Last month, Ministry & Service Director Kelli Kinnear went on the trip of a lifetime. For ten days, she walked in the footsteps of the Sisters of Notre Dame de Namur foundress, St. Julie Billiart.
“When I was invited by the sisters to go on this pilgrimage, I was both honored and humbled that they would ask me,” said Kinnear. “In walking in the footsteps of St. Julie Billiart, my hope was to learn more about her, to learn from and grow in wisdom from the sisters and to have a deeper appreciation of their charism, mission and history.”
Places Kinnear and the sisters visited included Julie’s birthplace in France, Gournay-sur-Aronde where Julie hid during the French Revolution and St. Valery where Julie assisted the Fathers of the Faith in a mission.
“We visited several cathedrals throughout Belgium and France,” Kinnear shared. “Their beauty and immensity are hard to even put into words. Sr. Marie Kelly, who led our pilgrimage, arranged for us to celebrate Mass in a couple of these. Celebrating Mass and praying together in such amazing and holy spaces, and places that have such rich history that are literally hundreds of years old, is something I will treasure for the rest of my life.
“I am in my 27th year at CJ now, and places like Cuvilly (in France) and Namur (in Belgium) are just really part of the vocabulary here at CJ,” Kinnear continued. “But now I can say I have been to those places. I was actually inside the house where St. Julie was born in Cuvilly. I stayed in the convent and Mother House in Namur. I walked the staircase at an SNDdeN school in Ghent, Belgium where St. Julie would have walked. To me, these places are holy places and I was often in awe that I was even able to be there.”
Kinnear said she felt a deeper understanding of who St. Julie was by participating in the pilgrimage.
“St. Julie became much more than just some holy person who lived a long time ago,” Kinnear said. “She had an incredibly difficult life and lived through some very tumultuous times, yet she stayed true to her faith in Christ, even when she could have been killed for her beliefs. On top of that, she was very ill for many years. There were also circumstances in her life when she had to stand up for herself and her community of sisters — even to a bishop, which in those days would have been incredibly difficult to do. But she had a calling and put her faith in what Jesus wanted her to do before all else.
“St. Julie was a strong, faith-filled woman who began an order of sisters who were and are committed to serving the poor, and educating young women throughout the world (among many other ministries),” Kinnear continued. “As the number of sisters entering the order declines every year, the question of how St. Julie's legacy will be kept alive is concerning. For the nine of us "pilgrims" (all of us lay people, except for one sister) this was a topic we discussed a lot. What we all agreed on was that it also has to be up to us lay men and women to keep St. Julie’s spirit and legacy alive.”
Kinnear concluded, “I am beyond grateful for the opportunity I had and I look forward to continuing to spread the mission and spirit of St. Julie and the Sisters of Notre Dame de Namur, for as St. Julie said time and time again, ‘How good is the good God!’"
Posted August 22, 2019