And so began Julie's love of education.
A Community Is Formed
A group of young women began to meet regularly with Julie and to receive her guidance on living a spiritual life. Francoise rented a home for them, and the group began to live together in a small community, working and praying together.
This new community established a private chapel in the house, and Father Varin helped draft formal guidelines for living life in a religious community.
In February 1804, Julie, or Mother Julie as the group now called her, Francoise and Catherine Duchatel vowed themselves to God, and promised to devote themselves to the education of young girls, especially the poor. They became the first three members of the Sisters of Notre Dame. Julie was 52 years old when she took on the duties of foundress and superior.
A single step unaided
Another local priest, Father Enfantin, became Mother Julie's good friend and spiritual director. The priest began to pray to God for a restoration of Mother Julie's health and dedicated a special novena to that intention. On the fifth day of the novena, Father Enfantin visited Julie and asked her to stand and take a step.
It had been 22 years since Mother Julie had walked unaided, but she stood and took one steady step. And then another.
When they saw their mother superior walking, the Sisters were overwhelmed with joy, and the demands for her assistance and instructions greatly increased.
The community grows
Young women continued to join Mother Julie's tiny congregation. She and Francoise, now called Sister St. Joseph, devoted themselves to the work of training the young Sisters as teachers. Mother Julie was never happier than the morning in 1806 when two young Sisters went out into the street to ring a small bell to announce that the Sisters of Notre Dame were opening a free school for girls.
One evening, when the Sisters were gathered for instruction, Mother Julie stood before a crucifix on the wall and prayed silently for several moments. Later she confided to Francoise that during prayer, God had made it known to her that Sisters of Notre Dame would share their faith with people around the world.
In 1806, the Bishop of Ghent in Belgium sent word to Mother Julie that he would like her Sisters to come to his diocese. Julie agreed, and when she arrived in the city of Ghent, several young women were awaiting her, ready to be accepted as postulants.