By Jessica Able, Record Staff Writer
For 100 years, the Queen’s Daughters have served people in the Archdiocese of Louisville in so many ways — from sewing clothes for poor children to caring for unwed mothers — it’s hard to list them all.
This Sunday, April 19, the group will mark their centennial with a celebration at the Louisville Marriott East. Mass will begin at 1 p.m. and a luncheon and program will follow. Archbishop Joseph E. Kurtz will attend the program.
The service and social club began in 1915 when Mother Mary Compassion of the Sisters of the Good Shepherd enlisted six women to help her make first holy Communion clothing for young boys and girls in the West End. Betty Arnett, current president of the Queen’s Daughters, explained the group’s history in an interview last week.
She also noted that the group’s more than 300 members today aspire to serve people just as members always have — following the example of the Blessed Mother.
“I love that (since the beginning) we’ve not been judgmental,” she noted. “We do not ask ‘how this happened’ or ‘why this happened’ (unwed mothers becoming pregnant) or ‘are you Catholic?’
“A lot of the women are devoted to the Blessed Mother, she is our patroness. We come into this with blind faith, as she did,” Arnett said. “We have a ‘sense of other’ because that’s what the Blessed Mother is all about.”
To better help “the other,” those first Queen’s Daughters a century ago started raising money to support their work by holding craft shows, Arnett said. They used the proceeds to make clothes for the poor and pay the sisters’ fuel bills. The group rapidly grew in size, she said, attracting women by the hundreds, both Catholics and non-Catholics.
The Queen’s Daughters quickly expanded their ministry, too. They visited the sick who were being cared for by the Little Sisters of the Poor, made altar linens, mended clothes for residents of Father Maloney’s Boys’ Haven, made surgical dressings for cancer patients at St. Joseph’s Infirmary and hosted coffee and donut gatherings for soldiers stationed at Camp Taylor.
The group’s philanthropic efforts were noticed by Archbishop John Alexander Floersh, and in 1924 he asked the women to establish, fund and operate a home devoted to unwed mothers and orphans, Arnett said.
Soon after, Our Lady’s Home for Infants opened in a building on Rudd Avenue in Portland across from Our Lady Church, its namesake. In 1926, the home moved to Brooke Street and in 1961 the home made a final move to Park Avenue, where it remained until it closed in 1992.
The Queen’s Daughters organization was also instrumental in the operation of Liberty House, which was started in 1989 by Father Timothy Hogan. Father Hogan served as executive director of Catholic Charities of Louisville from 1987 to 1998 and served at St. Boniface Church.
Liberty House, which closed in 2002, cared for orphans and, later, homeless teens in the former St. Boniface School building and what is now Nativity Academy at St. Boniface.
One of the Queen’s Daughters’ most popular fundraisers — and still the biggest annual money maker — is the Style Show held each spring. At its height of popularity, the show was a three-day affair, Arnett said. Today the luncheon event features fashions from Oxmoor Mall and Mall St. Matthews. All proceeds continue to support the group’s charitable efforts.
The group currently focuses on two primary causes — the Mother-Infant Care Program at Catholic Charities and tuition assistance scholarships.
Last year, the Queen’s Daughters donated $10,119 to the Mother-Infant Care program, which was founded by Catholic Charities in 2000. The program gives assistance to expectant mothers and fathers by providing cribs, diapers, clothing and other necessities. The program also offers parenting classes and serves as a support for parents.
Each year since 1987, the Queen’s Daughters have awarded scholarships to qualifying eighth-graders who plan to attend a Catholic high school in the Archdiocese of Louisville. Last year, the group awarded two-year scholarships to four students totaling $8,000.
In addition, last year the Queen’s Daughters gave $400 each to the St. Bernadette Diaper Bank, Little Sisters of the Poor and Mercy Sacred Heart.
The average age of the group’s 315 members is around 70, Arnett said. She said the focus for the future of the group will be to grow the membership. In 2014, the group signed up 33 new members.
“At one time, we had more than 1,000 members. It was really all hands-on-deck. Now society is different. We have members that are professionals that are coming to us after they’ve retired,” said
Arnett, who has been a member for about five years.
This fall, the Queen’s Daughters will be honored for their work by Presentation Academy. The group has been selected to receive the school’s Lifetime Achievement Award for its dedication and service to the Louisville community. The group will receive the award at Presentation’s annual Tower Awards banquet on Oct. 8.
Arnett, who is a member of St. Agnes Church, said the Queen’s Daughters organization is “lay ministry at its best.”
Whether it’s the group’s secretary or committee chairs or participants in the fashion shows, each member has a “sense of other,” she added.