Congregation of Our Lady of Charity of the Good Shepherd
|Congregationis Sororum a Bono Pastore|
|Abbreviation||Religious of the Good Shepherd (R.G.S.)|
|Founder||Saint Mary Euphrasia Pelletier|
|Type||Roman Catholic religious order|
|Headquarters||Via Raffaello Sardiello, 20
00165 Rome, Italy
|Congregational Leader||Sister Brigid Lawlor|
The Congregation of Our Lady of Charity of the Good Shepherd (also known as the Sisters of the Good Shepherd) is a Roman Catholic religious institute founded in 1835 by Saint Mary Euphrasia Pelletier, at Angers, France. In addition to the standard vows of poverty, chastity, and obedience, the Sisters of the Good Shepherd take the following fourth vow of zeal for souls (to save all souls), particularly of women and girls: "I bind myself to labor for the conversion of fallen women and girls needing refuge from the temptation of the world".
The Congregation of the Sisters of the Good Shepherd began as a branch of the Order of Our Lady of Charity (Ordo Dominae Nostrae de Caritate, O.D.N.C.), founded in 1641 by Saint John Eudes, at Caen, France, dedicated to the mission of reconciliation and mercy. The ministry of the Order is devoted to the care, rehabilitation, and education of girls and young women in difficulty. Some of the girls were abandoned by their families or orphaned, some had turned to prostitution in order to survive. The Sisters provided shelter, food, vocational training and an opportunity for these girls and women to turn their lives around.
The Congregation of the Sisters of the Good Shepherd was founded by Saint Mary Euphrasia Pelletier (formerly known as Rose Virginie Pelletier) in Angers, France, in 1835. Rose was the daughter of a medical doctor and his wife, known for their generosity to the poor. At the age of eighteen, she joined the sisters of Our Lady of Charity in Tours and given the name Sister Mary Euphrasia. When she was only 29, She was appointed superior of the convent. While superior at Tours, Sr. Mary Euphrasia formed a contemplative group, the Sisters Magdalen, (now known as the Comtemplatives of the Good Shepherd), for penitent women who wished to live a cloistered life, but were ineligible to become Sisters of Our Lady of Charity. The Sisters Magdalen took three simple vows and spent many hours in prayer. They earned their own way with intricate embroidery and production of altar bread.
In 1829, she traveled to Angers at the request of the Bishop to establish a home in his Diocese. Soon requests arrived from other cities. Each convent of the Order of Our Lady of Charity was independent and autonomous, with neither shared resources nor provisions for transferring personnel as needed. Sr. Mary Euphrasia envisioned a new governing structure that would free the sisters to respond more readily to requests for assistance. She appealed to Rome for approval to establish a new religious congregation, and the congregation of the Sisters of Our Lady of Charity of the Good Shepherd was founded in 1835, with the motherhouse in Angers.
Sr. Mary Euphrasia was Mother-General of the Sisters of the Good Shepherd for 33 years, and at her death in 1868, she left 2067 professed sisters, 384 novices, 309 Touriere sisters (outdoor sisters who were not cloistered), 962 sisters Magdalen, caring for 6372 "penitents", and 8483 children. In her lifetime 110 Good Shepherd convents were established in places as various as Rome, Italy (1838), Munich, Germany (1839) and Mons, Belgium (1839).
The first convent of the Good Shepherd in Great Britain was founded in London in 1841; the first in the US, two years later in Louisville, Kentucky; and a year later in Montreal, Canada. The sisters arrived in Melbourne, Australia in 1862.
Additional convents were founded in El-Biar, Algeria (1843), Cairo, Egypt (1846), Limerick, Ireland (1848), Vienna, Austria (1853), Bangladore, India (1854), San Felipe, Chile (1855), Malta (1858), Leiderdorp, Holland (1860), and Rangoon, Burma (1866).
Under her successor, Mother Mary Saint Peter Coudenhove, in twenty-four years, eighty-five houses were founded, and thirteen new provinces established: eleven in Europe, two in Africa, nine in North America, five in South America and one in Oceania.
Since 1939, the Sisters have operated a convent in Singapore, which is where the Province of Singapore-Malaysia is also headquartered. They have since diversified into other ministries ranging from education to social welfare. In 1958 they opened Marymount Convent School, a girls' primary school. The school is located next to the convent and Marymount Kindergarten, also sponsored by the Sisters, on a hill along Thomson Road.
In 2004 the Australian Parliament released a report that included Good Shepherd laundries in Australia for criticism. "We acknowledge" [writes the Australian Province Leader Sister Anne Manning] "that for numbers of women, memories of their time with Good Shepherd are painful. We are deeply sorry for acts of verbal or physical cruelty that occurred: such things should never have taken place in a Good Shepherd facility. The understanding that we have been the cause of suffering is our deep regret as we look back over our history."
As of 2010, the Congregation of the Sisters of the Good Shepherd, is an international order of religious women in the Roman Catholic Church with its some 4,000 nuns work in 70 countries across the world. The Good Shepherd was a cloistered order in the past, but now are mostly apostolic. They follow the Rule of Saint Augustine.
The Sisters of the Good Shepherd take part in religious and social service in different countries of the world. They are active in fighting against prostitution and human trafficking in poor countries of Asia. They also work in an international fair trade partnership with women and those in social and economic distress through Handcrafting Justice.
The institute, once divided into two groups, apostolic and contemplative sisters, has merged the two groups into one. The sisters work within the community where they reside, as:
- Community outreach workers
- Special education teachers
- Social workers
- Youth development workers
- Advocates for social and systemic change
- post abortion counseling
- hospital chaplains
- prison ministers
The Contemplative Sisters have been merged into the main body of sisters, but continue to be devoted to prayer for the salvation of souls, they support themselves by:
- Making vestments
- Supplying altar breads to parishes
- Artistic works
- Creative computer work – designing graphics, cards and composing music.
- "St. Mary Euphrasia", Good Shepherd of North America
- "Rose Virginie Pelletier (St. Mary Euphrasia)", Catholic Information Network
- CHASLE, Louis; Sister Mary of the Divine Heart, Droste zu Vischering, religious of the Good Shepherd, 1863-1899. Burns & Oates, London, 1906.
- Neil Larson (December 1987). "National Register of Historic Places Registration: Villa Loretto". New York State Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation. Retrieved 2011-01-01.
- Smith, James M (2008). Ireland's Magdalen Laundries and the Nation's architecture of containment. Manchester: Manchester University Press. ISBN 978-0-7190-7888-0.
- Regensburg, Margaret, “The Religious Sisters of the Good Shepherd and the Professionalization of Social Work” (PhD dissertation State University of New York, Stony Brook, 2007). Dissertation Abstracts International No. DA3337604.
- Official website of the Sisters of the Good Shepherd
- Sisters of Good Shepherd - Contemplative communities
- The Sisters of the Good Shepherd Vocations in North America
- The Sisters of the Good Shepherd in Mid-North America
- The Sisters of the Good Shepherd in North America
- The Sisters of the Good Shepherd in Australia
- The Sisters of the Good Shepherd in Portugal
- The Sisters of the Good Shepherd in Bangkok
- The Sisters of the Good Shepherd in Singapore/Malaysia
- HandCrafting Justice
- Good Shepherd Volunteers
- National Advocacy Center
- Good Shepherd Mediation Program