Congregation of Our Lady of Charity of the Good Shepherd
The Congregation of Our Lady of Charity of the Good Shepherd (also known as the Sisters of the Good Shepherd) are a Roman Catholic religious institute founded in 1833 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 OLC is devoted to the care, rehabilitation, and education of girls and young women [who are perceived to have] dissolute habits,. ..to do penance for their [perceived] iniquities and to lead a Christian life. Each convent of the Order of Our Lady of Charity is independently run and operated according to a single template.
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, when she broke away from OLC and formed a separate institute. The reason she founded the separate institute was because the OLC was individually run and had no particular supervisory motherhouse. There were no shared resources. Angers had seen great changes since 1829, when Mother Euphrasia had come with five sisters to found the first convent. The generalate she formed had jurisdiction over the activities of the sisters separate from the control of the bishops and cardinals. The Pope gave his permission over the objection of the other male Catholic leaders. The Good Shepherd Sisters owned their own property.
Saint Mary Euphrasia formed the Sisters Magdalen for penitent women who wished to live a cloistered life, but were ineligible to become Sisters within the Good Shepherd order. 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.
Saint 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, 6372 penitents, and 8483 children of various preservate classes. In her lifetime 110 Good Shepherd convents were in place all over the world. She never had the opportunity to visit her houses in the United States. The first Convent of the Good Shepherd in the US was founded in 1843 (Louisville, KY). During the 33 years she saw 16 provinces established, in France, Portugal, Belgium, the Netherlands, Rome, Italy, Germany, Austria, England, Scotland, Ireland, Asia, Africa, the United States Australia, and Chile. Under her successor, Mother Mary Saint Peter Coudenhove, in twenty-four years, eighty-five houses were founded, and thirteen new provinces established, making eleven in Europe, two in Africa, nine in North America, five in South America and one in Oceania.
In 2004 the Australian Parliament released a report, Federal Senate report Forgotten Australians (2004) that included Good Shepherd laundries in Australia for criticism. "We acknowledge" [writes Australian Province Leader Sr 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, 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.
- 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.
- CHASLE, Louis; Sister Mary of the Divine Heart, Droste zu Vischering, religious of the Good Shepherd, 1863-1899. Burns & Oates, London, 1906.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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
- HandCrafting Justice
- Good Shepherd Volunteers
- National Advocacy Center
- Good Shepherd Mediation Program
- Testimony from the Magdalene Laundries
- Australian National Museum, INSIDE blog
This article incorporates text from a publication now in the public domain: Herbermann, Charles, ed. (1913). "Our Lady of Charity of the Good Shepherd". Catholic Encyclopedia. Robert Appleton Company.