St Louise de Marillac (1591-1660)

Feast Day: 15th March

Patron Saint of Social Workers and the Sick

Sometimes it is the case that the reasons behind a particular saint’s patronage are somewhat mysterious – but this is certainly not the case with St Louise de Marillac!

Born in France in 1591, St Louise is honoured as the patron saint of social workers and of the sick, and her achievements in the area of health and social care clearly warrant this. Together with her friend, spiritual director and cofounder, the more widely known St Vincent de Paul, she founded the Daughters of Charity, an order of nuns dedicated to nursing the sick and caring for the vulnerable. St Louise personally provided both practical and spiritual training for the Daughters of Charity.

The order flourished, so much so that 200 years later the order was known well beyond France for it’s excellent nursing. It is a little known fact that the Daughters of Charity even played an important role in providing training for Florence Nightingale, who travelled to their motherhouse in France before embarking upon her trip to the Crimea.

The scope of the work that St Louise and the Daughters of Charity undertook is phenomenal: they organised home nursing care, ran hospitals and psychiatric centres, set up organised care of galley slaves and cared for orphans, even setting up a system of foster care. When St Louise established an elderly care home, she soon realised that the elderly residents greatly feared being a burden to others. She remedied this by having workshops adapted that allowed the residents to continue their trades despite their frailties and surely here can be seen a precursor to modern day occupational therapy.

Given the scope of her work, she is clearly a wonderful patron for social workers and the sick. But as well as that, a wide group of healthcare workers would also find in this holy woman, a fitting patron.

St Louise de Marillac, pray for us!