VOL. 133 | NO. 84 | Thursday, April 26, 2018
Ladies of Charity: Serving Memphis for 80 Years
Dr. Mary C. McDonald
There are hundreds of nonprofit organizations in Memphis founded to address a multitude of needs that plague our city, such as under-education, poverty, homelessness, crime, and societal ills and issues of all kinds. They range from grass roots organizations with a handful of volunteers who multitask to raise the needed funds, to large single-source private foundations with multimillion-dollar distributions.
Memphis is known nationally for its generosity and community outreach. Our citizens are truly the good Samaritans on the banks of the Mississippi and quick to respond when there is a need that adversely affects our community.
Some organizations are new and were started to address emerging needs. Some have been the first responders to social justice issues for decades. One such first responder to the issues that come with poverty is The Ladies of Charity, who recently celebrated the 80th anniversary of their founding in Memphis, and the 400th anniversary of their founding as an organization.
The Ladies of Charity is an organization of Catholic laywomen volunteers that was founded by St. Vincent de Paul, a parish priest in France in the mid-1600s. In 1617, Vincent DePaul called a meeting of the women of the area and suggested they band together to carry out the good work of addressing the ever-increasing needs of the poor. They agreed to form an association, the Ladies of Charity, in which each would take her turn in serving the poor corporally and spiritually. Today, there are more than 60 chapters throughout the United States and hundreds worldwide.
The Memphis organization has a similar story: In 1937, Catharine Flanagan Shea, wife of an eminent ear, nose and throat specialist in Memphis, John Shea Sr., gathered a group of women together to address the needs of the poor in Memphis. The group founded the Memphis chapter, and their legacy lives on in the work being carried out today as the members quietly go about their tasks, seeking no recognition, satisfied with the knowledge they are serving the material and spiritual needs of the sick, poor and marginalized of our society.
The Memphis chapter, along with carrying out its own ministries, also raises funds to assist other established groups in Memphis by financially supporting their efforts in addressing those in need in our community. A wise decision since they don’t want to duplicate efforts, but rather support established good works.
One such fundraising event was held last Sunday. During the event, one member, Mary Margaret Foley, was honored for her 50 years of service to the Ladies of Charity. In her mid-90s, she is still very active in helping those in need in our community.
“The group is multigenerational,” said Patti Ricossa, chair of the event. “It is vital for the younger generations to get involved in continuing the legacy.”
Their website and Facebook page certainly attest to their commitment to building relationships with those in poverty with dignity and respect. As longstanding first responders to those in need in Memphis, they seek to serve rather than be served, with humility, simplicity and charity.
Dr. Mary C. McDonald, a National Education Consultant, can be reached at 901-574-2956 or mcd-partners.com.