Here are some important dates, some of the key facts are also contained in Frequently asked questions.
The Contemplative Sisters of St John were founded in 1982 by Fr Marie-Dominique Philippe. Sister Alix Parmentier is their co-foundress (art.173 §4 of the Constitutions approved by Cardinal Barbarin the 2nd June 2004), and she was General Superior until 2009. The Institute attained the status of diocesan right the 25th march 1994 in Lyon (France). In June 2009, the Institute was present in 28 dioceses of the world (380 members, among which were 130 finally professed Sisters).
26th August 2006: Return to God of the Founder.
Disputes begin to appear within the Family of St John about the charism and the place of the Contemplative Sisters, a branch in full expansion. The Superior General of the Brothers wishes to constitute the Family of St John as a unique judicial entity (formerly the three branches were autonomous) of which he will be the moderator. The Contemplative Sisters oppose this project as Fr Philippe, the Founder always recommended an autonomous government for each branch. Cardinal Barbarin (the Ordinary of the Congregation is favourable to this, as are a small minority of the Sisters (less than 20) who would like to return to a more “traditional” charism.
6th June 2009 : Cardinal Barbarin dismisses the government elected according to correct procedure and representative, conformed to the civil law, and names by a decree without motive the 19th June 2009, a Sister who is part of the said minority, as Superior General. This nomination is frozen for 6 years, and the right to vote is withdrawn from the Finally Professed Sisters who can no longer elect their Superior General and her Council before 2015. Without respect for Canon law, without consulting the other Bishops, without dialogue with the Sisters, he asks that everything is accepted “in faith”.
Sister Alix accepts immediately to leave her office as Superior General, as she had already proposed to do to Cardinal Barbarin 2 years previously, but she refuses in conscience to publically say that the choice of the new Superior General is the right one: this will be considered as an act of disobedience.
20th August 2009: To the novices who are particularly afflicted by these decisions, Sister Alix proposes that they return to the place of their summer desert.
24th September 2009: Following a fault in the format of the decree, a new decree with motifs from Cardinal Barbarin replaces the one from June.
8th October 2009 : The Sisters of whom 90% are faithful to Sister Alix make recourse to Rome, challenging one by one all the motives.
10th Novembre 2009 : In response, Cardinal Rodé (prefect for the Religious), Cardinal Barbarin and Cardinal Bertone decide to dismiss the Sister who had been named Superior General, and name Bishop Bonfils as Pontifical Commissionaire in order to govern the Congregation.
End of November : The foundress and three members of the former government are sent without motive into exile (Barroux then the Visitation Convent of Voiron, Abbey of Maylïs and Bedgemal in Israel).
End of 2009 : Bishop Bonfils governs the Institute by surrounding himself with a council made up by people exterior to the Congregation, including the 2 Benedictine Mother Abbesses emeritus, who had already been imposed in 2008 as “Assistants to the Government” by Cardinal Barbarin. He includes Sisters who all belong to the minority mentioned above.
27th December 2009: Bishop Raùl Vera Lopez of Saltillo accepts to take under his protection 4 sisters and those who so desire it. (see the letter of support of Bishop Raùl).
January 2010: At their request several Sisters are authorized to leave the Institute and place themselves under the protection of Bishop Raùl Vera Lopez of Saltillo. They are rapidly followed by about 100 Sisters.
28th February 2010 : Cardinal Rodé faced with the threat of the explosion of the Institute, liberates the 4 Sisters and promises an Assembly of the Finally Professed Sisters, while asking in exchange that all the Sisters come back to the Congregation, which they do.(See the 2nd letter from Bishop Raul).
November 2010: Assembly in Lourdes a time of fruitful work on the charism. Bishop Bonfils proposes a government composed of members which for the first time represent the 2 tendencies of the Sisters. Cardinal Bertone does not take into account the conclusions of the Assembly and names another Pontifical Commissionaire, Bishop Brincard.
March 2011 : Bishop Brincard takes back the Sister named as General Superior by Cardinal Barbarin as his Assistant, without taking into consideration the opinion of his predecessor and the votes of the Assembly.
February 2012 : The Sisters make recourse before the Congregation for Religious, opposing the decisions of Bishop Brincard which do not respect the Constitutions. Many Sisters feel personally hurt by his attitude towards them.
In response, Bishop Brincard is named Pontifical Delegate with increased powers, notably the power to modify the Constitutions. Numerous sisters leave the Congregation; including the ring leaders of the minority group opposing the Foundress, illustrating negatively this painful period.
June 2012 : About 30 Sisters came to the end of their simple vows, these Sisters had not been allowed for 3 years to make final profession. They founded an Association, “The Sisters of St John and St Dominic” in Spain. This Association was created with the support of a certain number of Bishops and under the direction of Bishop Demetrio, in accordance with Canon law, and with the permission of Rome (see the letter from Don Demetrio and Sr Gabriel to the families). Soon after, they are already 150 Sisters received in a dozen dioceses around the world.
July 2012: The new Prefect for Religious, Bishop Braz de Avis, thanks Bishop Demetrio for having welcomed this Institute, which is ready to accept the finally professed Sisters of St John who desire to join it.
October 2012: The Secretary of State intervenes and asks Bishop Demetrio to dissolve the new Institute, by concern for unity in the family of St John. Bishop Demetrio makes recourse to the Holy Father.
10th January 2013: The Institute of Saint John and Saint Dominic is dissolved by a rescript signed by Cardinal Bertone (see the rescript). 150 sisters are reduced to the lay state.
End of January 2013: 80 Sisters of St John, essentially finally professed Sisters ask to leave the Community of St John.
2nd February 2013: Creation of the Association Hope and Dialogue by the parents and friends of the Sisters considering that this situation disfigures the Church, they wish to materially support the Sisters who no longer have a statute.
13th March 2013: Election of Pope Francis.