2015 DRMA Fall Lecture

Sr. Betty Ann McNeil, D.C. gave a lecture about her recently published book Balm of Hope. Sr. Betty Ann a scholar in residence at DePaul University. Sr. McNeil’s discovery of 500 pages of handwritten memoirs by Daughters of Charity Civil War nurses led her into a multi-year project to transcribe, annotate, index, and publish Balm of Hope: Charity Afire Impels Daughters of Charity Civil War Nurses. This compendium includes: 1. Notes of the Sisters’ Services in Military Hospitals; 2. Civil War Recollections and Accounts; and 3. Correspondence. The texts invite readers to listen to courageous women reminisce in their own words about nursing amid the ravages of war.

Jean-Baptiste Étienne, C.M. and the Restoration of the Daughters of Charity


The nineteenth-century superior general Jean-Baptiste Etienne has often been given the title of “Second Founder” of the Congregation and the Daughters of Charity. Edward Udovic argues that this title is deserved, not because of any similarity to Vincent de Paul, but because of Etienne’s faithfulness to the communities’ primitive spirit. Etienne made that the guiding principle of the communities’ re-establishment. Etienne’s background, experience, agenda for restoration and reform, and worldview are all examined. According to Udovic, Etienne and his leadership are best described as “Vincentian-centric, Romantic, Gallican, and authoritarian.” A French nationalist and imperialist, he was particularly concerned with remaining true to what he saw as the French character of the Vincentian communities. This contributed to his insistence on absolute conformity to the original Rules and customs of the Daughters and complete uniformity in each sister’s life, without any regard for individuality. Just as the papacy had the authority of Christ over the Church, Etienne believed he as superior general had Vincent’s authority over the Daughters. Some of his counsel to them is included.

“Jean-Baptiste Etienne, C.M. and the Restoration of the Daughters of Charity” is an article published in the Vincentian Heritage Journal, Volume 31, Issue 2, Article 5 (2012) and is available at: https://via.libary.depaul.edu/vhj/vol31/iss2/5


Book of the Week: “Enlightened Charity”

Martha M. Libster, Ph.D., R.N., and Betty Ann McNeil, D.C., Enligthtened Charity: The Holistic Nursing Care, Education, and Advices Concerning the Sick of Sr. Mathilda Coskery (1799-1870). (Golden Apple Publications: 2009). 528 pp. ISBN-13: 978-0975501825.

From the publisher: “Enligthened Charity is a lost history important to the identity of professional American nurses.  Throughout history nurses have been innovators in health reform creating models of safe and accessible health care for all.  Enlightened Charity documents the peioneering work of American Sisters of Charity nurses in the 19th century who sustained a centuries-old holistic healing tradition of their French predecessors in caring for the poor, sick, and mentally ill. Martha Matthews Libster and Sr. Betty Ann McNeil give us an intimate portrait of one sister in particular, Sister-Nurse Matilda Coskery, who during her 39-year nursing career from 1831 until 1870, partnered with medical consultants to create hospitals, clinical training programs for medical students, treatment programs, and standards of nursing care which earned her the distinction by physicians, nurses, and the public as an “oracle” in nursing care, particularly of the mentally ill.  Sister Matilda documented her expertise in a textbook for her students which she entitled “Advices concerning the Sick.”  This masterful treatise on the science and the ‘blessed art’ of nursing pre-dating Notes on Nursing by Florence Nightingale is published here in its entirety for the first time in the history of American nursing with commentary by the authors.  In its impeccable scholarship, Enlightened Charity repeals the myths about early nurses and documents why Sister Matilda and the Sisters of Charity were models for professional nursing in the nineteenth century.  The Sisters’ values of humility, simplicity, and charity and their intentional devotion to the spiritual as well as the physical needs of patients propelled them into a judicious, science-based care that won them national and international acclaim-though they did not seek it…”