Join us in celebrating the birthday of Saint Julie Billiart, Spiritual Mother of the Sisters of Notre Dame.
Saint Julie Billiart, “The Smiling Saint,” was born on July 12, 1751.
How Does Saint Julie relate to the Sisters of Notre Dame?
Though she is also known as the founder of the Sisters of Notre Dame de Namur, she is related to our congregation which was founded in 1850 in Coesfeld, Germany, by Sister Maria Aloysia (Hilligonde Wolbring) and Sister Maria Ignatia (Elisabeth Kühling). Here’s how…
In 1849, two young teachers, Hilligonde Wolbring and Elisabeth Kühling, befriended orphaned and neglected children and took them into Hilligonde’s home where they educated and cared for them. Both young women had been educated in the spiritual and pedagogical tradition of Reverend Bernard Overberg. The parish priest at Saint Lambert in Coesfeld, Westphalia who was their spiritual director, Father Theodor Elting, recognized the significance of their apostolate in the Church. He invited them to consider religious life and establish a congregation which would give them a more solid financial economic basis. Father Theodor Elting had found a similar apostolic aim in the congregation of the Sisters of Notre Dame of Amersfoort in The Netherlands. At the request of Bishop Georg Müller of Münster, three Sisters of Notre Dame of Amersfoort traveled to Coesfeld in 1850 to give the two women preparatory training for religious life. The Amersfoort congregation had received their spirit and rule from the Sisters of Notre Dame de Namur, founded in France by Julie Billiart in 1804 (Happy Birthday, Saint Julie!). Under this guidance, the two young women, Hilligonde Wolbring to be known as Sister Maria Aloysia, and Elisabeth Kühling to be known as Sister Maria Ignatia, began their formation for religious life and discerned to continue their work as vowed religious.
In 1855, the foundation in Coesfeld became an independent congregation. From 1850 to 1855, the Sisters from Amersfoort introduced the steadily growing community in Coesfeld to the spirit and rule of the Amersfoort congregation as they had received it from the Sisters of Notre Dame de Namur, founded in France by St. Julie Billiart in 1804.
So there you have it! We are grateful for the foremothers of the Sisters of Notre Dame, which includes Saint Julie Billiart.