Those who have disabilities are often excluded from spiritual opportunities in daily life.
They may be looked down on or judged for their disabilities.
However, one group of Catholic nuns is showing the world that Jesus welcomes everyone!
Located in the Diocese of Bourges in central France, the Little Sisters Disciples of the Lamb is a community that’s home to a unique group of nuns.
There are currently ten Sisters in the convent, and eight of them have Down Syndrome.
The Little Sisters Disciples of the Lamb “is the first and only religious institute with a rule of life adapted for people with Down syndrome.” Mother Line, the community’s leader, founded the Little Sisters in 1985 after she met a special young woman named Véronique.
Véronique had a deep desire to become a nun, but her Down Syndrome stopped many religious communities from accepting her. Mother Line “perceived a true vocation” in Véronique, but she also understood that these communities simply weren’t equipped to provide a fulfilling life for the young woman.
Mother Line and Véronique “set up with very few means” in a little village in France, hoping that their small community would attract others who felt called to this vocation.
They were right. Before long, the Little Sisters Disciples of the Lamb community started to grow, drawing other women with mental disabilities who felt a call to solitude and service.
In 1999, the convent “obtained the status of a contemplative religious institute.” This distinction puts the community on the same level as other convents and monasteries.
“Our lifestyle, which is a contemplative lifestyle, suits people with Down syndrome very well,” said Mother Line. The Sisters spend their time meditating on Scripture, praying, and performing daily tasks suited to their individual abilities.
The Sisters draw their spiritual inspiration from St. Therese of Lisieux, who was known for her faithful and gentle service as a young woman. St. Therese is also known for her ideas about inclusion in the family of God, exemplified by her sentiments in this quote:
“I understood that every flower created by Him is beautiful, that the brilliance of the rose and the whiteness of the lily do not lessen the perfume of the violet or the sweet simplicity of the daisy. I understood that if all the lowly flowers wished to be roses, nature would no longer be enameled with lovely hues. And so it is in the world of souls, Our Lord’s living garden.”
The Little Sisters Disciples of the Lamb community is meant to show the value in the variety of God’s kingdom and to protect those who are often marginalized because of their disabilities.
The Little Sisters community exists “to allow those who have the ‘last place’ in the world, to hold in the Church the exceptional place of spouses of Jesus Christ, and to allow those whose life is held in contempt to the extent of being in danger from a culture of death, to witness by their consecration to the Gospel of Life.”
The Sisters also follow in the footsteps of St. Benedict, who urged a balance of prayer and work in daily life.
The community has flourished and grown since its founding. Once based in a tiny house, it now sits on a beautiful piece of property in central France. The Sisters have a chapel for worship, as well as a garden and kitchen for their daily work, and a hermitage for visiting priests is under construction.
An integral part of the Little Sisters Disciples of the Lamb is the support offered by able Sisters. There are currently two Sisters (out of ten) in the community who do not have Down Syndrome.
“The fulfillment of this vocation is only possible because it is supported by able Sisters who have responded to the call of love for others, in dedicating their lives to God with their affected Sisters to form one unique community with them,” said the community.
These able Sisters have received a specific calling to a contemplative lifestyle in the Little Sisters Disciples of the Lamb community, and they joyfully work alongside their affected Sisters to serve God.
All of the Sisters pursue meaningful and productive activities such as pottery, beekeeping, and weaving. The fruits of their labors are displayed for their enjoyment and offered for sale. They also tend a vegetable garden and a medicinal herb garden.
The community is changing the perceptions of disabled believers around the world, encouraging other parts of the Church to include those with Down Syndrome and other disabilities.
The Little Sisters Disciples of the Lamb community welcomes visitors and donations in order to continue their mission. To learn more about the community, visit the official website.