France: A monastic order for sisters with Down syndrome
The Little Sisters Disciples of the Lamb live in the centre of France. They are the first contemplative community in the world to welcome into consecrated life people with Down Syndrome, or trisomy 21.
The community started with a friendship, back in the 1980’s. Line was on a spiritual search and felt a calling to work with children. Véronique was a young woman with Down syndrome who felt a vocation to the consecrated life.
Line is now Mother Line, Superior of the Little Sisters Disciples of the Lamb. She explains: “I visited several communities that welcomed people with disabilities, but I saw they could not find their place in these communities because they were not suitable for them. It was the encounter with Véronique, a girl with Down syndrome that gave us the idea for a new beginning. I told myself I had to help her realise her vocation.”
Véronique wanted to respond to her vocation to serve the Lord, but was refused by all the communities she approached. Canon Law and monastic rules do not provide for the admission of people with mental disabilities to religious life. It took Line and Véronique 14 years to get the statutes of this special community, with its own original style, recognised. With the support of three archbishops, who advanced their case in Rome and considered their community a source of life and joy in the area, they obtained a definitive recognition in 2011.
There are currently 10 Little Sisters Disciples of the Lamb: eight of them have Down syndrome. They celebrate Mass, work in weaving and pottery, and most recently created a garden of medicinal plants. They express their vocation in the ordinary things of life, in the humility of service, following the spirituality of the ‘little path’ revealed by Saint Teresa of Lisieux.
“34 Years have passed since I heard the call of Jesus,” says Sr Véronique. “I was born with a disability called Down syndrome, but I am happy. I love life. I pray and Jesus made me grow in His love”.
Mother Line says she has discovered great spiritual strength in her sisters with Down syndrome. “They know the Bible, the lives of the saints, and they have a fabulous memory,” she says. “They are souls of prayer, very close to Jesus.” Mother Line sees in their simplicity a prophetic sign for our time. “Their souls are not disabled! On the contrary, they are closer to the Lord, they communicate with Him more easily. I admire their ability to forgive and to encourage. They bring joy to society and love to the world.”
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