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Congregations of Providence
Providence, Congregations of.–I. Daughters of Providence, 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.
The foundress showed her foresight and capacity for organization and administration, in an educational plan providing for the advanced studies and culture of the time. As early as 1846, a charter was granted by the State empowering the institution to confer academic honours and collegiate degrees. While the new foundation prospered, many sufferings and hardships were endured, arising from the rigours of the climate, poverty, isolation, a foreign language, troublesome subjects, and the like. The keenest trial of all was misunderstanding with the bishop. It lasted seven years. At the Seventh Council of Baltimore, the bishop placed his difficulties before the assembly and offered his resignation, at the same time strongly denouncing the Sisters of Providence. In 1847, just as he had informed Mother Theodore that he deposed her from her office as superior-general (in which she had, with his consent, been confirmed for life), released her from her vows, and dismissed her from her congregation, the Papal Brief appointing Bishop Bazin to the See of Vincennes was received from Rome. The death of Mother Theodore occurred 14 May, 1856, and so eminent was her holiness that preliminaries have been undertaken for introducing the cause of her beatification at Rome.
The sisters take simple vows. The postulantship, two months, is followed by a novitiate of two years, at the end of which vows are taken for three years, renewed then for five years, if the subject is satisfactory and desires to persevere. A year of second novitiate precedes the final and perpetual vows. This year, during which the nuns devote themselves entirely to the spiritual life, is passed at the mother-house. A course of normal training is carried on in connexion with the novitiate properly so called, and summer sessions are held during the vacation for all teachers who return to the mother-house for the annual retreat, The administrative faculty is an elective body comprising a superior-general and three assistants, a secretary, procuratrix, treasurer, and a general chapter. The rules and constitutions received final approval from the Holy See in 1887. Among prominent members of the order were: Sister St. Francis Xavier (Irma Le Fer de la Motte), born at St. Servan, Brittany, 16 April, 1818; died at St. Mary-of-the-Woods, 30 January, 1856, whose life has been published under the title "An Apostolic Woman", and Sister M. Joseph (Elvire le Fer de la Motte), born at St. Servan, 16 February, 1825; died at St. Mary-of-the-Woods, 12 December, 1881, a sketch of whose life has been published in French. The sisters conduct parochial schools and academies in the Archdioceses of Baltimore, Boston, and Chicago; in the Dioceses of Indianapolis, Ft. Wayne, Peoria, and Grand Rapids; orphanages at Vincennes and Terre Haute; an industrial school at Indianapolis; a college four miles west of Terre Haute. Statistics for 1910 are: 937 sisters; 68 parochial schools; 15 academies; 2 orphan asylums; 1 industrial school; 20,000 children.
Sister Mary Theodosia.
Sister Mary of Providence.
HEIMBUCHER, Orden u. Kongregationen, III (Paderborn, 1908), 387.
Blanche M. Kelly.
There are houses in Italy, England, and Wales. In Italy there were in 1908 about 600 sisters and 60 novices. They have 64 establishments, most of which are elementary schools for children and girls; there are also several boarding-schools for girls, a few orphanages, and a home for poor old men. They are scattered in nine dioceses, some in Piedmont, others in Lombardy. The principal houses are those of Borgomanero, the central house for Italy, Domodossola, Intra, and Biella. The English branch began in 1843 on the initiative of Lady Mary Arundel, who had taken a house at Loughborough in order to aid the Fathers of the Institute in that mission. Into this house, fitted as a convent, she received two Italian sisters, the first nuns to wear a religious habit in the English Midlands since the Reformation. A year later they opened a girls' and infants' school, which was the first day-school for the poor taught by nuns in England. The first English superioress was Mary Agnes Amherst, niece of the Earl of Shrewsbury. Under her rule the present central house was built at Loughborough. A boarding-school and middle and elementary schools are conducted by the nuns. There are six other establishments. At St. Etheldreda's in London and at Whitwick, Rugby, and Bexhill they have girls' and infants' schools, at Cardiff, two houses, one for visiting the sick and aiding the poor, and the other a secondary school and pupil-teachers' centre. Whitwick and St. David's, Cardiff, are the only places in which their work is not auxiliary to that of the Fathers of the Institute. (See ROSMINIANS.)
William Henry Pollard.