The apostolic delegate to the United States, Amleto Giovanni Cardinal Cicognani (1883-1973), recommended that the spiritual daughters of Elizabeth Bayley Seton collaborate to further the cause for canonization of this convert, who was a wife, mother, widow, sole parent, foundress, and spiritual leader. Despite growth pains the Sisters of Charity continued to develop and blossom into independent new congregations in North America: New York (1846), Cincinnati (1852), Halifax (1856), Convent Station (1859), and Greensburg (1870). The conflict-ridden circumstances surrounding the initial separations from Emmitsburg were a source of pain for all involved, especially after French émigré priests belonging to the Society of Saint Sulpice (Sulpicians) of Baltimore arranged for the Sisters of Charity of Saint Joseph’s to join (1850) the Company of the Daughters of Charity of Saint Vincent de Paul (D.C.) of Paris, France.
The Federation focused almost exclusively on promoting the Cause of Elizabeth Bayley Seton for sainthood until 1975. The Seton cause was introduced in Rome in 1940. Blessed John XXIII declared Mother Seton venerable December 18, 1959, and also presided at her beatification March 17, 1963. Pope Paul VI canonized her as Saint Elizabeth Ann Seton September 14 during the Holy Year of 1975 and the International Year of the Woman.
After their successful collaboration on the Cause for canonization, the Federation focused on joint projects related to charism, formation, and mission. Member congregations explored the triadic base of renewal recommended by Vatican II–the Gospel, the signs of the times, and the original spirit of the founders–and came to a new awareness of and appreciation for their shared heritage and stewardship responsibility for the Vincentian and Setonian charism expressed through the Tradition of Charity (Cf. Perfectae Caritatis, §1-2).
During the annual meetings of the Federation, members considered strategies to make their shared charism more effective in the modern world, especially in the areas of social justice, spirituality, and renewal programs (1974). Members explored the feasibility of common study of the charism which led them to adopt a resolution (1977) to encourage each community in the Federation to engage in ongoing study, reflection, and sharing of the lives of Vincent de Paul, Louise de Marillac, and Elizabeth Bayley Seton. One result was the initiation (1988) of Charity: A Shared Vision, an ongoing formation program. A later outcome was the first of several scholarly symposia to explore the historical and theological relevance of The Seton Legacy (1992). The Vincentian Studies Institute collaborated with the Federation and published the proceedings of the symposia and annotated listings, by repository, of the writings of Elizabeth Bayley Seton in The Vincentian Heritage. The Federation launched (1999) a new project Charity 2000 & Beyond to provide another series of ongoing formation opportunities.
Federation members committed themselves to seek effective strategies for human development, to promote investment in minority enterprises, and to make corporate responses to social justice issues as early as 1973. Subsequently, members sought ways to study unmet human needs and resources (1979) with the goal of coordinating and networking among already existing ministries which respond to neighbors in need (1987). In order to be more effective advocates on peace and justice issues, the Federation gained recognition as a Non-Governmental Organization (NGO) at the United Nations in 1997. Sister Maria Elena Dio, S.C. (Halifax), was the first representative of the Federation to the Department of Public Information at the United Nations.