Seton Villa was founded by the Daughters of Charity of St Vincent de Paul, opening the first residence on 23 August 1966.
The Daughters of Charity are a world-wide community of women who seek and serve God by supporting and empowering the poor and marginalised in the resounding spirit of humility, simplicity and charity. Saint Vincent de Paul and Saint Louise de Marillac founded the Daughters with the goal to assist the sick, poor and aged in France 1633. In the late 1950s, the Australian Daughters of Charity recognised there was an unmet need in NSW for the support of people with intellectual disabilities and their families. Thus, Seton Villa was born.
The original Seton Villa residence accommodated 20 residents between the ages of 16 and 30 with the aim of encouraging and nurturing their development and potential. Residents were taught daily living skills, household chores, crafts and were encouraged to get involved in community, social and physical activities.
On 12 May 1984, Seton Villa’s residents moved out of the original group residence into a series of shared homes throughout the local Marsfield community. This move was revolutionary for its time, empowering the ladies of Seton Villa to live in community while supporting their greater independence.
Today Seton Villa has seven residential houses to support our Housing and Supported Accommodation services, and “Jenny’s Place” for our Social and Community Participation program. We are a small, tight community committed to creating a safe and dynamic lifestyle environment for the ladies that is aligned to the guiding principle: Seton Villa is a community. As members of the Seton Villa community, we respect and nurture the rights of people with disabilities to be active members of the broader community while pursuing their personal interests and goals.
“Be very gentle and courteous toward the people you serve; love them tenderly and respect them deeply.” St Louise Marillac
Behind the Name
Seton Villa was named after Elizabeth Ann Seton (1774-1821) who began one of the first Catholic parish schools in the United States and founded an order of religious women with a constitution and Common Rules adapted from the Daughters of Charity. Out of the difficulties in her own life, Elizabeth Ann Seton recognised the need to provide free education and accommodation to children marginalised in society at that time. As wife, mother, young widow, convert to Catholicism and with a life with much loss and grief, Elizabeth Ann found support in her deep faith, close friends and wise counsel of priests. In 1975, Elizabeth Ann Seton became the first American-born person to be made a Saint. Many of the Sisters of the order she founded later joined the Daughters of Charity as was her wish.
The Daughters of Charity History
Founded by St Vincent de Paul and St Louise de Marillac in Paris in 1633, the Daughters of Charity are a Community of Apostolic Life called to live in common, but destined to go from place to place in order to relieve the sufferings and needs of the most abandoned.
The hearts of Vincent and Louise were touched by the misery surrounding them in seventeenth century Paris and their response was to reach out and help alleviate this misery by organising young women to serve the needs of the poor. The first Sisters heard in their hearts the call of God and the cry of the poor and endeavoured to live in community for service under Louise’s guidance. This service was not only provided for the people of Paris but went beyond the city walls into the countryside, and eventually into many other countries throughout the world, including Australia.
The Daughters of Charity in Australia
The call and response from St Vincent de Paul and St Louise de Marillac in 1633 echoed for Australia in 1926. On Friday, 3rd November 1926, the first four Sisters sighted Australia. After calling into Perth, Adelaide, and Melbourne, the Sisters finally arrived in Sydney on Thursday, 18th November. From the History of the Australian Province we read: “For three hours all eyes drank in as much as they could of the beauty of it, as the ship glided slowly in.” One Sister said, “Don’t blame Australians for boasting about ‘Our Harbour’. It is all they say and more.”
As the years passed the number of Sisters increased and, as the various needs became apparent, houses were established in other States. Today the Sisters are found in many parts of Australia with the Province of Australia also extending to Fiji.
St Vincent de Paul
Vincent de Paul was born in 1581, in the Gascon region of France. Although from a rural family he was given a good education and ordained in 1600. His ambitious early life as a priest changed when he was confronted by the spiritual and social needs of the local people. In 1617, Vincent became suddenly aware that those housebound and on the margins needed organised support and care. He set up the Ladies of Charity to reach out to the poor and the Congregation of the Mission to meet spiritual needs and to support and form the clergy. Recognising the need for a trained, available and dedicated group of women to go out to serve the most abandoned, Vincent and Louise together founded, formed and organised the Daughters of Charity, the first group of vowed women to live and minister outside the enclosed cloister. Theirs was a bond based on shared vision and complementarity and good communication. Vincent was visionary in developing services, skilled in organisation, networking, fundraising, advocacy and political lobbying. His strong sense of mission was based in a love of God – God found in the faces of the poorest of the poor. He died in September 1660, canonised and named as the Patron of Christian Social works.
St Louise de Marillac
Louise de Marillac was born in 1591, in Paris. Louise’s early life was marked by not knowing her mother, the loss of her father as a twelve year old, education in a convent then a boarding school, a poor relationship with her step-mother and family and a failed attempt to enter religious life. She was married in 1613 and had a son. However while her husband was dying Louise had a crisis of faith – a time of uncertainty and darkness. In 1623 Louise had a strong sense that God was present, that she would care for her husband but would later “serve the poor but that there was much coming and going”. Vincent became her guide and together they changed to face of social welfare, the nature of religious life and the Church. Despite struggles with anxiety and a single mother of a teenager, Louise was able to use her education, skills, strong sense of God to form and instruct the early Daughters of Charity. As a superb communicator, a detailed administrator, an artist and a fierce advocate, Louise set up structured programs to ensure quality, accountable service to those most abandoned in society – orphans, the homeless, those in large State institutions, the sick, soldiers, those in prison and poor families at a time of drought, famine and war. Her motherly love for her son, granddaughter extended to her Sisters. After many years of ill health, Louise died in 1660, was canonised and named the Patron of Christian Social Workers.