John E. Rybolt, C.M.


Communities of religious women living and working outside the cloister had been founded before the Daughters of Charity, but they often came under the control of the diocesan bishops and were cloistered later. The article focuses on two Italian groups, the Company of Saint Ursula and the Angelic Sisters of Saint Paul, as well as other companies of women in France and Italy, including the Visitation Nuns of Francis de Sales. The Ursulines, unmarried virgins, lived with their families, gathering periodically to hear sermons and assisting at mass. The Ursulines spread to France, where they were usually cloistered; they educated women in various ways. Until the Angelines were cloistered, they had lived a common life in the monastery of Saint Paul, leaving daily to work with prostitutes, orphans, and the sick. By the time the Daughters of Charity began, France had no communities of religious women who worked outside the cloister. The unique Daughters went wherever they were needed, and Vincent de Paul opposed anything that might set a precedent for them to be cloistered.