We are an international community founded in Algeria in 1939 by
She was born in 1898 in a small village on the French-German border, the
youngest of six children.
By 1925 she was the sole support of her mother, having lost the rest of her
immediate family to
war or illness.
Growing up along a border which was constantly in question and having herself
been displaced by
war, the pain of divisions left a deep imprint upon her spirituality. Magdeleine
wanted her life to
somehow reach across that which separates people from one another, to be a sign
of love to those
who were rejected by others. While she desired to be a religious, due to poor
health none of the
orders she knew of would accept her.
Magdeleine waited 20 years for some kind
of sign that she
should go to North Africa to follow in the footsteps of
Charles de Foucauld. Her dreams were considered foolishness.
The hoped for sign finally came in the form of a potentially
crippling bout of rheumatism when her doctor advised her to
go somewhere where it never rained…
She left immediately with her mother and one companion, Anne, who eventually
with her mother circa 1940
“God took me by the hand
and, blindly, I followed… in what seemed the most total darkness, and in
the most disconcerting absence of hu man means, but with unlimited trust in
Jesus, Master of the Impossible.” l sr
What began as a small group geared only to the nomads of the Sahara
and as a presence in the midst of Islam radically shifted in 1947 when she
realized that this same form of contemplative presence could be lived
anywhere. As more and more women began joining her after the war she
traveled around the world defying the conventional wisdom that her dream was
unrealistic. Her “little sisters” would go wherever there was a handful of
people or a group that was inaccessible in some way to other forms of Church
presence. She always sought those who were the farthest away or
isolated. Sending her sisters to these peoples and places meant that
they too would be isolated in many ways.
L Sr Magdeleine learning to ride their donkey in order to visit nomad
friends in the surrounding desert;
(Below) Stopping for tea with early members and their friend who guided
(Right) One of our first tent communities in Algeria (with
(Above) With Gypsies in Europe;
(Left) On the Amazon in Brazil traveling
to the village of the Tapirape people where we lived for over 50 years.
(Below) In rural India.
True to our nomadic roots she also founded communities among migrant
farm workers, gypsies, traveling circuses and carnival workers, as well as
clandestine communities behind the "Iron Curtain" in Eastern Europe.
In keeping with the inspiration of our foundation we maintain a large number
of communities among Muslim peoples in various countries around the
Little Sister Magdeleine died in 1989 at the age of 91 after celebrating the
50th anniversary of the foundation and receiving the final approval of the
Constitutions of the congregation that she never started out to found.
We are a multi-cultural community. It is very
important to us and to our identity as a community that sisters of different
nationalities, races and cultures live together as a visible sign of Unity
in the midst of a divided world. The mere fact of concretely living
this out speaks in ways that words cannot and gives witness to the Reign of
We now number about 1100 women from 67
nationalities living in about 60 countries around the world.
Charles de Foucauld
They traveled every year through Eastern Europe in a camper, founding
communities and visiting hard-pressed Christian groups.