When some monasteries are filling to the brim with young vocations, it's easy to forget about active Sisters out there faithful to the Magisterium. We do exist, we are often left in the dust and I strongly believe there are more of us that exist than people think.
Recently, while reading an article celebrating the opening of our new Seminary in St Louis, a commenter posted, attacking the Daughters for the use of the word "Seminary", painting us as a religious community obviously in favor of female ordination for "re-naming" our novitiate "Seminary" Talk about a facepalm.
Because we use the word "Seminary", because some of us don't wear veils (coifs), because we do not call our community a "religious order", some Catholics write us off as unfaithful Sisters, without even glancing at our history.
Many of those attacking us have no idea we're actually not "nuns". We are actually a Society of Apostolic Life, a genius idea of St Vincent de Paul. This idea of his allowed us to work among the poor while still remaining Sisters faithful to canon law, which said that "nuns" were to live cloistered in monasteries. So what's the difference? Historically, we were founded without a real habit - we were meant to walk with the poor, blending in with them. We take annual vows (of poverty, chastity, obedience and service of the poor), not perpetual ones. We live in houses, not "convents". We are a "community" or "Company", not a "religious order". And to avoid confusion over whether we are "nuns" or not, St Vincent named our "novitiate" to "Seminary".
St Vincent de Paul founded us to be Daughters of Charity, specifically "to honor our Lord Jesus Christ as the source and model of all charity, serving Him corporeally and spiritual in the poor" But he also emphasized in his many conferences to the Sisters that we are also to be "daughters of prayer" and "Daughters of the Church", urging us to remain faithful to the bishops and the Pope. St Elizabeth Ann Seton, centuries later, whom we consider to be our third founder, in her last words whispered to her Sisters "Be children of the Church"
We haven't forgotten Vincent's conferences nor Elizabeth Ann's last words.
One American Sister recently was awarded the Papal Cross Pro Ecclesia Et Pontifice. Two Irish Sisters received Bene Merenti medals. Bishop John McCarthy raves about the Daughters of Charity in his state of Texas. Pope John Paul II, in a letter to us in 1997, he wrote "as a pledge of encouragement for your assembly’s work and the apostolic life of the institute, I entrust all the Daughters of Charity to the motherly protection of the Immaculate Virgin, Mother of the Church and Mother of the Little Society, as well as to the intercession of St Vincent de Paul, St Louise de Marillac and St Catherine Labouré, and I wholeheartedly send them my Apostolic Blessing." (Fun fact of the day: we actually own a vial of his blood from his assassination and his undershirt) And decades before, our Superioress General, Mother Suzanne Guillemin, was one of the few women invited to the Vatican II Council.
We love our Church.
For me, it isn't a blind love. If it was a blind love - love without thinking for myself - it wouldn't mean a thing. Ask any active Sister (Daughter of Charity or not) faithful to the Magisterium and I'm sure they would tell you the same. We don't follow those teachings just because we're told to, but rather because it's what our consciences tell us is the right thing to do, the right thing to believe. It's the same conscience that tells us to be Roman Catholics rather than Methodist, rather than Baptist, rather than non-denominational.
We are children of the Church and I, for one, long to not be forgotten by our fellow Catholics. We exist, we're still here, we're still on fire with love for our Church and trying to follow our founders' teachings.