The inspiration and history of our Order can be traced back over one hundred years! Our roots go back to Bishop Vernon Hereford, an independent catholic bishop in Oxford, England, who in 1898 founded a Franciscan Order to live among the poor and working class in Oxford. Bishop Hereford’s main focus was ecumenism, coupled with pacifism, anti-vivisection and human rights. In 1963, the Order came to the United States as the Community of the Love of Christ (C.L.C.), endeavoring to continue Bishop Hereford’s work.
In 1988, several people came together to found the Ecumenical Order of Charity as a daughter community to the C.L.C., dedicated to the original charisms of service: ecumenism in the broadest sense, and government by members rather than a hierarchy. The two communities remained in communion with one another until the Community of the Love of Christ suppressed itself.
We stand as spiritual heirs as well, to the Beguines and Beghards of the Middle Ages. These were groups of lay women and lay men throughout the Netherlands and Low Countries who lived monastic lives without formal vows or official ties to the Church. They lived, not in the countryside like other religious orders of the day, but in the cities, to be available to those in need. It was their life in common, their understanding of their particular vocation, and their yearning to meet the needs of God’s own that united them into a community.
The Order of Charity looks back with thanks to its forbears and their traditions of life and service for inspiration, as it moves fruitfully into the 21st century.