The life cycle of religious congregations has always been a cyclical process of birth, maturity, dedication and then either death or renewal. For many congregations, when their membership dwindles, there is a possibility of merging or uniting with another more numerous community. Such is the recent case with several French religious congregations of women.
A History of Caring –
Four Religious Communities of Women
In 1992 there was a national meeting of French Religious Orders of Women in which discussions were held about instructing small Congregations to help and support each other in solidarity and unity. At that time our fast-growing community, the Sisters of Our Lady of La Salette, began discussions with the Soeurs de Jesus Rédempteur et Marie Mediatrice and two other Congregations to establish a support structure for religious life. Our community was certainly more numerous but we were open to possibilities concerning those with very few members.
|The house of the Soeurs de
Jésus Redempteur at Fontaines
St. Martin in Lyon, France
The relationship between our two congregations grew quickly. By 2006, members of our two congregations began to live together in community at their house in Fontaines St. Martin in Lyon, France, northwest of Grenoble. They lived as an international community of sisters from Madagascar, Myanmar and from the Soeurs de Jésus Rédempteur.
As the two Congregations lived together in community in the spirit of solidarity and unity, they gradually began to appreciate and absorb elements of each other’s spirituality.
The Next Step: Unity
|The sisters join hands in
solidarity during the Eucharist
The preparation process continued and finally culminated at the recent Congregational Assembly in Quézac, France, in April 2013. The vote was positive for the union and this petition was then sent to Rome.
In the meantime, on April 27, 2013, a celebration of welcome was held with the nine Soeurs de Jésus Redempteur during a special Eucharistic Celebration at Fontaines St. Martin Parish Church, in Lyon, France. Cardinal Philippe Xavier Barbarin, Archbishop of Lyon, France, was the main celebrant.
The approval of the union of the congregations will be celebrated when the decree of final approval arrives from the Vatican.
A Wonderful Feeling, a Gift from God
During my attendance at the Congregational Assembly, I met these wonderful religious and lived with them for two weeks. I saw that they were remarkably patient women, quite active despite the fact that their ages ranged from 86 to 97. At mealtime I noticed that they were the first to volunteer to lead community prayer and serve at table. It was inspiring for me to see these women in advanced years with such youthful attitudes.
I heard that despite their doctor’s concern, they insisted on walking up the several flights of stairs in their shared residence. One said: “I am still able to climb these stairs and so I do!” They are always so joyful – a true gift to our community. Their presence lifts us up.
I pray for our now-expanded community. I join my prayers with that of St. Paul when he prays: “May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that you may abound in hope by the power of the holy Spirit” (Romans 15:13).
Several Soeurs de Jésus Redempteur are
received into the Sisters of Our Lady of La Salette