Lay people, Sisters of Notre-Dame:
walk together in the footsteps of the Founders

Sister Cécile MARION

cnd csa
Superior General

Dear friends,

It seemed important to me to address you especially at this Christmas time which marks the birth of the Congrégation Notre-Dame. Even if you can read the letter addressed to the Sisters - and vice versa, because neither of them is secret! - it is good to recognize our own vocations and to speak to each one.

In fact, there are many of you! At the last enlarged General Council in January 2018, which brings together the Vicars and Delegates with the General Council, we counted 350 Associates. But this figure covers types ofDifferent "belonging" : The commitments and collaboration in the mission of the CND are varied, and the time has undoubtedly come to see more clearly.

In this perspective, it would be good if each Vicairie and Delegation:

  • clarifies the different types of possible commitment: if all the laity do not wish to make a formal commitment, this possibility exists and it is to be considered between the Vicar / Delegate and the laity themselves. See the decision of the Enlarged General Council of 2016 reiterated to that of 2018:
    • At the Chapter of Caravate in 1996, the CND opted to accept Associates in the Congregation. Since then, groups of Associates have been formed in Vicairies, Delegations and Groups with different functions. However, the Associates do not represent all the laity linked to the Congregation: other groups, called partners, friends, former students etc., share our spirituality, our charism, our educational mission - make it live. even. The Enlarged General Council of 2016 therefore decided to take a further step: formalize the membership of the Congregation of Our Lady of all lay members who so wish by an act of mutual recognition. The year 2017 will be the 420th anniversary of the CND. On this occasion, we invite each Vicariate / Delegation / Group to organize a celebration on January 9 or December 9 to welcome the laity who wish to join us and invite them to express their belonging to the Congregation according to the form common to the whole Congregation (cf. Annex).

  • reflect on the place of Associates by broadening this reflection to all lay people who participate in the mission of the Congregation: for example, the Directors of schools are not necessarily Associates but they bring the mission of the Congregation to life.

  • dare to call the laity: you can be married, single, retired, still working, and participate in the mission of the CND!

  • Because we can be even more numerous to meet around what brings us together: “For a new world, go, make it grow”.
    The way in which Pierre Fourier and Alix Le Clerc conceived the Congregation is daring at the beginning of the 17th century. Nothing less than a "new house", without any possible comparison with a pre-existing, purely original model: "I have always felt that it was necessary to say that first of all they were school teachers and that in order to be more tightened [committed to perfection], they desired, demanded, and persisted in being religious, lest it be thought that they were primarily religious, and would subsequently have asked for schools. "
    In the quarrels with Rome for the recognition of this daring project, it was Alix that came up with the idea of ​​open houses to ensure free school. Because she does not want to give up religious life or school, she “negotiates” in the straitjacket of the time the place of the Congregation: it will be cloistered, so be it! But not the project itself: it is for everyone.
    From then on, at the very origin of her innovative project, Alix "associates" lay people: "poor, well-trained girls" who will come without a dowry, will practice a "moderate closure" and, committed by a simple promise, will devote themselves to teaching in small apostolic posts.

    This tenacity of Alix encourages us to put our hands in the dough, without procrastinating. "God lives among those who favor charity, fraternity, the desire for good, truth, justice. " Alix, who has multiplied apostolic initiatives, urges us to invent them for today.
    It also questions us about the significance of our educational places today: our schools, our families, our places of life, our human relations… How do they concretely carry this educational charism? How are they addressed to each and everyone in particular? How do they ensure that none of those who walk through the door are lost?
    Le CND international educational network would like to contribute to this research and to the concrete answers to be provided.
    Everyone agrees today that primary education is a sine qua non for integral human development and therefore also economic. However, if "in the field of health there are real successes, the failure is obvious as regards primary education" in many too many countries. The mission of the CND, established in these countries, retains all its topicality; it must mobilize us, Sisters of Notre Dame and Lay Associates, whatever the form and modalities of this association.
    It is up to apostolic religious life to be “ sower of prophetic hope". Those who find a source in it cannot fail to be mobilized by the need to "give hope to today's global world", to " globalize hope ” .

    In conclusion of this letter, I would like to come back to a fear sometimes heard: that of a drift towards “clericalization of the laity” or, as far as we are concerned, of “enrollment in a form of secular religious life”. No, the laity are not "missionaries" to use the expression of Pope Francis. “Shared mission is not the same as shared work. The mission is not a field of experiences for our personal realization, nor a track to show what we know how to do. We share what we are experiencing: the love of God. It is a collaboration with the Spirit. The shared mission should not be confused with the voluntary work that helps congregations. To say mission is to say Spirit, and the network of complicity that it weaves across the planet. "It was said after the Second Vatican Council:" It is the hour of the laity "(...) “But it looks like the clock has stopped. "
    The international meeting that you are about to live next July could be the favorable moment to reset the clock and to take all these points to invent the answer which is yours!

    Let's continue the road together!
    Merry Christmas and Happy New Year !

    With all my love
    Sister Cécile MARION, cnd-csa
    Superior General