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: