Dear Bishop Brincard,
My name is Jane Snyder. I live in Virginia in the United States, and I am 22 years old.
First and foremost, I want to thank you for all your prayers and tireless hard work. The love you have for Christ that manifests itself in your work is so invaluable and is an inspiration to the members of the global Catholic Church. I know you care deeply for the Church and will do everything you can to aid the Church and live out your vocation to the fullest degree. The purpose of my email is to share an experience I have had. I have been blessed to come to know some of the strongest, most beautiful women. I am so fortunate to have met them, and I beg you to help them, as they are experiencing a serious crisis.
My friends were originally called the Contemplative Sisters of St. John, and were founded by Fr. Marie-Dominique Philippe and led by Sr. Alix. Within the last year, they have broken off from the Community of St. John in order to form their own order, called the Sisters of St. John and St. Dominic. Their reasons for forming their own order are their own, but what I can say is I know they did so not with the intent to anger their governing bishops or fellow brothers and sisters, but to protect their charism of prayer and study that was being threatened.
In forming their own order, they sought to live the life they had originally chosen when they entered as novices and took their vows as sisters. First and foremost and above all, they have fought to live their life in a way that fosters their relationship with Christ. They have done what they have done out of love for Christ and not out of obstinacy or an intent to glorify themselves.
But I do not write to you give an outline of their troubles and a chronology of their experiences from their point of view, but to present to you an experience of mine. I have written to present my own point of view.
The late Holy Father Benedict XVI and his soon-to-be-elected successor have emphasized that the Vatican intends to reach out to young people, who, indeed, hold the future of the Catholic Church in their hands. I have read articles on the measures the Vatican is taking to reach out to young people. For me, more than any World Youth Day, rally, or retreat, I have been affected most profoundly by the kindness, holiness, and wisdom of these sisters. They introduced the reality to me that Christ is not an abstract idea or a representative of a code of morals, but is Person who knows me more than I can ever hope to know myself and who loves me more than any living person, and loves me more than I could ever love myself. I learned that my response to God’s gifts of life and love to me are to respond in kind, with love. Christ is not abstract and distant, but is Someone who I can have a relationship with.
Before meeting Sisters of St. John and St. Dominic, I experienced the profound difficulties of early adulthood and post-graduate life. I was struggling with my faith and confused as to what it means to be a strong woman. I had no notion of how to build virtuous and healthy relationships. My constant question was ‘what does it mean to love and be loved?’
Upon meeting the sisters in Princeville, Illinois, I was shy and suspicious, but all my fears were dispelled when they welcomed me unquestioningly. I was invited to stay: to study philosophy and theology… I wanted to learn to pray. I stayed for four months, from the beginning of February 2012 to the beginning of June 2012.In this world, what is even more difficult than adjusting to a hectic world of deadlines, obligations and responsibilities is taking a step back; standing still in order to ask fundamental questions like ‘who am I?’ ‘What does it mean to exist?’ ‘What does it mean to love and respect another person?’ ‘What does it mean to believe in a God, and to come to know Him?’
Before meeting my friends, I had been too afraid or too busy to ask these questions. Because of this, I was weak and confused.
Their influence in my life during those 4 months taught me what it means to be happy and at peace. I have learned that my purpose in life is to pursue these two things, but that I can’t hope to attain fully them until my life is over. But in life, what is most important is to seek the Truth and conform myself to the Good. My friends taught me what it means to be a strong, dignified woman. The time I spent with the Sisters was invaluable. I didn’t want to ever lose what I had begun to find.
I decided that rather than launch myself back into the working world, I would travel to Pondicherry, India. I did so at the end of June 2012. I stayed with my sister friends while working with young children who suffered from AIDS. I was there until the end of September. I was so struck by the openness with which I was received. From study groups, swims in the sea to silent prayer, my sister friends were always there for me. Encouraging me and caring for me, they are the greatest of friends.
At the end of September I traveled to France, where my sisters’ order was founded. I was able to see the great nation of Europe through the eyes of my sister-friends. And what a splendid glimpse! But a sad one. Europe needs those with faith so desperately. I was there when a priest thanked the Sisters in tears for their presence in his town in the Netherlands, saying no place in Europe needed them more.
Since I have returned home to the east coast of the United States in December 2012, it has become more and more apparent to me that the Sisters of St. John and St. Dominic are fighting for their very existence. Many authorities are taking it upon themselves to dictate how my sisters should run their order, and because of this, they have recently been laicized, and on top of that, have been given no clear explanation why. The sister superior who was in Princeville during my stay has been targeted specifically; she may be cast out of her community in a dishonorable manner so she will not be able to remain a religious sister at all. She is being punished for her ‘disobedience.’ Some believe her to be a troublemaker, an instigator of dissent within the religious community … but that is not my experience at all. She has been a role model to me. She has always been so kind and unassuming, wise and holy. The fact that she has been targeted is so unjust! I wish there were more I could do to help her.
Good Father, I beg you to help my friends. The people who have judged them do so based on reports they have heard and not based on what they have seen with their own eyes. It is so difficult for me to see that the Church is employing measures to reach out to young people and spread the New Evangelization, while at the same time, its officials silence it’s holiest and most Christ-like members.
The fact of the matter is, countless fellow brothers and sisters of the Community of St. John, bishops, priests, oblates and lay people, like myself, support the cause of the Sisters of St. John and St. Dominic. The question is whether the officials who are silencing them will listen to the voices of those who are trying to defend them. These men have not seen what these Sisters truly are! They have not taken the time to see them with their own eyes or experience what a profound impact they have on so many lives. I beg you to help them. Though they are suffering, they remain together and have not lost hope. But if they are persecuted further, the fact of the matter is, members of the hierarchy will only be wounding the Church further, the very Church, they have sworn so ardently to defend. Please help my friends, the Sisters of St. John and St. Dominic.
Anything you can do for them would be so much appreciated. Any recommendations you can give me about things I could do to help them more, would be most appreciated as well.
I look forward to hearing from you soon and hope all your work is going well. Please know that you are in my prayers.
Jane Madeleine Snyde
témoignage de Jane en français