Carrying the Legacy

Connie Gries spent the better part of her Saturday afternoon digging up violets in her garden and putting them in jars, hoping they’d live long enough to serve as table decorations for Sunday’s dinner at the Seton Residence, a sprawling estate tucked behind wrought iron gates on the outskirts of New Harmony, Indiana.

“The reason for violets as the centerpiece is because St. Louise, when she was buried, her grave was covered with them. It’s been our symbol,” says Gries, president of the Ladies of Charity, a group of lay women who help combat poverty. St. Louise de Marillac worked closely with the Ladies of Charity in the 1600s. When she was buried, violets grew on her grave but no one had planted them, says Gries.

The Evansville chapter held a dinner at their April meeting to honor five new ladies and to re-commission 17 previous members.

All of the ladies felt called to be part of the organization, made up of 250,000 women serving in 52 countries, all with the mission: “To serve rather than be served in humility, simplicity, and charity.”

Evansville’s chapter mainly services the St. Vincent Center for Children & Families, providing bibs, money, and meals to families in need.

They also work closely with the Albion Fellows Bacon Center, a domestic violence shelter for women and children. The ladies create and donate hospitality bags filled with basic necessities.

“Usually when those ladies leave a home where there’s domestic violence, they leave with nothing,” says Gries.

Projects by the ladies are paid for by the group’s two fundraisers: a yearlong quilt raffle whose winner is selected at their Christmas party in December, and their annual steak dinner and dance on Nov. 5.

For almost a century, the Ladies of Charity have been working against poverty in the Evansville area, and will celebrate their 100th anniversary in February.

The first association of the Ladies of Charity began in France in 1617 by St. Vincent de Paul and St. Louise worked closely with him as the organization began to spread.

In 1857, St. Louis became the first city in the U.S. to have a chapter. The organization spread throughout the nation and, two months before the U.S. entered the first World War, the Ladies of Charity formed a group in Evansville.

The group meets bimonthly to develop ideas on how to further their mission and help serve Evansville to their fullest extent.

For more information about the Ladies of Charity, call 812-319-5969 or visit

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