Leaving God for God is a study of five generations of Catholic Sisters in Britain from 1847 to 2017 and of their wide-ranging ministries to people in poverty. As members of the Company of Daughters of Charity of St Vincent de Paul – co-founded by St Vincent de Paul and St Louise de Marillac in seventeenth-century France – the Daughters of Charity belong to the largest transnational institute in the Catholic Church.
This comprehensive history, written by Susan O’Brien with full access to the Daughters of Charity’s archives in London and Paris, assesses how far the Sisters have lived out their undertaking to serve the most marginalised in society. Other themes explored in the book include the nature of the Daughters’ community culture, the development of Marian devotional life in Britain, lay and religious status in the Church’s mission at home and overseas, and the interplay of national identities in Catholic Britain.
The history of Catholicism in England and Scotland is seen in fresh perspective through the lens of this singular transnational community of women. Their history, it is argued, challenges both the mainstream narrative about the nature of philanthropy and charity in Britain and the Church’s narrative about Catholic Sisters in the twentieth century.
The book is fully referenced and indexed and includes 64 pages of full-colour visual essays on selected aspects of the Daughters of Charity’s history, and a Gazetteer providing details on every House opened and closed by the Sisters since 1847.
Susan O'Brien is a Senior Member of St Edmund’s College, University of Cambridge, a former Principal of the Margaret Beaufort Institute of Theology, and a former higher education advisor to the Bishops’ Conference of England and Wales. Over the past thirty years she has taught British and American history in several universities, and has published extensively on the history of Catholic Sisters in academic journals and essay collections.