Growth And Changes In The Rules Of The Society
The Daughters of Charity are an organization that started almost 4 centuries back, in 1633. And although they are a conservative Catholic organization, there has been many changes made to their constitution. These changes are not only due to the time that has passes since their inception but also owing to the fact that understanding of religious scriptures has also changed over time.
The Daughters of Charity were founded by St. Vincent de Paul and St. Louise de Marillac, both of whom were devout Catholics and therefore at the onset of the organization it had strict religious boundaries. The sisters had to of course take the vows of poverty, celibacy, and complete faith unto Christ. However, these laws were also changed with time. And the interesting fact here is that sometimes these laws became stricter after changing while others became less strict. But one thing is for sure, that the Daughters of Charity which exists today are quite different from what the outlook and ethics of the organization was at the beginning.
Change In Headgear
One of the most prominent changes in the history of the Daughters of Charity was the removal of their traditional headgear, a starched cornette. The cornette was a rather large pointed starched cloth which the Sisters would wear at all times, and this would make them identifiable anywhere. These starched cornettes were in use by the Daughters of Charity for a long period of time. However, in 1960 there
was a ruling from the Vatican which allowed the Sisters to replace this headgear with a simpler one. As per the press release of the Daughters of Charity and the Vatican at the time this change was done keeping in mind the time which had passed since the founding of the organization in the 17th century, and also to represent the simplicity in the viewpoint of the organization. The new headgear would be a simple robe like cloth which would cover up to the forehead, the garb of most nuns at the time.
The reason why this change is considered the most major one in the history of the Daughters of Charity is due to two reasons. Firstly, the cornette headgear had been in use for so long, it had become the singular identifying factor of a member of the Daughters of Charity. With this gone, a person would only be able to differentiate a member from a regular nun if they knew the subtle differences in the robe and colors and designing. The second reason as to why this change was shocking is because the starched cornettes represented the conservative and strict nature of the organization, and the removal of this had a symbolical significance as well to all the sisters.
Change In Vows
While the change in the clothing habits of the Daughters of Charity was done in a manner fashionable for the time and in a sense progressive, the change in the vows of the organization was just the opposite. The primary change that came about in the manner of the vows was that earlier these vows were breakable. If a sister wanted to leave her sisterhood of the Daughters of Charity, she had every right to do so as per the vows she would take. This also included breaking the vow of celibacy by starting a family with Christian morals. And in reality, a lot of sisters would leave the organization due the hardship of its work nature and go back to leading a regular life. Furthermore, if the sister chose to come back to the organization she would be readily accepted.
However, with time this law was retracted. The vows were changed and made such that if someone wanted to join the Daughters of Charity, then they would have to take up the vows for life, and they will never be able to leave the organization. Of course, if someone ended up leaving it nevertheless, they would not be hunted down and persecuted, but they would have no right to rejoin it, and would also be condemned as per Christian religious laws.
Disputes Due To Change In Laws
Ever since its inception the Daughters of Charity had only grown in size and progressed geographically. But this also meant catering to local laws and customs, both as individual sisters and an organization. However, this posed threat to the codes of conduct of the Daughters of Charity. Once the organization had ventured beyond the borders of France, motherhouses were set up in each country which would answer to the central motherhouse in Paris for all activities of the organization in the respective countries. And out of this chain or order many a dispute arose. One of the landmark ones was from the United States version of the Daughters of Charity, known as the Sisters of Charity.
When the Sisters of Charity opened their branch in New York, their main aim was to help orphan kids and thus they set up orphanages and boys’ homes. However, the central motherhouse did not want the Sisters employed at boys’ homes for various reasons.
However, the Sisters of Charity were then a new organization in New York and stepping away from this responsibility would mean abandoning ties with local Catholic authorities and supporters.
Hence, they chose to continue on with their methods and as a result the central motherhouse at Paris, which endorsed the Sisters of Charity organization, wanted the name of the New York chapter changed, and thus the official name was changed to ‘Sisters of Charity of New York’
There have been many such changes in the history of the Daughters of Charity as they have spread throughout the world and since the organization is going strong, there will probably me more changes in the future. These changes show both the fluidity in the nature of the Daughters of Charity as well as their ability to adapt to the social atmospheres of other countries and thereby spread their roots.
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