The Priests of Notre Dame de Vie make up the priests’ branch of the institute of Notre Dame de Vie, founded in 1964.
Diocesan priests attracted by the idea of a strong spiritual life came to Notre Dame de Vie. These priests were affected by the witness of members of the women’s branch of that Institute, and sensed the call to live this vocation in the midst of their priestly ministry. For Fr Marie-Eugene, the time had come to organize a group which would share the same spirit and the same organization : to ensure the primacy of the spiritual in the lives of diocesan priests and in all the forms their apostolate takes.
Fr Marie-Eugene, 8 August 1962
In the context of the new evangelization, the priests of Notre Dame de Vie are sent into the world as Christ was sent by the Father. They live their consecration to God in the spirit of Carmel by vows of poverty, chastity and obedience. They are called to journey towards holiness and to lead those entrusted to them towards holiness, especially by silent prayer, by helping them to discover the love of the living God so that everyone exercises their baptismal priesthood in the world.
Living one’s priesthood as the Spirit breathes
By means of the two hours of daily silent prayer and the periodical returns to solitude, the priests of Notre Dame de Vie want to achieve a union of contemplation and action in the ordinary conditions of their priestly ministry.
Fr Marie-Eugene of the Child Jesus described this call in the following way :
20 February 1965
Diocesan priests and priests incardinated in the Institute
The priest’s branch of the institute of Notre Dame de Vie includes diocesan priests, priests incardinated for the service of the Institute and seminarians (intended either for a diocese or for the service of the Institute).
Members of Notre Dame de Vie who are diocesan priests receive their apostolic mission from their bishops. The fact that they belong to the priest’s branch of Notre Dame de Vie usually reinforces their commitment to the specific church in which they remain incardinated. They do not normally live in community. Their belonging to Notre Dame de Vie gives them a family in which they are replenished and can forge links with other members.
Priests incardinated in the institute of Notre Dame de Vie receive their apostolic mission from the person in charge of the priest’s branch of Notre Dame de Vie. They can be sent anywhere in the world to work, alone or in teams, in the service of the charism of Notre Dame de Vie.
They all share the same consecrated life with the lay members and form the same spiritual family. There are around 110 priests in Notre Dame de Vie, exercising their ministry in several dioceses in France and in other countries in Europe (Germany, Italy, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, Slovakia), Asia (the Philippines, Japan, China, Taiwan), Africa (Chad, Burkina Faso, Rwanda, Benin) and America (Mexico, French Guiana).
Spiritual and priestly formation
Initial spiritual formation happens in one of the houses of replenishment of the institute of Notre Dame de Vie. Its aim is to train members to practise silent prayer so as to live in the presence of God and thus give life to their priestly ministry. It roots the priest in the spiritual family of Notre Dame de Vie, in the footsteps of the Virgin Mary and in the light of the living message of the Carmelite saints.
The seminarians and young men who enter the institute of Notre Dame de Vie receive this spiritual formation in a house of formation for two years. With the permission of their bishop, diocesan priests spend at least a year in a house of formation and continue their formation where they live for a second year. After they have pronounced their temporary vows, at least six years are required before definitive vows are made.
Every year members stay in a house of the Institute for three weeks or a month to replenish themselves. Regional and national fraternal meetings happen regularly. The theological formation of the seminary can take place at the Studium of Notre Dame de Vie.
Coming to Notre Dame de Vie
The priest’s branch of the institute of Notre Dame de Vie has a house which as space permits will welcome any priest wanting a few days of rest and retreat.
There are similar houses at Sarkany (Latvia) and in Benin.
Every year there is a priest’s retreat which brings together priests, seminarians and young men to bring life back to their experience of prayer : getting in touch with Christ in order to pick up his ways, make them ours and bring them alive.