent of each other, and each has its own novitiate, but the mother-house is still at Caen. The nuns wear a white habit and a large silver cross on the breast. To the three ordinary religious vows they add a fourth, viz., to devote themselves to the reformation of the fallen. The novitiate lasts two years. These sisters came to England in 1863 and now have houses at Bartestree, Waterlooville, Monmouth, Southampton, Northfield (near Birmingham ), and Mold; in Ireland they have two houses at Dublin ; in France they have seventeen: one at Caen, St-Brieux, Rennes, La Rochelle, Paris, Versailles, Nantes, Lyons, Valence, Toulouse, Le Mans , Blois, Montauban, Besançon, Valognes, and two at Marseilles ; in the United States they have two houses at both Buffalo and Pittsburg, and one at Green Bay (Wisconsin), Wheeling (W. Virginia ), Hot Springs (Arkansas), San Antonio and Dallas (Texas); in Canada they have houses at Ottawa, Toronto, and Vancouver ; in Mexico, two; in Italy, one at Loretto; in Spain, one at Bilboa, and in Austria, one at Salzburg.
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