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St. Louise de Marillac: Organizational Genius

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As an organizational genius and an exciting innovator of any social services, St. Louise displayed that marvelously feminine gift of initiating and sustaining several projects even while she was conceiving others. From an article by Sr. Margaret John Kelly, D.C.

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St. Louise de Marillac: Organizational Genius

  1. 1. S T . L O U I S E D E M A R I L L A C O R G A N I Z A T I O N A L G E N I U S
  2. 2. T H E A R T O F P R O J E C T - J U G G L I N G As an organizational genius and an exciting innovator of any social services, St. Louise displayed that marvelously feminine gift of initiating and sustaining several projects even while she was conceiving others.
  3. 3. A R E V I E W O F S T . L O U I S E ’ S M I N I S T R Y Louise had great confidence in the abilities of other women… she developed instructional programs and motivated these young women to develop their abilities PROMOTION OF WOMEN she established the Daughters of Charity in her own home in 1 6 3 3 the reality: lack of opportunity of poor women; abuses and deprivations of girls and women Louise and her sisters started workrooms and technical schools so that these girls could learn a trade like lace or stocking making on their own time.
  4. 4. A R E V I E W O F S T . L O U I S E ’ S M I N I S T R Y The variety of works the Daughters engaged in (education, care of children, home visiting, nursing, care of the elderly) provided a broad range of options, and Louise set up specific training programs for each of the fields and mandated that preparation always precede service. time for study was built into the daily program of the sisters Louise encouraged each sister, most of whom were of peasant background, to develop her gifts and talents so that she could use them for the service of the poor. Not only was Louise herself a competent nurse familiar with all the bedside techniques and procedures of her time, she was also versed in hospital administration and was well recognized for her knowledge of medicinal herbs.
  5. 5. A R E V I E W O F S T . L O U I S E ’ S M I N I S T R Y Louise wrote: We can no longer, in good conscience, be unmoved by the plight of the foster mothers. They are asking only what is their due in recompense for their labor and for the personal money which they spend for the children. Louise was particularly sensitive to issues of economic justice for women. Her experience with the foster mothers program provides an illustration. The mothers needed to be paid for their services even though charitable donations had ceased and Louise had no resources. Again, it was concern for women that caused Louise to initiate hospital social work at the Hospital of Saint Denis in Paris— the first example of a social work function within the hospital setting. Before a young girl was discharged from the hospital, the sisters assisted her to find suitable work so that she would have a means of support and would be able to live in dignity.
  6. 6. A R E V I E W O F S T . L O U I S E ’ S M I N I S T R Y At the time in Paris, many infants were abandoned in public places because of the high rate of illegitimacy and the extreme poverty. Louise began to organize a response to this need. The Foundlings project was the first modem organized effort in child welfare The Foundlings project, illustrates how Louise combined works of charity with works directed toward economic justice. After some difficulties, including litigation, Louise succeeded in having the Ladies of Charity agree to pledge economic support if the Daughters would staff the service. WORK WITH FOUNDLINGS
  7. 7. A R E V I E W O F S T . L O U I S E ’ S M I N I S T R Y The success of the program was immediate and can be attributed largely to the rigorous selection process. Each foster mother applicant had to produce evidence from the pastor that she was of good moral character and a physician had to evaluate her general health, as well as the quality of her milk, and validate her age. They would be paid by the month for their services. It is estimated that over 1200 infants were cared for in five years In 1640, Louise developed a plan for foster care and was ready to begin her first pilot project in March. The beginnings were modest- four children placed in homes in the area. Given the primitive travel available in the 17th century, we must marvel at the dedication and level of accountability required by Louise. Quality assurance was a high priority for her. Her ability to monitor the programs becomes even more impressive when one remembers that wars dominated the greater part of 17th century France. FOSTER CARE
  8. 8. A R E V I E W O F S T . L O U I S E ’ S M I N I S T R Y In 1645, Louise established the first cottage style delivery center, a children’s institution where thirteen small residences were built around a common service area. Louise’s standardization of this and other programs assured continuity in quality despite personnel changes. This type of service multiplied— institutions were built on this or a similar model throughout France. While the infant foster care program supplied well for the babies, a work had to be instituted for young children who needed residential care. Again the project was collaborative. The houses were built by Vincent and his Priests of the Mission and then leased to the Ladies of Charity to be administered by the Daughters of Charity. INSTITUTIONAL CARE FOR CHILDREN
  9. 9. A R E V I E W O F S T . L O U I S E ’ S M I N I S T R Y Louise’s writings reveal precise descriptions of the manner in which the food and nursing care was to be given to the prisoners as well as the manner in which the sisters were to conduct themselves in this very dangerous environment. Louise as always responded creatively and with careful organization. The condition of the male prison population was reprehensible and again attracted both Vincent and Louise. Knowing that the presence of the Ladies of Charity had a positive effect on the prisoners’ behavior, Louise also arranged that the Ladies and the Daughters go together in their service. PRISON WORK
  10. 10. A R E V I E W O F S T . L O U I S E ’ S M I N I S T R Y This project, “The Hospice of the Holy Name” has been referred to by some commentators as the first institutionalized occupational therapy center. The concept was to provide housing for a group of elderly who could be self-respecting and productive by earning their keep through the work of their hands. In Louise’s words, “It is essential that no one should feel useless.' Once again when Vincent was offered a generous sum of money to do whatever good work he chose, he turned to Louise and asked her to develop a program for the elderly. Although the life expectancy in 17th century France was 30-35 years, there were enough elderly marginalized by poverty and lacking social security to claim the attention of Louise. Louise was able to preserve the dignity of the elderly and preserve them from that painful experience of “being a burden.” In accord with their diminishing strength, they were able to do weaving, dressmaking, shoe-making, etc. Each of them received one-quarter of the profit realized on the sale of their products, many of which were sold to shops in Paris. CARE OF THE ELDERLY
  11. 11. A R E V I E W O F S T . L O U I S E ’ S M I N I S T R Y When requested, Vincent refused to have his priests assist in the spiritual services to these poor because he could not condone the forced institutionalization by cooperating with the project. While in most projects, Louise and Vincent seemed to concur in judgments on service, their response to legislation on beggars diverged significantly. Begging was a major issue in France and an edict was issued in 1656 which forced all the able-bodied beggars to work and placed the others in hospitals. The objective was to remove the “undesirable poor” from view. Louise had a different perspective, however, and did send two sisters to give assistance to the women who were interned. She provided services even while she worked actively to support the right of each person to self-determination. BEGGARS
  12. 12. A D D I T I O N A L W O R K S O F S T . L O U I S E Louise initiated "resettlement programs” for war refugees She organized “charitable warehouses” for merchants and guildsmen to donate their products She coordinated the recruitment and orientation of countless volunteers She wrote policy manuals and quality assurance programs for health, education, and social services She coordinated soup kitchens in Paris where at three sites, her Sisters served over 7,000 persons each day. She advocated for the mentally ill and people with disabilities. She managed investments and engaged in for-profit business ventures of wine making and sheep raising to gain revenues for her charitable enterprises
  13. 13. L O U I S E ’ S H E L P A N D I N S P I R A T I O N There can be no question that we [today] hear the same cries of the poor as did Louise in the 17th century. Perhaps ours have become even more shrill and pathetic because of communications technology. As she prayed to her patron Saint Louis for the gift of “gentle power”, may we seek Louise’s help and inspiration to lengthen and strengthen her shadow of feminine compassion and productive creativity. May persons know that the kingdom is truly theirs by the love and the justice, “the gentle power”, they experience through our services.
  14. 14. Source: "Louise de Marillac: The ‘Gentle Power ’ of Liberation,” by Sr. Margaret J. Kelly, D.C. Vincentian Heritage Journal: Vol. 10 : Iss. 1 ,Article 2.