a long love story that started in my childhood

Sr. Michele (eng)

How should I explain my religious vocation in a few lines? It is a very long love story that started already in my childhood! I am the oldest child from a large Catholic family. I was born in Brussels, in Belgium, at the end of the Second World War. I had the chance of receiving a Christian education at home and in Catholic schools, first in the Belgian Congo (before it received its independence) where I grew up, and then in Belgium where I obtained a diploma of primary school teacher. Our family had to survive various serious ordeals. But these ordeals have certainly strengthened me and prepared me for the future. I had the good chance to develop myself in the Scout Movement (founded by Baden Powell)… a developing space for the religious life in community… In primary school, I loved Sacred History (as it was then called) very much, geography and languages… also foundation stones for me… During my studies, I felt called to depart for Africa to teach or to care for people. The occasion presented itself at the end of my studies. At the age of 20, I left for Burundi as a lay missionary helper, for a congregation with schools for African girls. I lived far from any city, amidst an indigenous population. There, I got in day-to-day contact with the open religious community that I would have loved to join as a missionary sister. Africa was important for me. But then: there is a saying: “God writes straight also on curvy lines, He takes us where He wants us via sinuous ways”. Urgent family reasons forced me to return to Belgium. That was a great deception for me. But I was in peace, adjusting again to my native country. For many long years, I taught in Brussels with great enthusiasm in a school for the education of mentally handicapped children and teen-agers, the school “La Clairière”. And where was my religious vocation in all of that? I had to read the signs of the time… I considered my work as a teacher and educator as an apostolate. I was also very much engaged at the parish and in the parish choir… I worked in a clinic as a Red Cross ambulance driver… I wanted to give myself to God in serving others while waiting for a sign from Heaven… And then: one day the director of the school suggested to me to take part in a congress of special teaching in Jerusalem. I said YES immediately! I was interested in pedagogy, I loved traveling… and discovering other cultures… the country of Jesus… and so I discovered a little of Israel after the Six Day War. I came back full of enthusiasm due to this experience, and I started to feel attached to Israel. Another sign of the time… the National Vocation Center organized a prayer group for persons in search of their vocation. I took part… up to the day where our group went for a pilgrimage to the Holy Land. As a guide, we had a sister from Notre Dame de Sion, from Eïn Karem. And there, new doors were opened for me, and all that changed a bit the course of my life. I knew: “Notre Dame de Sion” will become my house, one day. Sisters who have the Bible at the center of their lives, the life of the people of Israel, the knowledge of Hebrew, the Israeli songs… the land Israel, the conflict between Israel and Palestine… I started immediately to study Israeli Hebrew on my own, with much joy and enthusiasm. I feared nothing. I tried to meet other people with the same interests; I wanted to share my enthusiasm with others… So I got myself into contact with the Sisters of Sion in Brussels. And they opened their doors immediately for me, so that I could participate in their activities aiming to make Jewish life better known to Christians. They suggested readings for me… I was literally thirsting for a better knowledge of the Bible and of Jewish life; I realized more and more that I could drink here from the sources of my Christian faith that I was going to deepen! What a chance to open a place in my life for the relation between Jews and Christians! Again and again, I met the Sisters of Sion in Israel… I discovered the country from north to south and from east to west, sharing my experiences with other persons who were with me. It became my only desire to consecrate my life to the charisma of the congregation Notre Dame de Sion. Meeting Father Jacques Maigret and the sessions for Biblical Hebrew which he organized in a mixed environment (Jewish and Christian) have greatly enriched me; also the sessions of Jewish studies – and the Jewish TV programs on Sunday mornings. Hence, my life had two aspects: the special teaching at “La Clairière” and the gradual discovery of Jewish life, with studying Biblical and Modern Hebrew, studying Judaism… teaching Biblical Hebrew… I felt I had to immerse myself much more. I reduced my work time at the school in order to give myself more to all that was connected with Jewish life in its entirety… An unexpected family event and a new law by the National Ministry of Education enabled me to take time out: another sign from Heaven! I decided therefore to spend a sabbatical year in Israel, immersed into daily Israeli life during the week, and close to the community of ND de Sion, mainly at Eïn Karem, on Shabbat and Sunday… a volontariat and studies of Hebrew, Judaism,

Mishele

Sr. Mishele

Jewish traditions… at the Institut Ratisbonne, in the Old City of Jerusalem. And where did my religious vocation go amidst all that during my sabbatical year? It became greater, deeper, going through highs and lows, until January 20th, 1987… At the end of the homily of Father Marcel Dubois in the chapel of EÏn Karem, everything became clear for me: I make the following step… I ask to be received into “Sion”. Here I am at my goal at 44 years. What an adventure! Thanks to God! I write all this from Jerusalem, where I have been asked to initiate the six novices of the International Novitiate of ND de Sion at Eïn Karem, to Biblical and modern Hebrew, in English, in this spring of 2014. Again, thanks to God! Sr. Michèle D.