Our beginnings go back to two Jewish brothers, Theodore and Alphonse Ratisbonne, who came to the Christian faith. Theodore’s discovery of it was the result of a long search for truth, in contact with committed Christians; that of Alphonse, on the other hand, was instantaneous: a vision of the Virgin Mary in the church of Saint Andrea delle Fratte in Rome. The two brothers interpreted this religious experience as “a sign” of God’s will that an apostolic work with the Jews be founded in the Church. The two Ratisbonne brothers were both accepted to the priesthood.
In accord with the theological thinking of their time, our founders felt that, out of love for their people, they were “sent to the lost sheep of the house of Israel” (Mt 10:6) and called to seek the conversion of the Jews in order to hasten the accomplishment of the promises made to Israel.
Today, the Church has given new orientations concerning our relations with the Jewish people in its declaration Nostra Aetate and in other documents that followed. Because of this, and in obedience to the directives of the Church, we no longer seek to convert the Jews, but rather a better understanding of the place and role of the people of Israel in salvation history as well as their relationship with the Church.
The Congregation of the Religious of Our Lady of Sion is an apostolic religious institute, the goal of which is: the glory of God through the communal pursuit of the sanctification of its members and of the neighbor by means of religious consecration and apostolic activity, both of which have as their aim the realization of God’s plans for Israel and the Nations; to follow Jesus Christ as the Word of God become man in the Jewish people for the salvation of the world; to witness in the Church and in the world to Jesus Christ’s particular love for his people Israel; to form within the Church a religious family that lives according to the spirit of the first Church of Jerusalem, having only one heart and one soul; to listen to the Word of God in Scripture and in the tradition of Israel and of the Church, in order to better understand and live the links which unite the Church of Christ and the People of Israel as they go towards the fulfilment of God’s plan; the constant meditation of the Scriptures, illumined by Jewish and Christian tradition; this is the fundamental element in the consecrated life of its members and inspires its apostolic activities.
Following Jesus Christ, “whom the Father has sanctified and sent into the world” (Jn 10:36), we, the Religious of Our Lady of Sion, feel called to live the Covenant concluded with Israel, realized in Christ, and lived in the Church.
Our consecration is one. Lived in the practice, in community, of our vows, which we make publicly, it recalls the mystery of God’s Unity and testifies before the world that the Nations and Israel are united in God’s plan of love for humanity. It makes us sensitive to God’s “signs” that come from the presence, the role and the destiny of the people of Israel in the history of salvation.
It also seeks to contribute to understanding and rapprochement between Jews and Christians. Our consecration, in its aspects of chastity, poverty and obedience, is illumined by God’s love for Israel.
Since we began, our apostolic activities have had their foundation: in the certainty that God continues to love his people because of the Fathers and that the gifts and promises given to Israel are irrevocable (Rom 9-11); in the desire to follow Christ in his love for his people; in the conviction that our congregation has a role to play in the relationship between Israel and the Church.
Because we are aware of the fact that we cannot assimilate the situation of the Jewish people to Christ’s universal message to the other peoples, we believe that our relationship with the Jews, while maintaining its specificity, is closer to that which we have with our separated Christian brothers and sisters.
Through study and dialogue, we try to get to know the living tradition of Israel. It gives light to our Christian life in depth and it stimulates our pursuit of justice and of peace.
Wherever it is possible, contact with the Jews enables us to get to know them and their tradition as they are and as they define themselves.
We seek integration in the pastoral programs of the dioceses where we are established, while maintaining in our apostolic activities the orientations that correspond with our charism.
In choosing our activities and ministries, we obey the “congregation’s project” and its specific priorities, we seek to contribute to a better understanding of the “heritage which Christians and Jews share” and to arouse “mutual knowledge and respect.”
We take part in the ecumenical movement and in Jewish-Christian dialogue. These activities presuppose the knowledge and respect of the others as they are and as they define themselves, and they exclude every kind of proselytism.
We strive not only to get to know Judaism as it defines itself, but also to make it known to Christians. Together with the Sisters of Our Lady of Sion, other persons and institutions, and in particular with competent Jewish teachers, we seek to support and to form Christian centers of Jewish studies wherever possible, as well as centers of Jewish-Christian information and documentation.
We recognize that the link with the Land of Israel is an integral part of Jewish identity. We understand that the spiritual values of Israel’s tradition cannot be separated from the concrete geographical and political conditions in which the Jewish people lives. The existence of the State of Israel cannot be without spiritual and religious significance. It calls forth our understanding, our sympathy, as well as our fervent desire and prayer that there be peace between Israel and its Arab neighbors. It invites us to examine the signs of the times.
At present, we are in Brazil, France and Israel.