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A Brief History of the Pittsburgh Ladies of Charity

History Her name was Anna.  She was a tiny, old woman without a friend in the world.  When she died in a Pittsburgh institution, no one mourned.  Anna was as unimportant in the eyes of men as a human could be.  At the funeral mass, there was no one present.  When the mass ended and the hearse drove off alone with the coffin, it should have been the end of Anna´s earthly story.  However, the church was not entirely empty that day.  By some impulse, Margaret O´Konski decided to stay after attending the last mass.  She watched unbelievingly as the solitary funeral began.  Afterward, she set out to do something about it.  She began organizing a group of women to attend funerals of these unclaimed dead.  Thus the roots of the Ladies of Charity in the Diocese of Pittsburgh were planted and the official organization was formed two years later.

In May of 1959, 17 women and Fr. Bassompierre met at the home of Margaret O´Konski.  The group became known as the Women´s Auxiliary.  Procedures for burial of the unclaimed dead were explained.  The ladies began adopting souls of the unclaimed dead and praying for them.  Presently, on a Sunday in November, a service is held at the Calvary Cemetery to remember them.  The Society For The Unclaimed Dead was formed and it was the seed of the Ladies of Charity ("LOC") in the Pittsburgh Diocese.  Cemetery Sunday and the Society For The Unclaimed Dead are still integral parts of the Pittsburgh LOC.

In 1961 the LOC in the Pittsburgh Diocese adopted their Constitution and bylaws.  And in 1962, the LOC Articles of Incorporation were approved and registered.  And thus began the official beginning of the Pittsburgh Ladies of Charity.

In 1970, the Executive Board voted to re-evaluate the current status of the LOC and mark its future progress.  The women were no longer working in the Hill District, but in their own parishes.  It was decided to continue visiting the elderly in their homes or nursing homes.

Grace Eckhardt, in 1977 with the assistance of Bishop Vincent Leonard, established the Ladies of Charity Emergency Trust Fund for the Elderly.  This was, and still is, funded through the "Committee of 100," solely on individual and corporate contributions.  By 1983, $148,101 had been raised through annual appeals.  In October of 2005, the Committee of 100 reported that since its inception, the Emergency Trust Fund for the Elderly had distributed over 1 million dollars to needy recipients.

Over the years, the Ladies of Charity in the Diocese of Pittsburgh has continued to grow not only in membership but in services as well.  In 1990, the LOC took top honors as Volunteer Organization of the Year in a ceremony sponsored by the Free Wheelers.  Four local ladies won volunteer awards for contributing substantial hours of service.

Looking to the future, the LOC of the Diocese of Pittsburgh is rich with history.  As we celebrate our 55th year, we are happy to say that we are as vibrant as ever.

  • We have almost 1,450 active members serving 76 parishes.
  • We continue with our Society For The Unclaimed Dead with members adopting names to be remembered in prayer and annually on Cemetery Sunday in November.
  • The Committee of 100, with over 300 contributors, has collected over 1.6 million dollars for the Emergency Trust Fund for the Elderly.
  • We have an annual workshop to instruct and encourage our ladies on service.
  • Along with each parish group having a personal time of reflection, we sponsor a bi-annual Day of Reflection for the diocese to promote spirituality.
  • The Nursing Home Network is a resource for LOC who have parishioners in nursing or personal care homes located a distance from their parish.  Arrangements are made for local LOC to visit them.
  • We publish our newsletter, The DeMarillac News quarterly.

God has blessed us with the gift of this service to the Diocese of Pittsburgh and our prayer is to continue to serve His people.