Pauline von Mallinckrodt was born on June 3, 1817, in Minden, Westphalia (Germany). Her family's wealth and prestige did not close her mind to the hardships of others. As a young woman, she was particularly involved with the poverty-stricken families on the outskirts of Paderborn. She nursed their sick and brought them food. To aid them still further, she opened her own day-care center for the children of working mothers - an undertaking which brought to her attention the needs of the blind children and led to her founding of a school for the blind.
When Pauline's works of charity became too vast for her to manage alone, the Bishop of Paderborn instructed her to found a religious community. The Congregation of the Sisters of Christian Charity, Daughters of the Blessed Virgin Mary of the Immaculate Conception, founded by Pauline in 1849, spread rapidly throughout Germany, then to North and South America and to several European countries.
Pauline von Mallinckrodt died on April 30, 1881. She was beatified by Pope John Paul II on Sunday, April 14, 1985.
The first Blind Asylum in Paderborn, Germany.
In 1839 Pauline's father retired from government office. From that time onward her family spent the winters in their home in Paderborn and the summers in an outlying village at an estate in Boeddeken. Every morning Pauline walked four miles in order to attend Mass in Wewelsburg. On her way home from church, the poor people in the village often stopped her and asked her to visit them at home and to care for their sick. During the winter at Paderborn, Pauline became an active member of the Ladies' Auxiliary which had been organized for the care of the sick poor in their homes. In the course of this work, she recognized another pressing need - the children of the sick women were often neglected because their mothers could not care for them. At an Auxiliary meeting, Pauline proposed a plan to open a nursery where children between the ages of two and six, whose parents were unemployed or poor laborers, could be fed and cared for during the day. The plan was accepted and, within a year's time, Pauline had 100 children in her care!
In 1842 Bishop Ledebur donated several rooms of a former Capuchin monastery to Pauline for the day nursery project. With the additional room, Pauline decided to take in blind children at the request of a family friend and physician. Pauline also converted part of the old monastery into a home for the blind children, who were often abandoned as infants by parents who could not afford to care for them.
Pauline had often thought of becoming a Sister. However, no religious community would accept both her and the blind children toward whom she felt a great responsibility. The years passed; in 1845 Pauline received a message that the monastery was to be turned into a seminary in 1847. Meanwhile Pauline had been put in charge of the newly-created institute of the blind in Paderborn. During her search for a religious community to take over the management of the institute, Pauline was repeatedly advised to found her own congregation which would minister to the blind. At the advice of Mother Clara, Pauline presented her dilemma to Bishop Claessen of Cologne. He also told her to found a religious congregation.
In September 1846 Pauline was able to procure a home for the blind children and a place for her nursery: a small house and its garden just outside the city gate. A few months later she was able to purchase a nearby, larger house and its garden into which she moved her institute.
In the early months of 1849 Pauline completed an outline of the Constitutions (rule) of the new Congregation. On August 21, 1849, Pauline and three other women - Maria Schlueter, Agatha Rath and Mathilde Kothe - became the first four members of a new religious congregation: the Sisters of Christian Charity.
The small Congregation grew rapidly. Realizing that the education of blind children would prove to be a very limited sphere of activity, Pauline widened the scope of their ministry to "embrace men and women of every generation, every social level, every religion, ...rich or poor, infants or the aged." By 1871 there were 250 members of the Congregation serving in 21 foundations.
The motherhouse in Paderborn, Germany as it appears today.
In 1873 St. Henry Convent - New Orleans, LA - became the first foundation of the Sisters of Christian Charity in the USA.
SCCs Arrive in the USA
From 1871 to 1878, in an attempt to control all religion and education in the country, the German government enacted sanctions against the Catholic Church. During this period - known as the Kulturkampf - religious teachers were expelled from schools, and some congregations were even exiled. Mother Pauline could do little but watch as houses, schools and institutions were taken from the Congregation, leaving the Sisters homeless.
Even as the Sisters' activities in Germany were being curtailed, a new field of activity was beckoning. For years requests from pastors of German-speaking parishes in the United States for Sisters to teach in their schools had been pouring in. Now, with more Sisters available for this endeavor, Mother Pauline began looking more closely at the pastors' requests. Soon a ship, bound for the United States and bearing eight Sisters of Christian Charity among its passengers, left Bremen Harbor. In April 1873, these eight Sisters of Christian Charity arrived in New Orleans, LA, to begin work at St. Henry School.
By December 1874, eighty Sisters had been sent from Germany to establish foundations in the USA: Wilkes-Barre, Danville, Williamsport, Mauch-Chunk, Honesdale, Nippenose Valley and Scranton, PA; Melrose, NY; Baltimore, MD; New Ulm and Henderson, MN; Westphalia, MI; and St. Paul, IA.
From the Congregation's early beginnings in the USA until today, Sisters of Christian Charity have served in Arizona, Arkansas, Connecticut, Florida, Illinois, Iowa, Louisiana, Maryland, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, North Carolina, Ohio, Pennsylvania and Texas.
SCC Center ♦ 2041 Elmwood Avenue ♦ Wilmette, IL ♦ 60091-1431