Saint Louise de Marillac is the Patroness of Social Workers and worked with Vincent de Paul to serve the poor.
Louise was born in Paris on 12 August 1591. She did not know her mother and was raised by her father. From the time she was a small child, she was taken to the Dominican sisters, who gave her a good education.
Later, she went on to further education at a residence for young girls in Paris. Her education was much better than that of most children her age, and Louise became one of the best educated women of her time.
Louise had a desire to join a religious order, but she was not allowed. She married Antoine le Gras, secretary to the Queen Mother, in 1611. According to Louise, Antoine was a good man. Throughout their marriage, Louise travelled a lot and socialised with the royalty and aristocracy of France. Louise and Antoine had a son, Michael, and lived together happily for many years before Antoine became sick and died in 1625.
After her husband died, Louise met and became friends with Vincent de Paul. Despite coming from a background of wealth and knowing many rich people, she was just as comfortable around poor people.
Louise dedicated her time to helping abandoned children on the streets. She also visited sick men in the prison hospital and established a house near the hospital where, each day, many women would cook food that visitors would then take to the prisoners.
Throughout France, women set up centres to serve those in need. Louise pushed for every village to have its own clinic, school nurse and teacher.
With Vincent, Louise started the Catholic religious order of nuns known as the Daughters of Charity in 1642. The Daughters of Charity were a revolutionary order of the poor. They helped abandoned children, people who were poor and sick, wounded soldiers, slaves, people who were mentally ill and the elderly. Today, there are over 20,000 Daughters of Charity worldwide, and they continue to help people in need.
Louise died on 15 March 1660 and was canonized in 1934. Louise is the patron saint of sick people, widows and orphans. Pope John XXIII proclaimed her the Patroness of Social Workers in 1963.