Renewing Our Prophetic Vocation-Our Pilgrimage
Following the General Chapter 2008 decision to provide renewal programmes, Namur became the place of gathering from 12 July to 3 August, 2011 for 17 Sisters of Notre Dame de Namur from Belgium, Britain, the United States, Peru, Nigeria, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Nigeria and Kenya.
The reflections and sharings from the participants speak for themselves.
On this pilgrimage of Renewing Our Prophetic Vocation, we met the real living and breathing woman – Julie Billiart. The loving personal friendship between Julie and Françoise Blin de Bourdon called us to a greater love and respect for each other in our communities.
We entered deeply into Julie’s struggles and pain and began to feel how much she suffered but how determined she was, how zealous, how caring for her sisters, how nothing was too much trouble for her. Her sense of self-identity, her belief in her call, her unfailing trust in God, her perseverance – all gave us the encouragement we need to live as her faithful daughters called to renew our prophetic vocation, called to deepen our relationship with God, called to grow in a community that chooses the Gospel imperatives as a way of life.
We were inspired by the courage of those who went before us. While at prayer before the Blessed Sacrament, Sr. Emmanuel de Ste. Joseph was killed in a bomb attack in Bastogne during World War II. She is thought to have offered her life for the safety of others.
We were inspired by the Sisters who sailed from Antwerp to America to a country unknown to them. Our encounters with the many aging and retired sisters in Belgium and their undiminished fidelity to live out our Notre Dame charism moved us deeply.
Journaling our reflections and experiences helped us to interiorise the spiritual moments and insights of our pilgrimage and to deepen our commitment to renewing our prophetic vocation.
Revisiting the vows, which transcend all cultures, confirmed and strengthened the life-giving relationships in Notre Dame. Through our vowed commitment, we proclaim to our world today that God is good. Our vows liberate us to be who we are; our sharing with each other in prayer and discussion has deepened our sense of internationality and our sisterhood.
We grew in our understanding that theology is for everyone and that theology for Sisters of Notre Dame enables us to recognize and to live God’s goodness in our personal lives, in our communities and in our world. We return to our mission renewed in peace and courage to proclaim that we, as daughters of Julie, know that God is indeed Good.
The challenges faced by religious women in the institutional Church today are not dissimilar from those faced by St. Julie in her time. Women’s experience and the role of women in the Church are still subject to clerical approval. This did not prevent Julie from pushing out the boundaries. She remained true to her vision of Compiègne, by not being restricted to one diocese but by proclaiming that her Sisters would go throughout the world.
As we came to a deeper appreciation and understanding of our own individuality and uniqueness, we began to have a deeper appreciation and understanding of others, especially those of other faiths. There is no God but God! God does not care what religion we are. As we widened our vision of who God is for all, we became aware of our need to be more open to dialogue with people of other faiths. All religions believe that human beings have something divine in them. God is present in all humanity. We are the keepers of one another’s image and this is a sacred trust.
Throughout the pilgrimage we deepened our understanding of who we are in recognizing that we come before God with all of humanity with our flaws, our flowers and our seeds still to come to blossom.