Biblical formation as a daughter of both Israel and Church

by Sr Monique Huberfeld

Born into a Jewish family that emigrated to France, it was while hiding in an orphanage run by nuns that I discovered that Jesus exists.

He entered my life and especially my heart. I wanted to be baptized to “be all for Jesus”, like the nuns.

An extraordinary gift of the Lord

It was not until many years later that providential circumstances brought me into contact with the students’ residence run by the sisters of Notre Dame de Sion in Lyon, France. It was with surprise and wonder that I learned that the Congregation had been founded by the Ratisbonne Brothers, of Jewish origin, and that its mission was:

“To witness in the Church and in the world that God continues to be faithful in his love for the Jewish people” (NDS Constitution no. 2).

“We have heard the personal call of God, the same summons to total love which he addressed to the people of Israel. It comes to us today through Jesus Christ, in his Church. ‘If you will… come, follow me’” (NDS Constitution no. 20).

I joined the Biblical and Interreligious Relations section of the Diocese of Versailles’s Formation Service

To enroot, to understand, to develop Sion’s charism in my life as a “daughter of Israel” by birth and a “daughter of the Church” by baptism is an extraordinary gift of the Lord and at the same time a great challenge.

After my formation and several years of apostolic life as a social worker – which I was professionally trained in – the General Council called me to Rome and asked me to resume my studies and prepare for a degree in Theology and Biblical Sciences, which I obtained.

I returned to France after 11 years abroad, in Spain, Brazil and Rome. At the request of a priest delegated by the Bishop, I joined the Biblical and Interreligious Relations section of the Diocese of Versailles’s Formation Service.

30 years of life, so full, rich and diverse

It is impossible for me to summarise these 30 years of life, so full, rich and diverse were they: biblical training in various parts of the diocese and in other places such as monasteries, gatherings, magazine articles, correction of Bible courses by correspondence, among other things. And then there was the preparation and accompaniment of ecumenical groups discovering the Middle East – Israel, of course, but also Syria, Jordan, Turkey and Lebanon. Openness not only to the Bible and to the Jewish people, but also to the Oriental Churches, and to Islam. Our teams were very active and organised many meetings and talks, especially in schools, and various formation courses.

Teaching the Word of God and helping to understand the importance of interreligious relations, in particular with Judaism, requires continuous personal formation on all levels: spiritual, through prayer and meditation; intellectual, through personal study and the teaching “of the Masters”; social, through sharing in community life and through all encounters with friends.

As sisters of Sion, may we never forget to teach that: “The God of Sinai is the Father of Jesus Christ, Our Father.”