The Congregation of Our Lady of Sion is a Roman Catholic community of both apostolic and contemplative women. We have come into being through the direct intervention of Mary whose significance for us is expressed as the Daughter of Sion spoken of in the prophets. She is that scriptural woman who lived to the full the faith and hope of her People.
We were founded to witness in the Church God’s faithful love for the Jewish people and to work towards the promises of justice and of peace which were proclaimed by the prophets and Jesus Christ for all humankind.
This unique vision came to be through a Jewish man, Theodore Ratisbonne, born in Strasbourg, France in 1802. At an early age in that city he became very involved in education, a value that would always mark his future decisions. His family was more culturally Jewish than religious. As many people in his day, following the French Revolution, they were in the process of being assimilated. So Theodore joined some other young men in the study of Philosophy.
Their professor Louis Bautain introduced them to a wise and learned Catholic woman, Louise Humann, who guided the group spiritually. Under her tutelage Theodore saw with greater clarity, the link between the Jewish and Christian Scriptures as forming one continuous expression of God’s faithfulness and love and the biblical call to act to bring about God’s reign. He began to see, with great clarity the link between the Jewish and Christian Scriptures. He began to proclaim that they formed one continuous expression of God’s faithfulness and love. Together they reveal God’s all embracing love and the biblical call to act to bring about God’s reign.
Theodore was baptised in 1827 and ordained a priest in 1830. By 1840 in Paris, he gained a reputation as a preacher and a sound spiritual director of women. His thought and words were steeped in the Word of God.
Because of his concern for orphans and uneducated children, he established small schools in Paris and Strasbourg, aided by a group of women, who eventually wanted to form a religious community.
He received a discernment sign to do so, when on January 20, 1842, his youngest brother, Alphonse, had a mysitcal experience in a Church in Rome, during which he saw Mary, which he simply described as “light”. Within 12 days, Alphonse was baptised and he too was ordained a priest.
By the time of Theodore’s death in 1884, the Sisters of Our Lady Sion (Notre Dame de Sion) were established: Muslim, Orthodox and Christian countries. His words were: “You must have hearts larger than the world”.
Today, the Cogregation is established in 22 countries serving in various ministries. Contemplative and Apostolic sisters work together and pray in the Church to reveal God’s faithful love for the Jewish People and to bring about God’s reign on earth.
The Name ‘Notre Dame de Sion’
The name Notre Dame de Sion (Our Lady of Sion) was chosen by our founder and indicates the significance of Mary for us. Daughter of Sion par excellence, Mary lived to the full the faith and hope of her People.
She received the Word of God generously in her heart, becoming the mother of Jesus and following him to the cross. She was present in the early Church. She entered into the fullness of redemption and confirms the destiny to which we are all called.
Sion is the biblical name of Jerusalem, City of Peace, symbol of the People of Israel, to which Mary belongs. It is also the Jerusalem of the end time, the future towards which we are moving, the place where Israel and the nations will gather together.
“Sion, this word evokes all the hopes of our vocation”. Fr. Theodore Ratisbonne
January 20, 1842, is more eloquent than a thousand words.
For it has to do with a great mystery and even, according to Paul, “the” mystery par excellence: that God reveals his love for the whole of humanity by choosing a particular People; that God is born of this People, and upholds this choice within the universality of God’s love.
This silence leaves us the space to contemplate that mystery, to scrutinize it without ever thinking we have come to its end. This is what Alphonse Ratisbonne understood and passed on to us, and it is what we celebrate on every January 20 in the large family of Our Lady of Sion.
A short video prepared for the bicenterary of the birth of fr. Marie – Alphonse 1.05. 1814 – 1.05. 2014