Twenty-two principals, vice principals and presidents serving schools sponsored by the Daughters of Charity of St. Vincent de Paul, Province of the West, recently assembled at Seton Provincialate in Los Altos Hills.
Mass, prayer and presentations highlighted the gathering, which included participants from Arizona and California.
While the group meets every three months to focus on some aspect of Vincentian formation, this gathering marked the first time the organizational structure and ministries of the Daughters of Charity took top priority.
Sister Chris Maggi, DC, education councillor, Daughters of Charity, Province of the West, kicked off the presentations with the history of the Daughters of Charity.
“By sharing the history of our community, as well as that of our international and domestic apostolates, we deepen an understanding of our Vincentian charism and the ways in which it is being lived today,” she said.
Sister Adella Armentrout, DC, principal of St. Elizabeth Seton School in Palo Alto, agrees. “I believe Vincentian formation is all about stewardship,” she said.
“How do we preserve the charism in everyone, from our teachers, to parents, to our students? How can we evaluate what we do and better serve our community? How can we translate our history into the mission of our school?”
Vincentian charism refers to the teachings of St. Vincent de Paul, the 17th century priest who, along with St. Louise de Marillac, established the Company of the Daughters of Charity in Paris in 1633.
St. Vincent embraced humble and grateful service to others, especially to those who are poor. “With concern for the whole person – body, mind and spirit – this holistic approach to caring translates to all of our ministries – education, social services, health care and formation,” explained Sister Chris.
According to Marilyn Paquette, coordinator for the Vincentian Educator Formation Program, attendees had requested this in-depth perspective at past meetings.
“Our numerous presentations were an effective response to their requests,” she reports. “We paid particular attention to the ministries in the Province of the West since that is our geographic location.”
The Province of the West includes 13 western states: Alaska, Arizona, California, Colorado, Hawaii, Idaho, Montana, Nevada, New
Mexico, Oregon, Utah, Washington and Wyoming.
At this time, four other provinces comprise the Daughters of Charity in America: Emmitsburg, Northeast, West Central, and East Central.
Sister Christina Papavero, DC, librarian at St. Patrick School, San Jose, brings a unique perspective to translating Vincentian charism into action.
“I plan to bring this spirit into my environment where I eventually see every child in our school,” she says. “If it begins with me and I live our charism, it will be recognized by others immediately.”
Vincentian education in America began in 1809 with Elizabeth Ann Seton, a pioneer in Catholic schooling. Opening a “free school” for girls in Emmitsburg, Maryland on February 22, 1810, she created a prototype for the Catholic parochial school system.
By 1821, Sisters in her newly formed community left Emmitsburg valley to staff five additional schools in Philadelphia and New York.
Mother Seton died on January 4, 1821 at the age of 46. She was beatified on March 17, 1963 by Pope John XXIII, and canonized as the first American-born saint by Pope Paul VI on September 14, 1975.
Formation speakers also included Sister Marjory Ann Baez, DC, Visitatrix, Province of the West; Sister Marion Bill, DC, health care councillor; Sister Betty Marie Dunkel, social services councillor; and Sister Judith Lynn Gardenhire, formation and elderly services councillor.
Organizers Sister Chris and Paquette agree the meeting met their two goals: to ensure a better understanding of what it means to be a Vincentian educator, and to provide educators an opportunity to share accomplishments in their respective schools.
“I think we succeeded in both areas,” said Sister Chris. “Our educators left more deeply imbued with the Vincentian charism. Since this is an ongoing program, we look forward to another productive gathering in April.”