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Cuvilly Arts & Earth Center

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Our Story

The Cuvilly Arts and Earth Center is a ministry of the Sisters of Notre Dame de Namur and as such uses the Hallmarks of the Sisters of Notre Dame as the foundation for all programs. Specifically, Cuvilly is dedicated to modeling ecological sustainability through programs in education, agriculture and the arts. Cuvilly strives to create a space that respects all of creation in an ecological balance. All decisions are made with this guiding principle:
All life is sacred and the diversity of life is essential for the well-being of the planet.

Cuvilly (coo-vi-lee) draws its name from the rural village in France where the foundress of the Sisters of Notre Dame de Namur, Marie Rose Julie Billiart was born in 1751. Responding to the needs of the time, Julie established schools where girls living in poverty received free education. Her goal was to
teach them what they need to know for life.

Today an understanding of ecological issues is critical for the survival of our planet. Children especially need to experience themselves as being an integral part of the natural world.

Cuvilly promotes values of nonviolence, interdependence,
cooperation and hospitality.

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St. Julie Billiart was born in Cuvilly, France, in 1751. Her parents were wealthy farmers who fell into a serious financial state when she was a teenager. Even as a youngster, she was interested in religious life—she memorized the catechism by the age of seven and passed her knowledge to other children. After her family lost their money, St. Julie worked, but in her spare time, she taught the faith to youth.

When she was in her early twenties, after witnessing an attempt to kill her father, she became paralyzed, and at one point even lost her ability to speak. For the next few decades, she was confined to bed, but she still taught the village children who visited her.

During the French Revolution, St. Julie’s home was a place of refuge for priests. After being threatened, she was forced to leave and eventually moved to Amiens, where she later met Françoise Blin de Bourdon, who had been imprisoned for her faith during the war. Françoise was also interested in the education of underprivileged children, and in 1803, the women began the Sisters of Notre Dame, which was dedicated to teaching the faith to poor girls and instructing catechists.

In 1804, St. Julie’s confessor, Fr. Joseph Varin, asked her to join him in praying a novena to the Sacred Heart. He did not tell her his intention for the novena, but she readily agreed. On the feast day of the Sacred Heart, Fr. Varin told her, “If you have any faith, take one step in honor of the Sacred Heart of Jesus.” She arose and took her first steps in decades. Her paralysis was miraculously cured.

In 1805, St. Julie, along with her three companions, made her final vows and was elected Mother General of the new Congregation. During the next twelve years, Mother Julie founded fifteen convents throughout France and Belgium. In January of 1816, she became ill. Three months later, after much pain, she died in the motherhouse, which was located in Namur, Belgium. She was beatified on May 13, 1906, by Pope Pius X and canonized in 1969 by Pope Paul VI.

St. Julie is the patron saint against poverty, bodily ills, and disease.