Our Story The Congregation of the Sisters of Notre Dame de Namur was founded in 1804 by Marie Rose Julie Billiart, a French woman, filled with love for God and God's people.
Foundress of the Sisters of Notre Dame
St Julie Billiart
1751 - 1816
Marie Rose Julie Billiart was born in 1751 in Cuvilly, a small village in France. She attended the village school. When she was older, Julie helped in the fields with the hay making and loved to speak to the other villagers of the goodness of God. Her father owned a smallholding and a draper's store.
One night his shop was broken into and the merchandise was stolen and ruined. Not long after this when Julie was with her father, an attempt was made on his life. As a result of this shock she became paralysed for 23 years, unable to walk and at times unable to speak.
Julie lived during the horrors of the French Revolution and many of her friends, including the Carmelites of Compiègne, died at the hands of the revolutionaries. Her great friend, Madame Pont l'Abbé, persuaded Julie that she must leave Cuvilly and she brought her and her devoted niece, Felicité, to her chateau at Gournay-sur-Aronde. However, very soon the revolutionaries were hunting for Julie and she and Felicité fled to Compiègne, hidden in a hay cart. Again Julie had to flee and her friend, Madame Baudoin, brought Julie and her niece, Felicité, to Amiens. It was there that Madam Baudoin introduced Julie to Françoise Blin de Bourdon, who was to became a close friend of Julie and the co-foundress of the Sisters of Notre Dame de Namur.
St Julie's Feast Day is 13 May.
Co-Foundress of the Sisters of Notre Dame
Françoise Blin de Bourdon
1756 - 1838
FRANCOISE BLIN DE BOURDON
Françoise was born in 1756 into one of the oldest families in Picardy, France. She was the daughter of Viscount Blin de Bourdon who had married Marie-Louise-Claudine de Fouquesolles, daughter of the Baron of Fouquesolles, Viscount of Doullens. Unlike Jule, Françoise was educated firstly by governesses and later at the Benedictine and Ursuline schools.
Prior to the Revolution, as Vicomtesse Blin de Bourdon, Françoise had devoted her life to the good management of her estates and to caring for the poor and sick. She hoped one day to become a Carmelite.
Following the death of Robespierre, Françoise was freed from imprisonment and her friend, Madame Baudoin, brought Julie Billiart and her niece, Felitité, to Amiens. They acquired a small apartment in the town home of Françoise Blin's brother on the rue des Augustins in Amiens. Madam Baudoin invited Françoise to meet Julie. Françoise responded to the invitation but in the beginning she found she could not understand the invalid's laboured speech. However as the days passed, Françoise would read to Julie and help feed her. Gradually, Julie's winning personality triumphed over her physical limitations, and what began as a work of mercy was transformed into one of the most beautiful examples of a spiritual friendship between two women in the recorded history of religious life.