I have worked on this image for some time through the pandemic. It is painted according to the wishes of the customer, meant for a large foyer wall. My digital images can never portray the color truth of such paintings, but this is close. The actual painting is softer in hues and tones.
Guess who came by our annual Chicken Barbecue on his way to Cuba?!!! Thank you Pope Francis! If you come next Sunday, you can see him also.
Sept. 22, was a non-painting day for me, since I was involved in our annual chicken bar-b-que. Usually, somewhere between 3000 and 4000 people come to enjoy a dinner, and shopping for handmade items, in the high school building of Notre Dame Cathedral Latin on our property. So here is a picture of my set up for the day. We will do it all again next Sunday, Sept. 29, and enjoy seeing so many people come to have a big meal and renew acquaintances of 50 plus years of the annual fundraiser. You can see our invitation on our homepage of sndchardon.org. Thank you sincerely to all who came to support us yesterday. You are gratefully remembered in our prayers.
Here in Rome, we are living among our Notre Dame Sisters from many countries. All the provinces around the world try to support the activities of our Generalate by serving for a time in our Mother House, so I am among, my Korean, Indian, Brazilian, German, and American Sisters at the moment.
When St. Julie Billiart was suffering greatly the turmoil of the French Revolution, God gave her a vision in which she saw a cross surrounded by many religious Sisters in various habits. She heard: “Behold these spiritual daughters whom I give you in an Institute marked by the cross.” This makes a Coesfeld Notre Dame, such as myself, think that perhaps we also were in St. Julie’s vision, though we came into existence some forty years after her death.
Now in Rome, Italy, we six pilgrims will be walking ancient roads to see St. Peter’s Basilica and many of the Church’s holy places. On Sunday, some of us made it to Pope Francis’s window on time for the noon Angelus prayer and his blessing. Though the Church is beset with sinful people, her holiness as Christ’s Body and Fountain of His grace cannot be dimmed. Multitudes of holy people died for this belief, and many people consecrate themselves for a lifetime to strive to be holy in the heart of the Church.
Our foundress for the Coesfeld Sisters of Notre Dame, Sister Maria Aloysia, will probably never be canonized. But she is one of the multitudes of holy persons who gave themselves entirely, first to Jesus Christ, and also to His Church. She did whatever was needed to be done. Rome is always a good reminder that we are surrounded by cohorts of Saints on earth and in heaven.
Travel from Germany to Italy kept me from the computer for a couple of days, so now that I have reached the center in Rome for the Sisters of Notre Dame, I would like to extend the thoughts of the previous post. St. Julie gave us her great appreciation for God’s goodness, so manifest in the beauty of creation and all its many marvels.
Today, we Notre Dames celebrate the gift of creation, and we strive to do our part to protect and respect it. I had the privilege of seeing so much natural beauty in the Netherlands, Germany, and Belgium, and today I will be out in sunny Italy! As St. Julie would say: “How good is the good God!”
From Mulhausen, we took a trip to Namur, Belgium, a very special excursion for us. Here is where St. Julie Billiart began her community of Sisters of Notre Dame of Namur in 1804. Julie’s spirit is at a deepest root of our spirituality, because forty years after her death, her rule of life came to our first Sisters. Hilligonde and Elisabeth were formed and instructed in her spirit. St. Julie, though only a peasant girl, became a profound educator of future teaching Sisters of Notre Dame de Namur. Her love for God, creation, especially the children, found a perfect union with the Coesfeld spirit of education that our beginning congregation knew.
Julie taught catechism as a young girl in her fields. Her love for God was ever joyful in what she experienced as his great goodness to her. Though her life was marked with heavy crosses, she always trusted to take the next step. A definite example is when she had been paralyzed for over 22 years, and after a novena of prayer in honor of the loving heart of Jesus, she stood from her wheelchair and walked. Then she walked all over Belgium establishing convents and schools to educate the young.
Our small troup of six pilgrims from America are now in Mulhausen. This convent and school of our first Sisters was purchased in 1888. Our history here began after a very dark time under Bismarck. He secularized German society, and did his best to push out teachers of the Catholic Faith. While religious orders in health or social services were not seen as a threat, those who held the minds of the young in the classrooms had to leave. The only other option was to drop religious dress, which, in the times, meant drop one’s vocation. Our Sisters left in 1874. Eventually, over 200 went to America as missionaries. A few went over to Vechta or The Netherlands, but beloved Coesfeld and St. Annathal’s, our first center, had to be abandoned. When it was safe to return after Bismarck, the Congregation set up in Mulhausen where a beautiful property had been obtained.
Our earliest days were marked with excellence in Catholic education. Our first Sisters were highly educated and did all they could to prepare the newest and youngest Sisters in the tradition of thorough and wholesome Catholic teaching from Bernard Overberg, known in Westphalia as “The Teacher of Teachers.” Because of Bismark, the United States, and I myself, was blessed to receive this inheritance.
Our weekend was spent soaking in the rich history of our beginnings in Coesfeld. We spent time walking the places our first sisters walked from Suring Street where the first house for the neglected children was situated, to the famous Way of the Cross that circles 10km from St. Lambert’s Church. After 160 some years, it is not difficult to find the markers or the unchanged structures. Our good Father Theodore Elting, whom we consider our third founder, walked all over the same roads tending the flock of St. Lambert’s, and also leading the Way of the Cross. This devotion is still celebrated today, and still today, our Sisters participate in it. I was happy to stand and pray on a little mound where Father Elting would have said Mass in the course of the long outdoor Way of the Cross.
From the first years of Notre Dame in Coesfeld, our foundress Sister Maria Aloysia gathered, taught, and nurtured children, especially the neglected ones. Having been orphaned at an early age herself, she had a mother’s heart for them. So the first buildings ever obtained or constructed for the Sisters of Notre Dame included either a way to house the children or to provide schools for them. Father Elting directed and celebrated it all.
Since last Friday, the 21st, we have been in Coesfeld where our German Sisters of Notre Dame still pray, celebrate, and minister. Our first convent from the 1850’s was called St. Annathal’s, (St. Ann’s Valley) but badly damaged in World War II, it was rebuilt on the same landsite (early 1950’s). I was so happy to stand on this property, our birthplace as a religious order, now belonging to the city. After the city bought our original property, the Sisters built the third Coesfeld home for the Sisters of Notre Dame (1970’s), just outside the heart of the town. Since there could really be no true replicating of our historic first foundation, this newest building was named St. Annenthal’s, shifting the name just a little. So I am happily residing in beautiful light and airy surroundings of St. Annenthal’s while visiting Coesfeld.
We count our foundation from the date October 1, 1850, when Hilligonde Wolbring became Schwester Maria Aloysia, and her companion and co-foundress Elisabeth Kuhling, became Schwester Maria Ignatia, and the Sisters of Our Lady (Schwestern Unserer Lieben Frau) were established in Coesfeld. The rule of life they followed came from St. Julie Billiart who founded the Sisters of Notre Dame of Namur in Belgium.