News from CCJR Annual Meeting

The Council of Centers on Jewish-Christian Relations (CCJR) is “an association of centers and institutes in the United States and Canada devoted to enhancing mutual understanding between Jews and Christians” ( Celia Deutsch (Brooklyn, N.Y., U.S.A.) attended the annual meeting held in Providence, Rhode Island Nov. 4 and 5, 2018, as a representative of the Sisters of Sion. The Sunday program included a panel discussion of the festschrift in honor of John Pawlikowski, Righting Relations after the Holocaust and Vatican II: Essays in Honor of John Pawlikowski. The keynote speaker was Dr. David Kertzer (Brown University, Providence), who spoke on “The Kidnapping of Edgardo Mortara: the Continuing Controversy. Monday’s panels focused on perspectives on the Land/State of Israel: in Jewish theology, in Christian theology and in Christian-Jewish Dialogue.

Each year the CCJR gives a Shevet Achim award honoring a person who has made a significant contribution to Jewish-Christian dialogue. At the November meeting, Rabbi Abraham Skorka was honored for his work as a leader in dialogue in Argentina and internationally. Many people recognize him best for his work with Pope Francis, beginning with their collaboration in Buenos Aires Celia was one of those speaking in his honor, and focused on the theme of “dialogue” in Rabbi Skorka’s writing.

The meeting took place only a week after an armed gunman murdered eleven elderly Jews gathered for Shabbat services in Pittsburgh. For all those participating, our gathering was a moment to comfort and support one another, to take courage and recommit ourselves to building paths of justice and peace.

Celia Deutsch, n.d.s., Brooklyn N.Y. (U.S.A.)

The International Jewish – Christian Bible Week, Germany

I had heard from Srs. Clare, Margaret and Kathy, NDS about the International Jewish Christian Bible Week for a number of years and they had given me the impression that it was a programme that marks memory for a long time. Finally, this year, I was able to take part in it, as well as sr. Kathy. The Jewish – Christian Bible Week takes place in Germany (in recent years in Haus Ohrbeck near Osnabrück) for 50 years. Jews and Christians from Germany, Britain, the Netherlands, the USA, Israel and other countries, scholars and interested lay people (this year 130 participants), came together at the Jewish-Christian Bible Week to study biblical texts against a background of the two traditions.

Every morning study groups take place, where Jews and Christians have an opportunity to study, discuss and share their knowledge concerning chosen biblical text, this year Genesis 1-3, Isaiah 42-49 and Jonah. Groups are formed according to knowledge of Hebrew and focus. In-depths study of the Hebrew text, canonical approach, Jewish – Christian Bible study, biblical text and the contemporary world, interpretation and creative response through visual art. Trust and an openness to listen to and to ask questions was deeply touching. This made me realise the gigantic changes that has happened in Jewish – Christian relations since the  Nostra Aeatate document. In the afternoons, four lecturers: Dr. D. Kahn – Harris (Rabbi and a Jewish Bible Scholar), Prof. Halima Krausen (a Muslim Sheika and imam), Fr. Dr C. Rutishauser (a Jesuit, and a Bible Scholar) and H. Copper (a Rabbi and a psychoanalyst) delivered brilliant and often challenging presentations of studied biblical texts.

The shift in our mutual relations was also very visible during the moments of prayer. Each morning Christians were invited to come to Shacharit (Jewish morning prayer). Before each study session a there was a common recitation of a Psalm, first read in Hebrew and then in various languages. In the evenings Christians opened the door for everybody who wanted to listen to Christian liturgical prayer – Compline (a night prayer). Finally, at the end of the week everybody had a chance to experience Jewish Shabbat with its services (Kabbalat Shabbat, Shacharit and Havdalah) as well as Christian: on Saturday Vespers led by a Lutheran and on Sunday a Catholic Mass. An excellent interfaith choir was formed, often accompanied by professional musicians. Additionally, this year Rebekka Wedell, a composer, singer and pianist, composed for us a beautiful piece of music for the occasion of the Jubilee of the Bible Week.

This 50th year of the International Jewish – Christian Bible week was marked by the anniversary celebration during which one of the founders, Rabbi Dr. J. Magonet presented a talk ‘A Journey through Time 1969 – 2018’ when he picked up all the changes that had happened over the last fifty years. During the Kaleidoscope Rabbi M. Solomon spoke about the central place of Hebrew Scriptures during the Bible week, E. Sommer talked about studying the text with all one’s senses (through art, music etc), A. Boeckler and E. Hadem talked about worshipping in the presence of the Other, rabbi J. Baden about translations (as everything is in both languages: English and German). Finally U. Silber talked about the learning process that happens during the Bible week. Each of the presenters focused on the development and changes that had occurred from the beginning until today.

What also make this week very special are the friendships that are formed over this time. The inter-personal dialogues, conversations that take place in between the sessions and over the meals, are done in an atmosphere of trust and respect. This facilitates learning about the tradition of each one in a very informal but a deep way. The deceased participants from the previous years were remembered in the prayers (a few sisters of Sion were mentioned). Those who could not come had letters sent to them. This is how the Jewish – Christian Bible Week takes us beyond time and space and hopefully makes a difference (even if it is only tiny) so needed today in contemporary society.

Sr. Kasia, NDS

News from Sr. Patricia Fox, NDS (Philippines)

Statement from sr. Pat NDS from the Philippines concerning the Bureau of Immigration’s Deportation Order against her:

‘After attending a Fact-Finding Mission and telling some Coca Cola workers that the social teachings of the church support them in their formation of an association and demands for regularization and a just wage, I somehow got the ire of the President. Since then, it has been a series of allegations and answers. Church people have been supportive in that the claim of the government is that “missionaries” should only teach doctrine and convert. The ecumenical community has moved beyond this years ago and all have social teachings which they believe need to be lived out in faithfulness to Jesus. The international community, particularly those in solidarity movements, see the charges that I should not take part in fora, rallies, fact finding missions, as against both the constitution here and also international law which ensures freedom of speech, association, movement and religion to all. It has been amazing the support I have had from people across the social spectrum. But it is also stressful knowing it is the president who is wanting me deported and the power he has here. It is difficult to plan and to live day to day. But it has forced me to verbalize why I have done what I have and strengthened my belief that Jesus is in those who are poor and oppressed and they help me define my baptismal commitment and vocation as a religious of Notre Dame de Sion which is sensitive to the outcast and called to work for the promises first given to the church for all.’

Sr. Patricia Fox, NDS


Jubilé de Sr Marie François NDS (La Solitude)

7 juillet 1968 – 7 juillet 2018 : messe d’action de grâce pour le jubilé de Sr Marie François en La Chapelle de La Solitude de Grand Bourg. En guise de renouvellement de ses vœux solennels, notre Sœur sort de sa poche un texte qui dit toute son authenticité.

De homélie du Père Launey pour le cinquantième anniversaire de la consécration de notre Soeur en cette maison contemplative de Sion : « De par sa culture chinoise qui privilégie le voir et l’écoute au dire, et ses talents artistiques, elle nous fait comprendre à travers ses œuvres, la coexistence de la lumière et des ténèbres, la présence de l’invisible à travers le visible, le voisinage de la certitude et du doute… Puissions-nous nous laisser dynamiser par la richesse des diverses expressions de la foi pour accepter de risquer notre vie en réponse à l’appel du Seigneur ! ».

« Seigneur, pour que fidèle à l’Esprit de Sion, inspiré par Théodore et Alphonse, la communauté de Sr Marie François, ici unie, continue à soutenir dans une grande Fraternité de cœur l’engagement de toute sa vie, nous te prions. » ; « Seigneur, pour te dire Merci d’avoir permis à nos routes de croiser la sienne – particulièrement la mienne – et de pouvoir aujourd’hui jubiler à ses côtés de 50 ans de grande fidélité à ses vœux d’attachement dans la joie, malgré les doutes, le questionnement et les élans de révolte, nous te prions. «

Sandrine Bathilde, Associée de Sion (et les photos)

News from Sion School, Worthing


Sisters Anne Lee, Brenda Dorrian and Margaret attended the Leavers Service on the last  day of term in Sion School Worthing, UK – Friday 6th July.  This took place in Arundel Cathedral – a beautiful venue.  The service was a beautiful mixture of music, poetry, readings etc.  We were particularly impressed with the opening piece which was read by the Head Girl and the Head Boy.

We asked for a copy as you might like to read it :


Head Girl and Head Boy Speech 2018

Students, parents, Governors and all other special guests, we warmly welcome you to Arundel Cathedral as we mark the leaving of very special members of our school community – our Sion family.  We feel mixed emotions today.

Happy to mark this milestone with people that mean so much to us – our friends with whom we have grown up, and yet we also feel sadness because today does mean “goodbye”.

In amongst those mixed emotions, we both recognise that each one of us here will always enjoy a sense of community wherever me might find ourselves as the years move on.  There will always be something that connects us – something which we will always recognise in each other and something which we hope you will all draw upon to make this world a better place.

That “something” cannot be bought – it cannot truly be described or even completely understood. It certainly cannot be held or contained and yet it can be carried – carried in each heart and mind that was truly touched by it at some point during their school journey. That “something” is very ancient indeed – a breath of Heaven, a creative word, a flap of Angel’s wings, a deafening whisper, a life-changing moment, a snag on the heart, a push or nudge – a light in the darkness. I guess we will all see it differently.

Theodore and Alphonse Ratisbonne – our Founders – encountered that “something” – inexplicable, yet understood – heart-stopping, yet life-giving. A calling that seemed to rattle their bones, and shake their core –  yet it came as a whisper in a still, small voice and was then confirmed through the miraculous.

This energy of that “something” that Theodore and Alphonse would recognise to be the very Spirit of God, continues to give life to our school.  Their vision of hope, dialogue, understanding, unity, peace and love continues to bounce around the rooms and corridors of Our Lady of Sion School.  It is still as powerful now as it was then.  It is indeed the very cornerstone on which our great school is built.  Like the Olympian torch bearer passes on the flame, so have numerous Sionians faithfully passed on the beacon of hope and understanding that they learned about in the very same place that you too have been hearing about it.  “Consideration Always” is a good starting point, but it doesn’t fully encompass the fullness or even the focused ethos of Our Lady of Sion School.   Sion education fundamentally exists to ensure that whether Catholic, Orthodox, Jewish, Muslim, Agnostic or Atheist, pupils are taught to respect the belief of the other.

It is our hope that during your time at school, you have been given opportunity after opportunity to respect the belief of the other – of those around you within our school community, those you encounter in society and with those you will encounter in the future as your journey takes you to different places with different faces. As young people who have been given time to respect and honour our own differences – our individual uniqueness – ourselves – it is our hope that you will play an important part in encouraging others to do the same.  That “something” is part of you now.  You carry it in your heart – that message of respect and unity – a love of diversity and individuality. It’s a required light in a darkening world.  We hope that you are firmly rooted in Sion because the message that Sion offers the world today is just as powerful as it was when Alphonse and Theodore first put their faith into action.

Pope Francis said this in his address at World Youth Day Prayer Vigil:

Life nowadays tells us that it is much easier to concentrate on what divides us, what keeps us apart. People try to make us believe that being closed in on ourselves is the best way to keep safe from harm. Today, we adults need you to teach us how to live in diversity, in dialogue, to experience multiculturalism not as a threat but an opportunity. Have the courage to teach us that it is easier to build bridges than walls! Together we ask that you challenge us to take the path of community…to build bridges.

 We believe that these words epitomise the spirit of Sion and carry the energy – “that something” – that Theodore and Alphonse used to ignite their own flames.  Let’s keep our torches burning and never forget that we were fortunate enough to catch that flame.  We are forever connected because of what we have learned.  May we all go out there and build bridges.  May we all take the path of community and serve the other.  Keep the flames burning and forever remember where it was first ignited.  We wish you all a very special Leavers’ Service but do remember that you will always belong to the family of Sion.


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