History of the Family of Saint John

Famille saint-Jean

Once the community of brothers had emerged and started to take shape, some female students began to ask Fr M.-D. Philippe whether he could start a branch for women. After some initial hesitation, he gave his consent in 1982 for several young women to live together in Rimont, under the guidance of Alix Parmentier (+ 2016). These sisters then later moved to Saint-Jodard (in the diocese of Lyons) where a noviciate had recently been opened for the Brothers.

In September 1983, the emerging community of sisters decided it was to follow a life that was purely contemplative.

The beginnings of the branch of apostolic sisters

Some time later, some of the sisters expressed the desire to consecrate themselves to the Lord through an apostolic life. The branch of the Apostolic Sisters of Saint John was founded on the 8th September 1984 at Rimont, next to the brothers’ house of theological formation. In 1992, the Apostolic Sisters established their mother house in Semur-en-Brionnais, in the diocese of Autun.

Both communities of sisters experienced significant growth and began to found other priories in France and abroad.

On 25th January 1987, the Community of Contemplative Sisters was recognised by Cardinal Albert Decourtray, Archbishop of Lyons, as a Public Association of the Faithful, with a view to becoming a Religious Institute. On 25th March 1994, the community of sisters was established as an Institute of Diocesan Right.

The Apostolic Sisters were first recognised by Monsignor Armand le Bourgeois, Bishop of Autun, on 11th February 1987, then established as an Institute of Diocesan Right by Monsignor Raymond Séguy on 7th October 1993.

The First Oblates of Saint John

Meanwhile, there were both lay people and diocesan priests who were expressing a desire to live the spirituality of the Community whilst remaining in their current state of life. The first ‘Oblates of Saint John’ made their commitments in September 1981.

Schism in the Contemplative Sisters

In 2009, the ecclesial authority for the Contemplative Sisters, Cardinal Philippe Barbarin, decided upon a change of authorities in the Community following his observations of dysfunction in their government. The Community of Contemplative Sisters subsequently split into two groups: some sisters accepted these decisions but others refused to accept them. In 2014 the latter group left the Community of the Contemplative Sisters of Saint John and the Family of Saint John in order to found a new community in Spain, called Maria Stella Matutina.

Delve a little deeper

How are the different religious communities in the Family of Saint John linked?

Even though all three religious communities are united in one family – the Family of Saint John – each community has its own government, history and way of life. In particular they are distinct both juridically and financially.

The brothers and sisters work together on some of their missions: youth camps, parish work and family weeks, among others. Together they run some of the bigger events such as youth festivals and festivals for families. Although they pray their offices separately they have the same breviary. Three times a year the Conseil de Famillle brings together the three prior generals and those responsible for studies in each of the congregations.

The Contemplative Sisters today

The 80 sisters that currently make up the community of the Contemplative Sisters of Saint John have made the choice to cooperate with the Church authorities and to put in place the reforms asked of them during the crisis their community went through from 2009-2014.

Since this difficult time, the sisters have been putting in place the required reforms (cf. history of the Family of Saint John). To support this important and necessary process, they have for several years now called upon the help of people from outside the community, in particular religious from other congregations.

What is an oblate?

Oblates are laypeople who desire to live their baptismal vocation in the footsteps of Saint John and who feel called to live the same charism of the brothers and sisters in the world by committing to secular oblature.

Oblates make a commitment to pray, to listen to the Word of God and to engage in fraternal charity. They offer an apostolic witness in the context of their respective families, parishes, and social and political responsibilities.

Becoming an oblate?

Anyone married or single, young or old, who wants to live the spirituality of the Family of Saint John is able to become an oblate.

And so, despite living in the world, oblates live out their baptism and bear witness to it in the manner of St John. Before becoming an oblate, a candidate must undergo one to three years of preparation. This allows them to discern their aspirations and to deepen their understanding of the charism of the Family of Saint John. In order to achieve this, the candidate lives according to the rule of the oblates, participates in oblate meetings in their respective priory and follows at least two retreats preached by the brothers or sisters. Preparation for oblature is undertaken under the responsibility of the prior of the priory closest to where the candidate lives. At the end of the period of preparation, the decision belongs to the prior, following consultation with the members of the priory, as to whether the person can become an oblate. If you would like more information, please contact the priory closest to where you live. If you are interested in becoming an oblate, please contact the prior or prioress in the priory closest to where you live. You can then get more information and discern whether this path is for you.