By Sr. Anne Stevenson, SNDdeN, Director of Communications, Sisters of Notre Dame de Namur
“These are the daughters…” SNDdeN Province Leadership Teams and Sta conclude a successful international meeting with Congregational Leadership Team.
We, Sisters of Notre Dame de Namur (SNDdeN), invite a new Generation of passionate, energetic young women to follow as disciples of Jesus Christ, as vowed Women Religious and to carry forward the charism of St. Julie Billiart across continental borders. Are you, or one of your relatives or friends called to be a Sister who will bring the goodness of God to our suffering humanity? Do you hear a CALL to belong as a member in this Congregation whose Sisters have reached out to those living in poverty for more than two centuries and counting!
Congregation Founded on the Cross
While suffering extreme physical pain, paralyzed, totally powerless, hiding while hunted by revolutionaries in France, surrounded by violence and the insecurity of the times, Marie-Rose-Julie Billiart lived one of the most profound spiritual experiences of her life. Raptured in ecstasy at Compiègne, France, bedridden Julie saw Jesus on the Cross of Calvary, surrounded by a great number of women wearing a religious habit that she did not recognize. She heard the words from Jesus:
“These are the daughters that I will give you in an Institute marked by my cross.” (Testimonials for Julie’s Beatification: Vision in Compiègne around 1793)
Mosaic at Ipswich, MA of the Vision of Compiègne designed by Sisters of Notre Dame de Namur.
From that day, Julie knew her call to be foundress of the SNDdeN Congregation. Today, many Sisters believe that St. Julie saw each one in a vision at Compiègne. In 1804, three women, Julie Billiart, Françoise Blin de Bourdon and Catherine Duchatel made Vows to God as the first Sisters in the Congregation, named by Julie as Sisters of Notre Dame. Often, when Julie met young women who later became SNDdeN, she would say: “I saw you at Compiègne.”
This is ongoing invitation from St. Julie to make known the goodness of God lives on in her Sisters as we hear Jesus’ words to her! We believe that this is our sacred call in loving one another as Sisters, as vowed members in our Congregation, marked by the cross.
Gospel Women in a Global Mission
On February 2, 1806, Julie had another spiritual experience while reflecting on a revelation to Simeon at Jesus’ Presentation in the temple (Luke 2: 30-32). God revealed to Julie that her influence in bringing the Gospel through education would extend beyond the borders of Belgium and France in a world-wide Mission, “to be a light of revelation” in years forward and beyond.
Vision of Compiègne, depicted by Sr. Janet Mullen, SNDdeN.
Disciples of Jesus Christ in Communion
In more troubled times with Church officials in Amiens, France, Julie had another vision in 1812 at the front door of the convent. She saw Jesus carrying his cross and beckoning to her:
“Look at me and follow me.”(Letter 228 and Memoirs of Mother St. Joseph, p. 181)
We, Julie’s daughters, are disciples of Jesus Christ; we follow him as Gospel women, on a Journey of Fidelity with St. Julie. We demonstrate discipleship in our life of prayer, as individuals and in community; we are contemplatives in action, through our varied ministries.
All SNDdeN, consecrated to God by Vows, share profoundly our great love for St. Julie and our co-foundress, Françoise Blin de Bourdon, who model for all Sisters this deep love for God, all Creation and humanity. In living faithfully our charism of making known God’s goodness, our relationships with one another as Sisters are a sacred bonding in LOVE and communion. We live in diversified praying communities internationally. In many countries, different cultures and languages, we are ONE in a spiritual union of love for one another, our Congregation and Mission. We are praying women, sharing a spirituality of joy and hope, with those with whom we live, work and serve in varied ministries on five continents. The beauty and strength of our spirituality, as contemplatives in action reflect the power of God acting in our lives.
Women of the Church
SNDdeN are always in the forefront of the Church as LEADERS listening and responding to new incentives and directives voiced by Popes, Synods and Vatican Councils at a given time, throughout the centuries.
In 1813, a crisis time for the Church, St. Julie met with Pope Pius VII, incarcerated by Napoleon Bonaparte in the Chateau in Fontainebleau. The Pope shared with her the troubles in the Church at that time.
Sisters of Notre Dame de Namur are an international Congregation of Women Religious, founded by St. Julie Billiart (1751-1816) in Amiens, France in 1804. We are women, vowed to God by poverty, chastity and obedience and a commitment to making known God’s goodness through education in a variety of ministries.
He confirmed for Julie her Mission in the Church. Pius VII gave Julie a crucifix, another sign of her bonding with Jesus Christ and carrying forward the Gospel Message.
Religious Life in the Church Today
In a February 2022 video, Pope Francis spoke from the Vatican to Women Religious: “What would the Church be without religious sisters and consecrated laywomen? The Church cannot be understood without them…I encourage all consecrated women to…choose what is best for their mission in the face of the world’s challenges.” The Pope called all Women Religious to respond in ACTION to the challenges facing humanity: “I exhort them…to have an impact with the poor, with the marginalized, with all those who are enslaved by traffickers…” He prayed for women religious who “show the beauty of God’s love and compassion” when they encounter obstacles, even from the Church. Francis told Sisters “not to be discouraged” and “keep making God’s goodness known through the apostolic works…above all through your witness of consecration.” (Independent Catholic News, February 2, 2022)
What is Our Mission?
Sisters of Notre Dame, women with hearts as wide as the world, make known God’s goodness and love, with and among people living in poverty, through a Gospel way of life, community and prayer. (Mission Statement on back cover)
Our Sisters change lives by working with our Associates, Notre Dame Mission Volunteers, Partners and Friends.
“As we work for justice and peace today, we hold in our hearts those individuals and groups whose lives are being destroyed by systemic racism and tribalism, and those peoples forced to migrate across borders in search of life and hope.” (CALLS: General Chapter, 2021)
Did St. Julie Billiart see you at Compiègne? We invite you to love, to lead and to act with us!
We serve on five continents: Africa, Asia, Europe, Latin America and North America. We staff offices/centers in Rome, ITALY, Namur, BELGIUM and Ipswich, MA, USA. We maintain a congregational website at: www.sndden.org and an educational
website at www.notredameonline.org.