Daughters of Charity of St. Vincent de Paul

By: Sister Aloysius Williams, D.C.

Type: General Entry

Published: December 1, 1994

In October 1869 the International Order of the Daughters of Charity, founded in 1633 by St. Vincent de Paul in Paris and in 1809 in the United States by Mother Elizabeth Bailey Seton, opened their first institution in Texas, an elementary school in Jefferson City. It took the six sisters assigned to teach in the school three weeks to travel the 800 miles from New Orleans. The school opened with five pupils, and by 1870 the enrollment had increased to fifteen. Within five years the population of Jefferson City had declined considerably as the railroad replaced the river trade, and so the sisters were withdrawn in 1875.

The second Texas institution opened by the order was in El Paso, a frontier town of only a few thousand residents when three Daughters of Charity arrived on February 3, 1892. The interested citizens of El Paso requested the nursing sisters to establish a hospital similar to Charity Hospital in New Orleans. The hospital rented space until the construction of the permanent building of the Hotel Dieu, named and modeled after the great hospital in Paris. The Hotel Dieu of El Paso remains on the site. Realizing the need for professionally trained personnel to care for the sick, the sisters established a school of nursing connected with the Hotel Dieu in 1898, and for the next seventy-seven years the majority of the hospital's nurses were educated in this school. In 1973 the institution closed, but nursing education continued through the auspices of the University of Texas System School of Nursing, which had established a baccalaureate program using the Hotel Dieu's facilities in 1972.

The expanding work of the Daughters of Charity took them to Dallas in 1895. There they took charge of St. Joseph's Orphanage in Oak Cliff and operated it for twelve years, despite great poverty and hardships. In 1896 Sister Stella located a suitable site in Dallas and made plans for a 110-bed hospital and clinic. St. Paul Hospital was established on June 15, 1898, with a staff of nine sisters. The first surgery was performed on June 17, 1898. In 1918, when the influenza epidemic was rampant, sixty-three tents were placed on the St. Paul Hospital grounds to take care of the overflow of critically ill and convalescent patients. The hospital, known today as St. Paul Medical Center, has expanded its facilities to include a cancer center, a patient-care tower, and a center for the elderly. The hospital is now affiliated with the University of Texas Southwestern Medical School.

Many important agencies, including hospitals, schools, a residential treatment center, and parish ministries, have been established by the Daughters of Charity in Texas since the turn of the century. Seton Medical Center, now a thriving facility known for its neonatal and cardiac units, was founded by the order in Austin in 1902. In Waco the sisters established Providence Hospital, which has been in operation since 1904. Holy Trinity Grade School and High School opened in Dallas in 1914, Our Lady of Victory Elementary School was founded in Beeville in 1983, and parish ministries have been begun by the order in Alpine, Cotulla, Odessa, Pampa, and San Antonio. In 1993 there were eighty Daughters of Charity serving in forty agencies located in fourteen towns or cities in Texas. On the occasion of the 350th anniversary of the Daughters of Charity and their 125th anniversary in Texas, the order received official congratulations from President Ronald Reagan, from the United States Congress, from the governor of Texas, and from many other civic and community leaders.

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The following, adapted from the Chicago Manual of Style, 15th edition, is the preferred citation for this entry.

Sister Aloysius Williams, D.C., “Daughters of Charity of St. Vincent de Paul,” Handbook of Texas Online, accessed May 21, 2022, https://www.tshaonline.org/handbook/entries/daughters-of-charity-of-st-vincent-de-paul.

Published by the Texas State Historical Association.

December 1, 1994

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