HOLY LAND – They wear blue, brown or white… They work in offices, in schools, in institutions, in churches… They carry crosses around their neck, rings around their fingers, veils on their heads… They are the living stones of the Mother Church, the souls working discreetly to make the Church radiate. After meeting ten small female congregations in the Holy Land, lpj.org invites you today to visit the Oblates of the Assumption.
Sr. Joséphine, one of the three Oblates currently living and working in the Holy Land.
Founded in 1865, the Oblates of the Assumption are missionary sisters whose charism focuses on Christian unity. They arrived in the Holy Land in 1935 at the request of the Assumptionist Fathers, to take care of a pilgrim house in Jerusalem. They stayed until 1956, then came back in 2003, this time to Saint Peter in Gallicantu. Succeeding the Religious of the Assumption, they now help the Fathers to care for the Holy Place.
More than 150 years of missionary service
The congregation of the Oblates of the Assumption was founded in Le Vigan (France) by Fr. Emmanuel d’Alzon and Mr. Emmanuel-Marie de la Compassion. It came to life not only to assist the Assumptionist Fathers in their mission in Orient, but more specifically, to work in places that, due to cultural differences, only woman could reach.
In May 1865, the very first six members of the congregation settled in Nîmes (France). A female co-founder was chosen; Marie Correnson, who became a novice at the age of 25, and took the name of Sr. Emmanuel-Marie de la Compassion. Three years later, five Oblates were sent to Bulgaria; they were the first of many…
Today, the Oblates of the Assumption are active in more than twenty countries and in various fields of work and activities: education, catechism, pilgrimages, interreligious dialogue, pastoral work, medias, youth.... They also work in dispensaries, orphanages, churches, elderly houses, etc.
When Sr. Jeanne-Thérèse is absent, Sr. Joséphine replaces her at the gift shop of Saint Peter in Gallicantu.
The Assumption family
As mentioned above, the Oblates of the Assumption are tied to the Assumptionist Fathers, who were founded twenty years before them by Fr. Emmanuel d’Alzon. Because the XIXth century was marked by the Enlightenment, the industrial revolution, two world wars, as well as socialism, communism and other political movements, Fr. d’Alzon felt that God was no longer given the place He was due in the world, and decided to create two congregations to restore His reign.
The Assumption family is today composed of five different branches: the Religious Sisters of the Assumption (founded in 1839 by Mr. Marie-Eugénie de Jésus), the Assumptionists and the Oblates, the Little Sisters of the Assumption (founded in 1865 by Fr. Etienne Pernet) and the Orantes of the Assumption (founded in 1896 by the Assumptionist Fr. François Picard and Mr. Isabelle of Gethsemani). Out of these branches, two have split; the Religious Sisters, from whom came the Missionary Sisters of the Assumption (1849), and the Little Sisters of the Assumption, from whom came the Sisters of Charity of the Assumption (1993).
Although these congregations do not share the same name and founder, all follow the Rule of Saint Augustine, and all, through their charism, spirituality and apostolate, share many common characteristics. Over the years, they have often worked together – such as in the Holy Land, where the Religious Sisters of the Assumption, then the Oblates, came to assist the Assumptionists in Saint Peter in Gallicantu.
Looking after a Holy Place
Saint Peter in Gallicantu is located on Mount Zion, next to the Dormition Abbey. It is a Holy Place commemorating the trial of Jesus as well as Peter’s denial (“Gallicantu” meaning “cock’s crow”). Since 1887, it has been the property of the Assumptionists, who look after it and manage the whole site. Today, three Oblates are working with them to assist them in their task and mission: Sr. Jeanne-Thérèse, Sr. Joséphine and Sr. Linety.
The Oblates praying during the Vespers, which take place everyday – inside the chapel during winter, and outside during summer.
“I’ve been working here for more than ten years,” says Sr. Joséphine. Born in Congo-Kinshasa, she taught catechism to young children in a school of her congregation before being sent to Jerusalem. “My task is to look after the sacristy, including preparing the church and the altar before the Masses celebrated by the pilgrims who come here every day.”
Preparing the chasubles inside the sacristy
The Oblates of the Assumption undergo three years of formation (one year of postulate, two years of novitiate) before taking their final vows. As missionary sisters, they can be sent anywhere in the world to serve their congregation and the Church. “I’m proud of my apostolate, which allows me to meet pilgrims from all over the world and from different Christian denominations,” continues Sr. Joséphine. “This diversity, which is also a profound richness, makes me progress in the Christian faith.”
Praying during the Adoration, every Thursday
The superior of Sr. Joséphine, Sr. Jeanne-Thérèse, also comes from Congo-Kinshasa, and has been here for twelve years. Before, back in her home country, she also used to teach children. Now, she takes care of the gift shop facing the church, where one can find a wide variety of local souvenirs. As for Sr. Linety, who was born in Kenya, she worked as a teacher in Tanzania before coming to the Holy Land in 2017.
“Among ourselves, we speak Swahili, because it is one of the languages practiced both by Congolese and Kenyans,” explains Sr. Joséphine. “Otherwise, Sr. Jeanne-Thérèse and I speak French, and Sr. Linety speaks English.”
Sr. Jeanne-Thérèse in the garden of Saint Peter, which requires constant care and maintenance. All three sisters assist the gardeners in their task.
Next chapter: the Benedictines Sisters of Our Lady of Cavalry