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Lives of the Saints:

How They Changed the World

Saint Julie Billiart (1751–1816)

Saint Julie Billiart (1751–1816)

Patron saint against bodily ills, poverty, and sickness

Feast day: April 8

Saint Julie Billiart was poorly educated compared to other school children, but she was highly educated in her Christian faith. She had memorized her catechism by the time she was seven years old. Instead of running around and playing, Julie spent her free time teaching catechism to other young children as well as farmhands. At the age of 14, she took a personal vow of chastity and made it her life’s work to serve and teach the poor. She was 22 when someone shot a gun at her father through the window of her house. The shock of the incident paralyzed her for more than twenty years. Despite being paralyzed, Julie continued to teach catechism lessons from her bedside and give spiritual advice to visitors who came after hearing of her holiness. A missionary priest she came to know encouraged her to pray a novena to the Sacred Heart. On his fifth visit to her, the priest said, “Mother, if you have any faith, take one step in honor of the Sacred Heart.” Miraculously, Julie was healed and began to walk. She began the Congregation of the Sisters of Notre Dame, which was dedicated to the Christian education of the poor and of young girls. The congregation founded by Saint Julie Billiart still exists as the Sisters of Notre Dame de Namur. The Sisters of Notre Dame of Chardon, Ohio, had been affiliated with this community in Germany but became an independent community in 1855. Both communities share the charism of Saint Julie Billiart and sent sisters to the United States to care for those who were poor, sick, or uneducated.