The Daughters of Charity is an international community of Catholic nuns dedicated to serving the poor. Their ministry touches those in need through education, health care, social, and pastoral services.
The Daughters of Charity were founded in France in 1633 by Saint Vincent de Paul together with Saint Louise de Marillac. Their services to the sick and the poor were in such demand that their ministry quickly spread from the rural districts to Paris. By the time St. Vincent de Paul and Louise de Marillac died in 1660, there were more than 40 houses of the Daughters of Charity in France.
By the 19th century, the community spread to Austria, Australia, Hungary, Ireland, Portugal, Turkey, Britain and the Americas. During this period, the ministry of the Daughters of Charity developed to caring for others in need such as orphans and those with physical disabilities.
The first Daughters of Charity arrived in the United States in 1816. Elizabeth Ann Seton, the American founder of the Sisters of Charity of St. Joseph (1809), united with the Daughters of Charity in 1850. Together their ministries provided services primarily in states east of the Mississippi River. They taught children, cared for orphans and nursed the sick.
In 1852, the Archbishop of San Francisco requested that the Daughters of Charity come to San Francisco to expand their ministry. Later the Bishop of Monterey (Los Angeles and Santa Barbara) made the same request. The leadership responded and many Daughters of Charity began their long journey to San Francisco, Los Angeles, Santa Barbara, San Juan Bautista, Santa Cruz, Petaluma and Virginia City, Nevada.
Today, the Daughters of Charity Province of the West operates ten schools, a medical foundation, affordable and senior housing facilities, a foster care group home, the largest Meals on Wheels Program in the United States, a specialized substance abuse program for pregnant women, an early childhood development center and many other programs serving the sick, the elderly and low income families and their children.