Many people on hearing the name Sisters of St. Mary of Namur immediately ask "Where is Namur?" In these days when knowing our roots is so important, this international congregation looks back 200 years to its founder, Dom Nicholas Minsart, a pastor in a very poor part of the city of Namur, Belgium, was a Cistercian monk by vocation, but due to the forces of history, he was the last of his monastery and traveled to the city of Namur to serve as a parish priest.
One of his primary concerns was the poor women and girls of his parish who were forced by the poverty of the times into prostitution. With Father Minsart as their spiritual guide, two young women came together on Nov. 11, 1819, to live a religious life and to serve others. Initially the two women taught sewing classes. Eventually sessions in religion and literacy were added to their efforts. It was a modest beginning with a table and chair. Their first meal of baked potatoes and apples is part of each year's celebration of this Founders' Day by the Sisters of St. Mary.
The number of sisters grew slowly. By 1834, 16 of their associates received a religious habit and eight took vows. One of this group, Sister Claire of Jesus, would eventually guide the congregation for 36 years and be considered the co-founder. From 1834 on, these women religious were known as the Sisters of St. Mary.
An international congregation of about 400 women religious in 11 countries on four continents, the sisters continue to see their mission as one of living their faith in Jesus Christ with simplicity and joy. Nourished by their life of prayer, in welcome to all, the sisters collaborate with others to serve the needs of our times in diverse ways. Priority is given to ministry with poor people with a particular concern for women and young children. This concern has also led to ministry with refugees in the various provinces.
The various celebrations planned for the sisters in the Buffalo region began with a Mass at St. Mary Center at 241 Lafayette Ave., on Nov. 11, 2018. That December, the sisters and friends gathered for an afternoon of Scripture and silent prayer for each of the regions/provinces of the congregation. Beginning on March 7, and continuing until April 11, weekly presentations open to the public entitled "The 200th Anniversary Lenten Prayer Series" will be held at the St. Mary Center in Buffalo.
March 7: Praying with the Prayer of Taize (prayerful music, scripture, quiet time) with Sister Patricia Brady, SSMN
March 14: Praying with Celtic Prayer with Madalene Stafford
March 21: Praying with the Psalms with Sister Marian Baumler, SSMN
March 28: Praying with Our Life Experiences with Sister Lori High, SSMN
April 4: Praying with Nature led by Sister Elizabeth Buchala, SSMN
April 11: Praying with Art led by Sister Nancy Charlesworth, SSMN
For more information on this series, please contact Sr. Patricia Brady at 716-885-6252 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Interested people, friends and former students of the sisters are invited to contact Sister Mary Laura Lesniak at 716-880-6252 or email@example.com for more information about the Sisters of St. Mary of Namur 200th Anniversary Year of Celebration events.