By Kelly Medinger
Sisters of Notre Dame de Namur use Catholic activities grant to care for aging Sisters
“It is a gift to be a part of an international order. You can’t be on the side of the poor only in your head. To have their firsthand experience is just such a gift and very moving,” reflects Sr. Carol Lichtenberg, SNDdeN, Provincial of the Ohio Province for the Sisters of Notre Dame de Namur.
About the Sisters of Notre Dame de Namur
More than 175 years ago, eight Sisters of Notre Dame de Namur came to the United States from Belgium to help teach immigrant children. They brought with them their dedication to making known God’s goodness, especially among the poorest and most abandoned.
Since then, the Sisters have served the poor on five continents – in classrooms, in halfway houses, in inner-city community centers, and in rural village communities. The Sisters have taught in hundreds of schools across the United States. They arrived in the Archdiocese of Baltimore in 1934 and have staffed 15 different schools, reaching thousands of students from kindergarten to college.
“One of the things we often say is, ‘Where any Sister of Notre Dame is, each of us is,’” explains Sr. Carol. “So you feel like you are able to be helping in that place in the Congo, or in the new school in the Nigerian province, no matter where you are ministering.”
Caring for Others… and for One Another
The Sisters of Notre Dame de Namur receive no support from any diocese where the Sisters live and serve. This means they are entirely responsible for their mission and ministries, which includes caring for the frailest Sisters.
Last year, the Knott Foundation awarded a grant of $100,000 to support the retirement needs of the approximately 30 elderly Sisters residing at the Villa Julie Residence in Stevenson, Maryland where the median age is 85. The residence was purchased by the Order in 1947 as a place to care for Sisters who were sick and is now used as a facility for retired Sisters before they require skilled care.
With a portion of the grant funds, the Sisters purchased reclining chairs with electric lifts for each room at Villa Julie. The chairs are designed to help with mobility, comfort, and overall health. When asked about the new chairs, one sister smiled widely and proclaimed, “They’re great! I sleep in mine too much!”
For women who have dedicated their lives to serving others, it is only fitting that they receive the same love and attention in their own times of need.
Sustained and Persevering Efforts
“Our foundress St. Julie Billiart’s most characteristic virtues were simplicity, obedience, charity, and confidence,” states Sr. Carol. St. Julie was a strong woman and followed God’s call to serve others with conviction, saying: “God asks of us not promises, but efforts – sustained and preserving efforts.”
Today the Sisters continue to embody the virtues of their foundress and live out the charge of the Sisters of Notre Dame de Namur in their work as teachers, as ministers to the poor, and as prayerful ambassadors. They remain humble servants of the Lord who accept “the grace of the charge” with incredible passion and joy, from beginning to end.