A unique benefit of membership in a Vincentian institution is that we belong to a large global family who participate in and lead acts of service and justice every day. Such actions are manifest in a vast array of social, educational, and religious undertakings. Depending upon their context and geographical location these endeavors may look quite different, but they share a common Vincentian mission to uphold the dignity of all persons, particularly those on the margins of society. This mission is enhanced by responding to the signs of the times and drawing upon the wisdom of a rich 400-year-old legacy.
A recent article highlighting the fieldwork of the Daughters of Charity in East Africa illuminates this dynamic.1 Established in 1927, the Daughters of Charity in Ethiopia are almost entirely composed of Ethiopian sisters. During the last two decades, through their keen reading of the social landscape and interpreting the signs of the times, the Daughters have reimagined their model of service and engagement. As a result, they have moved away from programs that simply provide goods to alleviate need, to programs that engender economic empowerment and skill-building.
Examples include the St. Louise Women’s Empowerment Project which runs a six-month skill-training program in Mekelle that incorporates a sewing program and a cooking preparation class. Over ninety percent of the more than two thousand women who have graduated from this program now have jobs or are self-employed. In Addis Ababa, the Daughters Urban Development Project also focuses on women’s empowerment by coordinating economic support and training to start up or expand small businesses. Through economic empowerment, such programs are forging pathways for the participation of women in all areas of Ethiopian civil society. This is in keeping with Louise de Marillac’s vision. “Louise lamented the lack of opportunity of women and the abuses and deprivations of young girls and adult women [was to be] a priority work of the Daughters if the social and moral conditions for women were to be improved.”2
As members of the DePaul community in Chicago learning about the continuing efforts of our global Vincentian family to uphold the dignity of those who have traditionally been denied the right to fully participate in society, how do you interpret the signs of the times today? To what action might Vincentian wisdom be calling you to advance justice? How will you respond?
1 Meghan J. Clark, “Charity, Justice, and Development in Practice: A Case Study of the Daughters of Charity in East Africa,” Journal of Moral Theology 9:2 (2020), at: https://jmt.scholasticahq.com/article/13334-charity-justice-and-development-in-practice-a-case-study-of-the-daughters-of-charity-in-east-africa
2 Margaret J. Kelly, D.C., “Louise de Marillac: The ‘Gentle Power’ of Liberation,” Vincentian Heritage 10:1 (1989), 33. See: https://via.library.depaul.edu/vhj/vol10/iss1/2/
Image from: Daughters of Charity International Project Services, Facebook, 26 July 2019, at: https://www.facebook.com/DaughtersOfCharityInternationalProjectServices/posts/from-a-daughter-of-charity-in-ethiopia-this-woman-decided-to-take-sewing-clothes/10157639349760799/
Reflection by: Siobhan O’Donoghue, Faculty and Staff Engagement Director, Mission & Ministry