History of the Dominican Sisters of Bethany

The story of the Dominican Sisters of Bethany begins in 1864, when the French Dominican Father Jean Joseph Lataste is supposed to hold retreats in the women's penitentiary of Cadillac (near Bordeaux). He does not expect much from it. What should he tell convicted murderers, thieves and blasphemers about God?

Finally, he tells them the story of Mary Magdalene, as he knows it: a town sinner meets Jesus and becomes a saint because she experiences that God loves her - unconditionally.

Couldn't this also be the story of the imprisoned women?

The women, who threatened to despair under the weight of their guilt, the hatred towards those who had driven them to it and the harsh conditions of their imprisonment, are affected.

Indeed: this is their story, this can become their story, if they accept this love of God and make it the center of their lives. Then the prison, with all its hardships, can become a place of encounter with God, a monastery.

Father Jean Joseph Lataste

But what happens after they are released?

Where would a convict have a chance for a decent life? Who would give her work or housing. Who might fellowship with her? Many women would rather kill themselves before being released than make a hopeless attempt to gain a foothold in a society that wants nothing to do with them.

Even Father Lataste does not know what to do. One night, when all 400 women are praying with him in the chapel, a vision comes to him: What did Magdalena actually do after she met Jesus and now could no longer live from prostitution either? Well, she had a sister in Bethany: That's where she could always go back to ...

Are there such sisters also for the women released from punishment?

In 1866, together with the courageous nun Mother Henri-Dominique Berthier, he founded the first convent of the Dominican Sisters of Bethany: a community of religious sisters in which no one could tell from the outside who had once been a "known sinner" and who was a "blameless virgin. In this community, this distinction does not matter either.

During the First World War, the German sisters of this French community had to flee to Venlo/Netherlands. Since no contact with the motherhouse was possible due to the war, a separate congregation was formed there, which today - unlike the French one - is active in many social fields.

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