The author of this article, Claire Dumont DW, had the privilege to go back to the sources that inspired the writing of her book: “As a Consuming Fire, Wisdom”. That source is the Land where a small group of Daughters of Wisdom have lived and are still living valiantly as they struggle to grow old gracefully with Wisdom. In spite of the many years since its foundation, these women have long been a minority in the Congregation mostly because of their language. But that does not mean that they were inactive. Far from it! The influence they exercised in their society and in the Congregation of the Daughters of Wisdom is remarkable. In a sense, their mother tongue has relatively isolated them, yet their voice was heard. Like these women from Holland, their voice was patient, convinced and forceful. This is what the author would like to emphasize and recall to our memory.
Holland has become very dear to the hearts of the Daughters of Wisdom because, from that part of the world, came the keen and burning renewal of the Wisdom Spirituality. That was in 1992.
Lets us enter, in our own way, into the history of the Daughters of Wisdom of this beautiful and peaceful country. Maybe then will we be made to understand why we are indebted to the Daughters of Wisdom of Holland for initiating the Transformation Process as described by Louis-Marie Grignion de Monfort in his book: The Love of Eternal Wisdom?
In the history books, we see that the Dutch people are known for their passion, their vigour, their dynamism, their love of research, their desire to discover the world and the fervour of their faith. This people, be it small in number, do not hesitate to take its place in the midst of the European Continent and of the world. It is in the very nature of the Dutch people to struggle, to prosper and to construct. No doubt, this is the result of the long and incessant struggle with the sea constantly invading their land. This is Lowland country.
In 1881, a small tree takes root in Schimmert, in the southern part of Holland, with the arrival of the Montfort Fathers. There, the Congregation of the Daughters of Wisdom takes a leap. Women are touched by Wisdom and follow Marie-Louise de Jesus and Louis-Marie de Montfort to serve the poor, to teach the children, and to love wherever they are.
Little tree becomes big. Immersed in the culture, the tenacity, the courage, the strength of its people, women consecrated to Wisdom, will dedicate their lives in Holland and in the world: Denmark, Germany, Congo, Malawi…etc. During the peak years of growth, the Congregation in Holland totaled two hundred and forty eight members (248). That was before the decline.
Wisdom who oversees all things, gave the Daughters of Wisdom of Holland, a woman of vision in the person of Sr. Ancilla-Maria Fijen. She assumed the role of Provincial for many years. In 1982, she foresaw the time when the Daughters of Wisdom would be few in number. As they were aging, they would have to give meaning to their lives. For Sr. Ancilla-Maria, it was vitally important to keep the unity of the Congregation centered on the Spirituality inherited from the founder. But, was the knowledge of that Spirituality well grounded? In order to achieve this, Sr. Ancilla contacted the Carmelites of Nijmegen and went to the Titus Brandsma Institute.
A desire was born: to start a study of the works of St. Louis-Marie Grignion de Monfort. Such was the proposal that Sr. Ancilla-Maria presented to the General Chapter of the Daughters of Wisdom. A time of reflection had begun.
In 1987, the Chapter accepted that a formal study of The Love of Eternal Wisdom be undertaken. Sr. Ancilla and the new Provincial, Sr. Paula-Maria Hermans, followed that study with interest and kept constantly in touch with the Commission for Charism and Spirituality.
A monk’s work was accomplished by the experts in spirituality!
In 1992, the Study was presented by Father Hein Blommestijn and Pierre Humblet to the Montfort Family representing the world. Following this presentation, the members of the Congregation received: “The Transformation process in the Love of Eternal Wisdom by Grignion de Montfort: “A Lover’s Letter to her Beloved”, by Pierre Humblet.
In 1996, in St-Laurent, the Carmelites and Sr. Ancilla prepared another session for the Congregation. Its objective was: to invite to enter into the progressive integration of the process of transformation through experiences. These are apt to facilitate the passage of knowledge to the level of the heart. Hence, the manuscript: “A Pilgrimage from Head to Heart.”
The Daughters of Wisdom of Holland are aware of the spiritual heritage handed on by Sr. Ancilla. The life and death of that woman was a gift for them and for the entire Congregation. One does not live only for oneself, and one does not die for oneself. The life of Sr. Ancilla was “A Lover’s Letter to her Beloved”.
At this point in time, the Daughters of Wisdom are still in Holland. From strong and energetic, they have become poor, fragile and vulnerable. Mysteriously, they have gone from having to being. In that inevitable passage, they are trying to live enamoured of Wisdom and of others. They financially uphold projects that are dear to them. They are concerned about the preservation of the beauty of our planet and of the environment.
The present Regional Superior, Sr. Paula-Maria Hermans, together with Sr. Maire-Pacelli Senden and Sr. Maria Ottink are watching over the sisters in Holland. Forty of them live in Wijchen, a suburb of Nijmegen, in a Residence called Rivo Torto or in La Verna Residence (for non autonomous persons). To the south, ten Daughters of Wisdom, live in Valkengurg, in Vroenhof Residence.
Everyday life is not easier in Holland than elsewhere. Growing old can be very trying, be it in Holland or in North America. Faith tells us that life does not die. We are called to capture the movement of love that will propel us forward.
The Fathers and the Sisters’ Residences in Holland are filled with life. One can observe there the desire to live IN Wisdom. Daily, the very gift of life, the incessant letting go, the surrender, the sincere desire to love are all sources of joy, confidence, comfort and support. Love never passes.
Fear has lost its strength. Insecurity has loosened its hold. God Alone is the path and the end of the path. Much hope and faith are needed in order to greet the end of our apostolic feats. Only Wisdom can transform this into an insatiable hunger for love of the Congregation, of the world and of the Church.
Our beautiful “old” provinces of Europe and North America have something to tell us. It is up to us to open up our hearts and to dare to look at life, which, like a seed is put into the earth for the unforeseeable tomorrows of the God of our history. When Wisdom sets up her tent somewhere, she intends to stay. Who are we to doubt this?
Claire Dumont, DW.
Revised and approved by Paula Maria Hermans, DW.