12 January 2018
A Daughter of Charity embraces one of the children at St. Vincent de Paul School in Alexandria, Egypt. Learn more about the remarkable history of these remarkable women, and the work they are doing as Charity’s Daughters in the December 2017 edition of ONE. (photo: Roger Anis)
The current edition of ONE features a profile of the Daughters of Charity, who have been working Egypt for 170 years:
In 1844, seven Daughters of Charity of St. Vincent de Paul sailed from France to Alexandria at the request of Egypt’s ruler, Muhammad Ali. They were well received and given a house in Alexandria. From there, they opened a dispensary, where they started their service.
It was not common at this time in Egypt to see sisters outside of convents, serving the community. The locals called the dispensary Saba Banat (“Seven Daughters”). As the charity work grew, the street itself came to be known by that same name.
St. Vincent de Paul founded the Daughters of Charity in France in 1633 with the help of St. Louise de Marillac. Until that point, religious vocations among women often took the form of a contemplative life in relative seclusion; the founders of the Daughters of Charity, by contrast, encouraged the sisters to work outside their convent — to serve Christ in the persons of those poor or in need, through material and spiritual works of mercy. Today, the congregation has a presence in 93 countries around the world.
The first seven Daughters of Charity in Egypt in Alexandria were doctors and nurses, including specialists in ophthalmology.
When the French Suez Canal Company was digging the canal in the middle of the 19th century, the sisters went to work in nearby hospitals to care for workers. After the completion of the canal, they continued to work in governmental hospitals in Port Said, Ismailia and many other facilities in Egypt. Currently, three sisters still work in one of the governmental hospitals in Port Said, maintaining the old tradition.
Over time, the Alexandria sisters gradually expanded their services, even opening schools in the early 20th century. Their presence peaked in 1952, the same year that witnessed a revolution that overthrew the monarchy and the establishment of a republic.
In 1959, the government seized the Saba Banat dispensary as part of a wider campaign of nationalization. In 1963, the dispensary was reopened in a building attached to the school in the At Attarin neighborhood. It kept its old name, despite moving from the old street.
Nowadays, the Daughters of Charity have nine convents in Egypt, where some 50 sisters live and serve locals by running dispensaries, schools, food kitchens and programs teaching literacy and handicrafts to young girls in Upper Egypt.
Read more. And check out the video below.