Barbara Diefendorf to receive the Pierre Coste Prize


A modern day scholar of French history will be honored for her distinguished contributions to Vincentian historiography on Sept. 27, the feast day of St. Vincent de Paul, the 17th century French priest who devoted his life to serving and caring for others.

Barbara Diefendorf, a Boston University history professor, is the 2013 recipient of the Vincentian Studies Institute Pierre Coste Prize. Named for the Rev. Pierre Coste, C.M., a 20th century French Vincentian historian known as the father of modern Vincentian studies, the award recognizes distinguished contribution in Vincentian scholarship.

“Fr. Coste was responsible for publishing the definitive French edition of ‘Saint Vincent de Paul: Correspondence, Conferences and Documents,’ 14 volumes, and an acclaimed three volume biography of the saint published in 1933,” said the Rev. Edward R. Udovic, C.M., secretary of DePaul University, where he also serves as senior executive for university mission and vice president for teaching and learning resources.

“Dr. Diefendorf is being honored for her signal contributions to the religious historiography of 17th century France, which have in turn greatly contributed to the contextualization of Vincent de Paul and Louise de Marillac and the foundation of the Vincentian tradition,” said Fr. Udovic, who also is an associate professor of history at DePaul.

Diefendorf, who attended the University of California, Berkeley and has an undergraduate degrees in French and history, and graduate and doctoral degrees in history, has taught European history at Boston University since 1980. She is the author of “Paris City Councillors in the Sixteenth Century: The Politics of Patrimony;” “Beneath the Cross: Catholics and Huguenots in Sixteenth-Century Paris, which was awarded the New England Historical Association and National Huguenot Association book prizes; “From Penitence to Charity: Pious Women and the Catholic Reformation in Paris,” which was awarded the J. Russell Major Prize by the American Historical Association; and “The Saint Bartholomew’s Day Massacre: A Brief History with Documents.”

“I came to study 17th century French spirituality as a way of exploring the Catholic revival that followed France’s Wars of Religion, an earlier subject of my research,” said Diefendorf. “Although my first interest lay in the penitential and ascetic spirituality that grew out of the wars, I quickly realized that I needed to account for very different spiritual currents as well.

“The apostolic charity that lay at the heart of the work of Vincent de Paul and Louise de Marillac in particular intrigued me, because of its contrast with the inward-looking asceticism that followed on the heels of the wars,” Diefendorf said. “I first attempted to bring these diverse strands of piety together in a paper presented at the Vincentian Heritage Symposium held at DePaul University in 1992. I had no idea of it at the time, but the title I chose for that paper, “From Penitence to Charity,” would offer not only the title but also the essential narrative of my next book. The fact that I first presented this work at DePaul makes the Pierre Coste Prize especially meaningful for me.”

The Pierre Coste Prize was established in 2003 in preparation for the 25th anniversary celebration of the Vincentian Studies Institute. Previous honorees include, Sister Marie Poole, D.C., editor of the Vincentian translation project (2004); the Rev. Stafford Poole, C.M., a Vincentian historian (2006); Sister Louise Sullivan, D.C., author of several Vincentian works including “Saint Louise de Marillac: Spiritual Writings” (2010); and the late Rev. Paul Henzmann, C.M., the archivist at the Maison-Mere of the Congregation of the Mission in Paris (2010).

Founded in 1979 by the 10 provinces of the Congregation of the Mission and Daughters of Charity in the United States, the Vincentian Studies Institute serves as the premier international resource for Vincentian scholarship. Sponsored by DePaul University in Chicago since 2007, the institute has continued its traditional research, publication and continuing education missions and expanded these resources through a variety of online and digitization projects. It is housed in DePaul’s Office of Mission and Values. Additional information is at

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