The first written expression of the founding charism of the Daughters of Wisdom reveals a mystic and a missionary intention:
Truly, the life of a Daughter of Wisdom has only one aim: the Incarnation of Wisdom and the participation in Wisdom’s creative work of liberation today, wherever she is sent.
This charism, gift of the Spirit, given to Saint Louis-Marie de Montfort and shared from the beginning by Marie Louise Trichet, never stopped being life-giving all through these past three centuries.
Ever since their foundation in 1703, more than 17,000 Daughters of Wisdom took up the many challenges of society and of the Church throughout the world.
“God’s arm is not shortened and since the institutions of Montfort are works of God, He is interested in maintaining them and He will never abandon them, as long as we are faithful…” (Marie-Louise of Jesus, letter 22)
Marie Louise initiated the first Daughters of Wisdom to a form of apostolic religious life yet unknown at that time. With unusual audacity for a woman of her times, she tried to respond to the immense needs of French society in the XVIII Century.
In her travels, she endured very uncomfortable situations and great difficulties; she founded small houses of charity deprived of all security-except that of Providence. She even risked the extremely difficult administration of the Marine Hospital on the island of Oléron. She also sent some of her Sisters to take care of the incurables of her time, those who were rejected by everyone.
When she died, Marie-Louise Trichet left behind a Congregation that was well-known and appreciated by the people of the West of France. There were 175 sisters had made Profession and 35 communities had been founded.
During those thirty years, the Congregation unites and solidifies its foundations while continuing to answer the needs of the times: hospitals, small and very poor charitable houses for the care of the sick and the education of young girls. The Superiors General guaranteed continuity with the past, thanks to the fidelity to the handwritten Constitutions. Much cohesion is maintained due to the retreats given with regularity at the Mother House, at St-Laurent-sur-Sèvre, in Vendée and to the union lived among the Sisters.
During these years, the Congregation expanded greatly. In 1789, about 335 sisters could be counted.
With the solid foundations received from their predecessors, this time of trial gave the Daughters of Wisdom an exceptional opportunity to be witnesses of their faith through martyrdom and heroic charity.
The Sisters were denounced to the representatives of the revolutionary government who compelled them to swear allegiance to the civil Constitution. They opposed this oath, thus openly affirming their desire to be catholic and religious. Many were arrested and put in prison. Thirty-three died martyrs of their faith, either at the guillotine or massacred, or exhausted by the bad treatments they received. Others bore witness to their charity in taking care of the victims of the wars in the West of France, without taking sides. Still others intervened at the risk of their lives to prevent massacres of the enemy during these civil wars.
It is a time of reconstruction and of new apostolic momentum.
After the revolution, houses reopened and the number of vocations grew. The Congregation of the Daughters of Wisdom responded to the new needs of society by opening boarding schools for children, institutions for the hearing impaired and the blind…according to Sr. Marguerite (Maria Germain) a pioneer in the educational method for the hearing and the visually impaired.
France is entangled in dissensions caused by decrees of the government secularizing all the institutions and abolishing the denominational Catholic aspect of the Republic.
Because of their resistance to secularization, the Sisters became victims of all kinds of threats and insults. To remain faithful to their vocation, many chose to leave France and start foundations in other countries. Thus the Congregation was established in England, Belgium, Holland, Italy, and Switzerland. Other Sisters left France to join the ones already present in Haiti and in Canada. Still others founded communities in Colombia and Shiré (now Malawi). So many departures were heartbreaking, but also life-giving. Little by little, the migrant Sisters faced new challenges: language, climate, food and travel. They were guided by their faith and Wisdom was gradually implanted in many countries.
In France, the civil laws did not allow Sisters to teach in schools. The Congregation, filled with initiative and creativity, managed to reach children and youth through social works: summer vacation camps, youth hostels, kindergartens, formation schools for women.
At that time, a new facet of the Congregation’s vocation in the field of Health was developed by the Sisters who created formation schools for nursing, where many young women and religious from diverse Congregations from France, Europe and even North America came to study.
More suffering, destruction, and death resulted from the two world wars, but at the same time, these offered an opportunity for the Congregation to give the best of itself by giving consideration and care to the wounded and to the victims of violence. The educational and social institutions that had been opened by the Sisters were courageously transformed into rural hospitals and later on, into reception centres for the evacuees and the deported. Many sisters gave their lives, victims of bombardment, especially in the Hospitals of Nantes, Angers and Valenciennes.
At the end of the world wars, the Congregation continued to grow in numbers. However, complete regions of Europe were devastated. Ruined houses had to be restored, and sick sisters had to be taken care of. A host of missions needed to be sustained and yet new calls were being heard…
At that time, Pope Pius XII and John XXIII, encouraging missionary vocations, asked the Congregations to go to foreign lands. Therefore, the Congregation continued to found by simultaneously developing missionary projects and establishing novitiates to form the youth in their own countries.
At that time also, the focus is put on forming the Sisters professionally as well as religiously.
Following the request of the Council with regards to religious life, the Congregation started its renewal by returning to its origins. In this perspective every community reflected on the spirit of the founders and deepened the sources of its charism.
In 1976, the Congregation committed itself to work “at the service of justice and of the integral liberation of the human being in the name of Jesus Christ”. At the 1982 General Chapter, it reaffirmed its priority “for those whom the world rejects”. The new rule in 1985 declares:
“The life and teaching of Jesus Christ and the preference which Montfort and Marie Louise had for the poor urge us, through the works we do, to show the compassionate and freeing spirit of the Gospel toward those whom the world neglects, those who are alienated from the Church, so that they become capable of taking their own destiny in hand. In this way, we live out the redemptive Incarnation in our own lives, and we participate in a specific way in the mission of the Church.” (R.L. of the DW no. 7)
This fidelity to the founding charism implies taking into account the realities of the world and of the Church, but also keeping in mind the Spirit from which our Congregation originated! Thus, at the 1988 General Chapter, following the urgent request of the religious province of Holland, among others, a Commission was set up to undertake the study of The Love of Eternal Wisdom by St. Louis-Marie de Montfort. From that study, an incredible treasure emerged, one that placed the whole Congregation in the process of transformation into the love of Eternal and Incarnate Wisdom. Deeply energized with the beatification of Marie Louise of Jesus, their co-foundress, the Daughters of Wisdom are now still appropriating their spirituality.
In 2004, the Congregation received as Daughters of Wisdom, the first disciples from the region of Papua New Guinea and in 2003, it opened a new mission in Indonesia.
Wisdom has built her house in Africa, in North America, in the Caribbean, in South America, in Asia-Oceania, and in Europe.
“Wisdom cries aloud in the street, in the open squares she raises her voice; down the crowded ways she calls out, at the city gates she utters her words…” (Pr. 1, 20-21)
Dates of Arrival of the Sisters in the Different Countries
|1846 Belgium||1953 Scotland|
|1875 Haiti||1955 Ireland|
|1881 Holland||1961 Papua New Guinea|
|1884 Canada||1962 Argentina|
|1887 Italy||1963 Peru|
|1891 England||1963 Germany *|
|1901 Switzerland *||1971 Bahamas|
|1903 Denmark *||1973 Iran *|
|1904 United States||1975 Uganda *|
|1904 Malawi||1976 Yugoslavia *|
|1905 Colombia||1977 Brazil|
|1934 Madagascar||1978 Ecuador|
|1935 R.D.of Congo||1979 India|
|1953 Spain *||1989 Philippines|
|* Sisters are no longer present in those countries.|