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Daughters of Charity – USMILJENKE in the Archdiocese of Belgrade (1920-2005)

Basic information about the Congregation of the Daughters of Charity

a) The Congregation of the Daughters of Charity was founded 29 November 1633 in Paris, France. Its founders are St. Vincent de Paul (who founded the Missionary Congregation – the Lazarites) and St. Louise de Marillac.

b) Congregation of Daughters of Charity was confirmed by the Archbishop of Paris on 18 and 1655, Cardinal De Retz and on 5 June 1668 it was approved by Pope Clement IX.

c) The Company was established for the care and assistance to the sick and the poor in the houses, followed by patients in hospitals, and soon the sisters took over the work with prisoners on rowing ships, wounded soldiers, neglected children – foundlings, the refugees etc. They first worked together with rich noblewomen, and later independently. Simple village girls who were spiritually and professionally raised by St. Luise de Marillac along with St. Vincent were joining the Congregation. Soon they were wanted everywhere to work in hospitals and teach poor girls. They lived and worked in the evangelical spirit of love for Christ and the poor, humbly and simply.

Now the Congregation of the Daughters of Charity is spread all over the world, their way of working has changed, but remained the same in the spirit of evangelical service of love, humility, simplicity. In 2002, the company had 22.763 members, divided into 78 provinces.

Daughters of Charity in Belgrade

The Yugoslav province of Daughters of Charity was founded in 1919 with its headquarters in Ljubljana. Their elders were addressed by the doctors and the owners of Vračar sanatorium in Belgrade. One of them, Doctor Zdravković, met the Sisters who nursed the wounded on the Salonika front and so he wanted to have them for the care of patients at the sanatorium. The superiors were convinced that this is ideal area for the Sisters to work in Belgrade and in August 1920 they sent nine sisters who immediately began to work here. Doctors and patients were satisfied and then followed the second plea to the management of Daughters of Charity in Ljubljana for nurses who would work at the State Hospital Dr. Milivoje Kostić sdvocated for this especially, and he received permission from the government and the Orthodox Church – an official approval for receiving the Catholic nuns to work in the State Hospital. Thus, on 15 March 1928 in Belgrade came another 25 nurses who were immediately deployed to various departments of the State Hospital. Their work and life much contributed to the fact that Orthodox believers begin to respect the Catholic Church and to free themselves from the distrust of Catholics.

From October 1954 to August 1991. in Čukarica there was the provincial administration of the Yugoslav province of the Daughters of Charity and from 27 November 1954 there was a seminary or the novitiate, where 200 nurses Yugoslav province were brought up. Many of the sisters ended up in Belgrade and Zemun nursing school, some of them got higher education. Unfortunately, the tree of goodness of St. Vincent and St. Luouise was not rooted well in this city – we were not joined by any girl from Belgrade. Other companies share the same experience…

Now there are only sixteen sisters in Belgrade, the oldest of whom is over ninety years old. In accordance with their capabilities, each of them is still working: helping the patients in the vicinity, lead the catechesis in the parish, assist in church and provide a variety of assistance to people who come to them on a daily basis, although now in a smaller number because there is no longer food aid. But they still give modest help in  clothes, which good people want to give out through us.

Sisters with doctor professors at the supplementary nursing courses

The work of the sisters on the territory of Belgrade

a) Work with children

At the express request of the Apostolic Nuncio in Belgrade at the time, Msgr. Ermengildo Pellegrinetti , sisters opened a kindergarten in Ičkova Street in Čukarica for the children of working Catholics and Orthodox. To this end, they bought the property with a small house and on 23 June 1930 the kindetgarten started to work. In the beginning there were about thirty children. In this area there was, in fact, a considerable number of Catholic workers who lived in difficult conditions. That is why they opened a youth shelter for the poor boys on 15 March 1932 – The Home of Saint Vincent. The kindergarten and the Youth shelter operated until World War II. No one knows when the Home of St. Vincent completely stopped with its primary activity, but it remained a charity center for many of the poor, which it still is today, albeit in a modified form.

b) Hospitals

From August 1920 to 1996 Sisters worked in Belgrade hospitals, sanatoriums, clinics, hospitals. Their number grew to hundreds, especially since 1948. After 1970 the number of sisters decreased, mainly due to their age, somewhat due to the small number of new recruits, and somewhat due to the fact that they were able to work in health institutions in Slovenia again. In 1992-1993 a fair number of older sisters left Belgrade. New houses were open in Kosovo and in Albania, and so in 1996 the last sister, sister Marija Baš retirted. There was a total of about nine hundred sisters who worked in the health institutions in Belgrade in the period from 1920 to 1996. Only God knows how much good they did to the patients.

c) Pastoral work

Sisters at first did not work in the pastoral care, but they led many to God by their example and their work. They were both in the parish of Christ the King, and the most in the parish of St. Cyril and Methodius, where they have lived ever since its founding in 1929, and where they still live and work. Since the fifties of the last century they gave the catechism lessons in the parish, took care of the chapel in Rakovica, took part in singing in the church of Christ the King, for years came to Mass at the church of St. Peter (sisters from Dedinje), took care of the first small chapel dedicated to St. Joseph in Karaburma …

d) Charitable Activities

The sisters took care of the poorest of the poor the whole time. They were the first to begin with home visits to patients (1932), and this has been particularly evident in the difficult years after 1990 until today. In these last years they have given out tons of food. In addition, 15 to 30 homeless and unemployed obtain a cooked meal from them.

Relations with the Orthodox Church

The first sister initially encountered mistrust of the healthcare staff who feared for their jobs, while the sick soon accepted them and respected them for their selfless work: the sisters made no distinction between rich and poor, and it was self-evident that they do not discriminate in religion either. For them, all people are children of God. And so, other associates became friends with the sisters and congratulated them their holidays, and the sisters did the same for the holidays of the Orthodox Church. This tradition lives on today.

Opposite our Adventist Theological Faculty is now located. The management, the students and professors always have a nice relationship with the sisters.

Ninety-four of the nurses who worked and lived here  died in Belgrade after fulfilling their lives with work and prayer for their neighbor. They are awaiting resurrection at Topčider cemetery. Sixteen of us who are left, try bear witness that God is love with our presence, that He loves all people, especially small, sick, helpless, lonely …

s. Goretti Pavlišič


8 Bore Markovića Street
tel: 011/30-32-274