Our Community Renewal of Vows: A Reflection Bonded in Heart and Spirit

Sisters and Priest at a renewal of vows

By Sister Karen Pozniak, SNDdeN

This reflection originally appeared in the Summer 2024 issue of our magazine, Sowing Goodness.

Each year, on February 2, Sisters and Associates celebrate the anniversary of the beginnings of our congregation, the Sisters of Notre Dame de Namur (SNDdeN). Julie Billiart, Françoise Blin de Bourdon and Catherine Duchatel made their first vows on February 2, 1804, promising God to live their lives faithfully in poverty, chastity and obedience and a ministry of education for poor girls. As Julie learned, this work would need many women to help educate the young, and Françoise and Julie began educating women for this role.

Two years later, also on February 2, Julie received a vision of the Sisters who would follow in her footsteps to take the community worldwide.

February 2 is also a special day for me since I made my first vows in Belmont, California, on that day in 1963.

Through the years in the congregation, I have been pleased to renew my vows in various places: SNDdeN communities, parish and school communities. The renewal of vows in a parish setting has been significant as a witness, and this year, Sister Marie Annette Burkart, SNDdeN and I asked the pastor of our parish, Holy Spirit in Fremont, California, if we might renew them at the parish Mass celebrated with the school community. As is the city of Fremont, our parish is a multi-racial, multicultural community that gives the sense of the entire world that Julie’s vision called her to embrace. We brought our vow candles, and Father Ken Sales informed the community that we would renew our vows after the homily. When he invited us to come forward, he explained to the students that the renewal of our vows was a prayer and that they could join us by holding their hands in the prayer position. We each read our renewal separately so the words could be heard twice. After the Mass, we were told that two 8th-grade girls already knew they wanted to be Sisters. Several students and adults came to congratulate us, and we met a faculty member at the school who shared she had been in the Notre Dame Mission Volunteers – AmeriCorps program in San Francisco. She was delighted to know we were here in the parish.