Daughters of Isabella

Daughters of Isabella conventionDaughters of Isabella is a Catholic women’s association founded in 1897 which now has over 60,000 members. Their patron is Queen Isabel. We interviewed Elaine Leger, the International Regent, and Joan Breton, an International Past Regent.

Q: In what parts of the world are the Daughters of Isabella present?
We have a strong presence in North America. Last year a new circle [local group] started in Japan, following an inquiry from our web site. Most of this group are Filipino women. We would love to hear from women in Europe and the Hispanic world interested in starting circles. Our membership brochure is available in Spanish.

Q: The Daughters of Isabella donated in 2004-2006 over US$1,400,000 to charitable causes and over 2,500,000 hours of voluntary service. Could you tell us about your gifts to the Church?
We were able to donate US$500,000 for the Bishop’s relocation project in Washington D.C. some years ago, and over $200,000 to Cardinal Paul Gregoire for the Institute Catholique of Montreal. We’ve made large endowments to The Catholic University of America, to the Life Cycle Institute for family life research and to the National Catholic School for Social Service, and for Queen Isabella Foundation Scholarships to graduate students pursuing M.S.W. degrees.

Our members are involved with Red Cross groups and their parish churches. In Canada almost every circle volunteers help in nursing homes. We also assist with youth groups – memorably for the World Youth Day held in Toronto. Our members take part in prayer vigils, days of recollection, communions; they act as Eucharistic ministers, lectors, whatever they can do to serve their church. They make pilgrimages – for example a huge one each year to the Marian Shrine at Cap de Madeleine in Quebec. Hundreds of our members go there together for prayer.

Q: What kind of inspiration do Daughters of Isabella draw from their patroness?
Many of our members take part in corporate communions – they go in one body – and hold Eucharistic services honouring Queen Isabella on April 22nd each year. We are inspired by her generosity in supporting Columbus, and by her Catholic piety. Some have their town or city authorities declare April 22nd as Queen Isabella Day. I am sure many members would be interested to learn more about the different facets of Isabella’s life – as a girl, a mother, a sponsor of education, a Catholic Queen.

Q: Isabel’s life seems more dramatic than Hollywood’s best epics. Does her strength of character help make Isabel a great icon for young women?
We have had several enquiries from students at various colleges about starting Daughters of Isabella circles. Our college circle at Benedictine University in Illinois is very active. Certainly there is much in Isabel’s life which could inspire the young, which they could relate to. We hope many more colleges will start up circles.

Q: What was the highlight of the August 2006 Convention in Toronto? What will be the theme for the 2008 Convention in St. Louis?
The Toronto Convention was very well attended, with over 600 delegates and guests. In the recent past it seems the Daughters of Isabella hadn’t taken a visible stand on important issues as members of the Church, but this year delegates voted to support their Bishops in the United States and Canada in “upholding the definition of marriage as the union of one man and one woman.”

The theme for the 2008 International Convention in St Louis, Missouri, will be picked out by the State Regents and International Officers later this year [2007].

Q: How much interaction is there between the Daughters of Isabella and the Knights of Columbus?
In the USA and Canada, many of our circles work closely with the Knights on Communion Breakfasts and Respect for Life events, and for memorial Masses for deceased members. Often the Knights contact the Daughters to start up new circles. But we are separate organisations.

Q: What is the specific meaning of “Unity” in your motto “Unity, Friendship, Charity”?
Unity means coming together as sisters in Christ. We are from different countries, but when we make friends, we are friends for life. Everyone is very friendly and unified as a group. You need the charity for all: if there is no charity there is no unity and no friendship. Circles come together at their meetings, they work together on their projects, spiritual and social. That’s our unity.

Isabel Magazine also spoke with Dr Carol Dorr Clement, PhD, who is writing a book on the history on the Daughters of Isabella. Carol told us, “In tracing the origins of Daughters of Isabella, the book relates how God’s grace works through various cultures and in various times: in Quebec and other parts of Canada, and in various states in the USA. The results are not always immediate but they come to touch many lives. God at work through all this is a reality that I sense. The book will certainly have a section about Queen Isabel, who is an admirable person. I am very impressed by what she did with military hospitals.

“The Daughters of Isabella were definitely inspired by God’s love, working through people. We want to keep their memory alive and in the history of the Church. In researching for this book, I have met very, very good women. These women are very different from what we see in the media today, so I always come away from meeting with them very hopeful and very inspired.”

For more information on Daughters of Isabella, see www.daughtersofisabella.org or call 202-865-2570 (CT, USA). Dr Clement’s book is scheduled to be available by the 2008 Convention.

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