The Ladies of Charity at St. John’s University Annual Evening of Hope honors an individual who sustains a commitment to providing opportunities for women and children in need.
The Spes Unica Award was established in 2014 to recognize a person who exemplifies the spirit of St. Louise de Marillac by radically improving the lives of others through service. St. Louise de Marillac was the spiritual moderator of St. Vincent dePaul’s lay women’s society, the Ladies of Charity. In 1633 she co-founded the religious order the Daughters of Charity with St. Vincent to address more completely the grinding poverty of 17th-century France. The newly formed Daughters of Charity set up soup kitchens, organized community hospitals, established schools and homes for orphaned children, offered job training, taught the young to read and write, and improved prison conditions. St. Louise died in 1660 and inscribed on the cross at her grave is the Latin phrase ”spes unica,” which means “one hope” or “only hope.” These words reflect St. Louise’s belief that service to humanity through systematic planning, sustainable programming and extensive collaboration is the “one hope” to effectively alleviate the burdens of people living in poverty. Four centuries later, that vision is reflected today.