The Early Days
The first house in Namur
When the Congregation began in France in 1804, it was a time of religious and social upheaval. Julie and Françoise dedicated themselves to God on February 2nd, 1804, and made vows of poverty, chastity and obedience. Very soon other young women joined them. Julie named her Congregation, Notre Dame, as an expression of her love for Mary, woman of faith.
The spirit of the Sisters was one of “simplicity, obedience and charity, and their desire was to dedicate themselves to the poor in the most abandoned places."
“We exist only for the poor, only for the poor, absolutely only for the poor.”Julie encouraged in her Sisters deep union with God, liberty of spirit and courage; qualities needed for an apostolic vocation. As the Sisters were in Amiens, the Bishop of Amiens thought the Sisters belonged only in his diocese , but Julie knew God was calling her far beyond those boundaries. It was her vision and hope that her Sisters would go throughout the world, proclaiming God’s loving care for all peoples. The bishop responded by expelling her from Amiens. It was a very painful time for Julie, Françoise and the Sisters. Each Sister was free to choose whether to remain in Amiens – and separate herself from the original Congregation – or go with Julie. Most Sisters did choose to go with her, and they found a home in the diocese of Namur, Belgium and became known as Sisters of Notre Dame de Namur.
Julie had remained faithful to the vision God had given her for the Congregation. The future would see Sisters of Notre Dame in 16 countries on five continents