by Jill Ragar Esfeld
Special to The Leaven
KANSAS CITY, Kan. — After more than a year in the archdiocese, the home of the Little Sisters of the Community of the Lamb here has received its name — “Lumen Christi,” which means “the light of Christ.”
“That light we wish to offer by being with the people of this neighborhood,” said Little Sister Lucie, one of the first of seven Little Sisters to arrive in Kansas City, Kan.
The community hopes now to raise enough funds to build a modest monastery on the land donated by the archdiocese, adjacent to the old St. Benedict rectory in All Saints Parish, where the Little Sisters currently reside.
The Community of the Lamb has its motherhouse in France. It is a little monastery and, like most of the community’s houses established throughout the world, it is a simple structure with a low profile.
“The little monastery in its style and architecture reflects the simplicity of the Gospel,” explained Little Sister Lucie.
The community’s foundress, Little Sister Marie, recently visited the Kansas community to share in the joy of the Little Sisters’ first steps here.
Together with Little Sister Marie, the Little Sisters have established the plans for their future monastery. A small-scale model was designed by Little Brother Christophe.
Little Sister Marie referred to the future monastery as a place of light.
“When someone comes, the Gospel has to shine through the Little Sisters, but also through the architecture,” she said. “It must be very simple, but beautiful.”
At home in Kansas
The Community of the Lamb came to this archdiocese at the invitation of Archbishop Joseph F. Naumann. They chose to establish their community, the first in the United States, in one of the poorest areas of Kansas City, Kan.
With the help of their new neighbors, the Little Sisters refurbished the old rectory enough so that it could function as a temporary living space. They made their own simple furniture in keeping with the style of the community.
The Little Sisters rely solely on Providence and charity for their living. Being a new branch of the Dominican order, a begging order, they keep within their charism (see below) by going out into the neighborhood to beg for daily bread.
“How often do we experience that people give to us with all their hearts, and we are always amazed at the goodness of the human heart!” said Little Sister Dorota.
The seven Little Sisters in residence come from five different countries. Their differences are as great as their love for one another, and so they learn firsthand, each day, how to live the motto of their order, “Wounded, I will never cease to love.”
“We have a very tight fraternal life,” explained Little Sister Aude. “Consequently, it is the first place where we can experience “Wounded, I will never cease to love.
“We learn to welcome one another in our differences,” she added. “Forgiveness being essential, we have the opportunity to beg pardon for our lack of love and care for our Sisters every night during the community chapter of forgiveness.”
The core of their community life is the Eucharist announced and prolonged in liturgical prayer, and silent adoration. This is how they begin and end each day.
Singing is an important part of their worship. The songs they sing in harmony are truly prayers.
“Some children in our neighborhood come to listen to our singing . . . but they also enjoy staying during silent adoration,” said Little Sister Alma. “One of these children told his principal, ‘They are nuns; they sing for God!’”
The Little Sisters have grown very attached to their neighborhood and, likewise, the parishioners of All Saints are delighted to have them here.
Little Sister Marie commented during her visit that she has been pleased to see the community so filled with joy.
“A lot of those we’ve met have become friends,” she said. “And if this house looks nice now, it really is because of the help of the neighborhood who came to paint and to make the furniture with us. It was their joy.
“This help we have received really says a lot about all those who welcomed the Sisters.”
Community of the Lamb members traditionally keep a daily journal of the encounters they have and all the graces God works in their lives.
Little Sister Bénédicte shared one of the stories to illustrate the way the neighborhood has responded to their presence.
“I remember this little boy to whom we asked ‘Is your mother there?’ He responded that she was not at home. But as we were a few houses further, he called after us, ‘Sisters, Sisters, my mom has come back home!’ And we turned around to meet the little boy handing us two grocery bags that his mom had filled for us with tremendous generosity. And he said, ‘I give this to you with all my heart.’
“His mother then, as she was concerned for us, asked, ‘Have you had anything to eat?’ She invited us in to have lunch with them.
“After the meal, we prayed with this courageous mother going through a family trial. We still ponder in our heart the prayer that the young boy said out loud, ‘I thank you, God, for having given me life, for my mom who is so good to me, for my family. . . . And I pray that my mom may find friends that she can rely on.’”
The Little Sisters of the Community of the Lamb beg in their own neighborhood, but also go on mission throughout the Kansas City area and in other cities in the archdiocese.
A monastery of their own
As the people of the archdiocese have come to know the Little Sisters, they’ve learned that the Sisters’ mission is not just about being poor and begging — it is a movement toward communion.
The Little Sisters embody Christ going out and saying, “I thirst,” and offer people the chance to receive the Gospel in their homes.
The monastery is the place from which prayer is drawn, the dwelling of intercession and welcoming.
Indeed, the Little Sisters are grateful for the old rectory and the efforts of the Catholic community to make their current home livable.
But the rectory is old, structurally unsound and in disrepair. They pray members of the archdiocese will donate to their cause to help them build a little monastery and chapel where they can worship with their new friends in a place of silence, beauty and peace.
“We are always ready to do what we can,” said Little Sister Stephanie, “but we also know that we will need a lot of help.”
“The people are very welcoming and openhearted here,” added Little Sister Hallel. “One of our friends once said to us, ‘We want you to feel at home here! It’s a blessing for us to have you.’”
The charism of the Community of the Lamb
Foundress Little Sister Marie said she had no idea she was starting a community 35 years ago in France. As a young Dominican Sister, she only knew that she had a big question in her heart.
“In our world, evil seems so many times so triumphant,” she explained. “And this question was in my heart. I believe it is in all human beings’ hearts: Tell us, Lord, how are you victorious over all evil?”
The answer came to her during a night in silent adoration.
“In the middle of the night,” she said. “this sentence of St. Paul’s arose in my heart: In his own flesh, Christ destroyed the enmity; in his own person, he killed hatred! (Eph: 2:13-19)
“I understand now, the Community of the Lamb was born in that moment.”
The motto of the community is: “Wounded, I will never cease to love.” Its charism is to live the Gospel and Jesus’ life in community.
“United to Jesus and filled with the love of God, we become the sent ones,” Little Sister Marie explained.
“Through the mercy of God we go, ‘without gold or silver,’ in order to give out the name of Jesus,” she explained. “We go like Jesus went — poor and begging the love of mankind; we beg for our daily bread, announcing the Gospel to all.”
“This is the living water of the charism,” she added. “The living water, because it is always renewed in adoration and in prayer and in our union to Christ.”
Today, the Community of the Lamb includes 130 Little Sisters and about 30 Little Brothers from many countries serving in communities around the world.
To learn more about the order, visit the Web site at: www.communautedelagneau.org/communaute-de-lagneau- anglais.php.