The Congregation of Divine Providence is the legacy of Wilhelm Emmanuel von Ketteler, Bishop of Mainz, Germany, and pioneer of social justice, and of Mother Marie de la Roche, a woman of deep trust, inner strength and great compassion. Founded in Finthen, Germany, in 1851, the Community responded to the needs of the time through education and service to the sick and the poor. (Constitutions #1) Originally a diocesan community, today the Sisters of Divine Providence form an international congregation of pontifical right. The congregation has about 400 vowed members and 300 Associates, living and serving others and giving witness to the compassion and Providence of God in our world.
Wilhelm Emmanuel von Ketteler, born into a German family of the nobility on Christmas Day, 1811, was trained as a lawyer. He trusted in God’s Providence as he sought the guidance of the Spirit, read the signs of the times, and used his personal gifts, relationships, education and experience to be faithful to God’s call to service. As a simple parish priest and then as Bishop, Ketteler risked his status and reputation in the pursuit of justice when he opened his heart and his home to the poor and confronted those in civil and ecclesiastical authority. His tireless efforts in speaking, writing and helping the poor, especially the oppressed, unskilled laborers of his diocese and country, led to greater consciousness of the issues and some improvements in conditions as the workers struggled for just wages, safe factories, and days and hours which allowed time for family and church. He is known today as the „Social Justice Bishop“ and considered the founder of the German labor unions.
Stephanie Amelia de la Roche Starkenfels was a noblewoman of French heritage. She was a woman who before and after her conversion to the Catholic faith, was committed to search for the will of God and to respond to it. In her life, she was led to sacrifice her religion, her family who disowned her, her status and culture, as she prepared herself to lead the newly-formed community for service in the poor farming areas of the Mainz Diocese. Stephanie was given the title Mother Marie as the first superior of the community. Living in community, she witnessed in her being and in her activities a contemplative spirit, a generous, forgiving heart, and gentle, compassionate service.