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 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.
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.
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.