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Julie Is Our Ancestor

Julie Is Our Ancestor

Unearthing the Roots of Transnationalism

(p.24) Two Julie Is Our Ancestor
Unequal Partners
Casey Ritchie Clevenger
University of Chicago Press

This chapter situates the transnational Sisters of Notre Dame de Namur within a longer history of women’s religious orders and missionary activities in the Catholic Church. The Sisters of Notre Dame was one of approximately four hundred Catholic women’s religious institutes established in France and dedicated to socially oriented work between 1800 and 1880. Founding the order in 1804 with the mission of educating the poor, Julie Billiart relocated the community from Amiens to Namur when a local bishop threatened her leadership. This chapter traces the colonial routes through which Belgian missionary sisters first traveled, bringing with them religious beliefs, practices, aspirations, and relationships from their homeland as well as ideas and expectations about their new destinations and the people they would encounter. The global expansion of the Sisters of Notre Dame to the US in 1840 and Congo in 1894 was made possible by historical connections between Europe, North America, and Africa. It also depended on the imperial partnerships between colonial governments and the Catholic Church. The ongoing struggles of Black sisters in the Catholic Church reveal how the mentalities, hierarchies, and common sense understandings of colonization may survive beyond the older imperial orders that created them.

Keywords:   colonization, empire, Catholic missionaries, religious migration, Democratic Republic of Congo, Belgium, Black sisters

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