Our History

The Congregation was founded “to witness in the Church and in the world that God continues to be faithful in love for the Jewish people and to hasten the fulfilment of the promises concerning the Jews and the Gentiles”
(Const 2 )
Theodore Ratisbonne was born in Strasbourg in 1802 into a prosperous Jewish family which was well assimilated into French society. He grew up in an atmosphere of learning and affection, where religion did not, however, play a significant part.

“Religion was very repugnant to me, my own and all other religions.”

One day, this prayer arose out of his confusion:

‘O God, if you really exist, let me know the truth, and I swear to consecrate my life to it.”

The teaching of a young philosophy professor, Louis Bautain, who drew on the Scriptures in his studies, gradually set Theodore on the path of discovery of the God of the Old and New Testaments. H was baptised at the age of 24 on Holy Saturday, 14 April 1827 by Louise Humann.

Throughout his life as a Christian, and later as a priest, the Word of God inspired him and called him to apostolic life, a call that was to be fulfilled  only 15 years later.  On 20 January 1842, his younger brother Alphonse also decided to become a Christian after Mary appeared to him in a vision in Rome. In the light of the Word of God, Theodore was able to interpret this sign and encouraged by his brother, founded the congregation of Our Lady of Sion in 1843. 

The Name "Our Lady"

The Congregation came into being through Our Lady’s intervention. She appeared to Alphonse Ratisbonne on the 20th January 1842 in the church of Sant’ Andrea della Fratte in Rome.

“Sion is the true family name of Mary” Theodore Ratisbonne.

The name Our Lady of Sion chosen by our founder indicates the significance of Mary for us. Daughter of Sion par excellence, Mary lived the faith and hope of her people to the full. Willingly receiving the Word of God, she became the mother of Jesus and followed him to the cross. She was present in the early Church. Having entered into the fullness of redemption, she confirms the destiny to which we are all called.

History Archive

History

History of the Founder of the Congregation
History of the Founder of the CongregationTheodore Ratisbonne was born in Strasbourg in 1802 into a prosperous Jewish family which was well assimilated into French society. He grew up in an atmosphere of learning and affection, where religion did not, however, play a significant part. 

“Religion was very repugnant to me, my own and all other religions.” 
One day, this prayer arose out of his confusion: 
‘O God, if you really exist, let me know the truth, and I swear to consecrate my life to it.”

The teaching of a young philosophy professor, Louis Bautain, who drew on the Scriptures in his studies, gradually set Theodore on the path of discovery of the God of the Old and New Testaments. H was baptised at the age of 24 on Holy Saturday, 14 April 1827 by Louise Humann.

The event of January 20th 1842
On January 20th  1842, while in Rome, Alphonse the youngest brother of our founder Theodore Ratisbonne, suddenly received the grace of Christian faith through the mediation of Mary. In the light of God’s Word, Theodore recognised the significance of this event and, urged on by his brother,  saw that the moment had come to respond to the call he had already heard – the call to witness in the Church to the fidelity of God to his love for the Jewish people.
This event took place in the church of Sant’Andrea delle Fratte, Rome. These are Alphonse’s words about the event:
“As I walked about the church… there seemed to be one chapel where all the light was concentrated. Raising my eyes to the chapel, I saw standing on the altar, tall, vibrant, majestic, full of beauty and mercy, the Blessed Virgin Mary as she is represented on the Miraculous Medal of the Immaculate Conception.
At this sight I fell on my knees on the spot where I had been standing; several times I tried to raise my eyes to the Blessed Virgin, but her radiance and my feeling of respect made me lower them; this did not prevent me, however, from being very aware of the apparition. I fixed my eyes on her hands, and in them I saw evidence of pardon and mercy. In the presence of the Blessed Virgin Mary, although she did not utter a word, I understood the horror of the state of my soul, the hideousness of sin, the beauty of the Catholic religion; in a word, I understood everything. 
Another reflection:
 “The focus of the event of January 20th was the apparition of Mary to Alphonse. For Alphonse, Mary was a light; in many ways she is a light for us to. Mary heard the Word spoken to her. She kept it in her heart and obeyed it, bearing it in her womb. Mary lived out the Sh’ma to the full. Her song of praise, the Magnificat, speaks of the promises and fulfilment she helped to bring about in her life.” 



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  • History of the Founder of the Congregation





History
Theodore Ratisbonne, founder of Our Lady of Sion
Theodore Ratisbonne
Founder of Our Lady of Sion