The “Service des Moniales” in France (SDM) is an association who is at the service of abbeys and autonomous women monasteries, whose members are consecrated solely to God, in the form of contemplative life which is proper to them. It is mandated to serve abbeys and monasteries spread out over the fifteen ecclesiastical provinces. These communities, through the adherence of their superior, following consultation with their “conventual chapter” (made up of the sisters who have made their perpetual vows) are free to adhere to this Service des Moniales. Certain abbeys and monasteries have made the choice not to be part of this Service.
It is therefore, a means for abbeys and monasteries to demonstrate their existence, which by its nature, is silent and hidden. This service is lived within the respect of different spiritualties.
- In 1964, the superiors of women abbeys and monasteries adhere to the Union of Major Superiors of France (USMF).
- In 1966, at the request of the French Episcopal Commission for religious women, the Commission of Cloistered Contemplatives (CRCC) saw the day.
- In 1972, the CRCC becomes Le Service des Moniales, a name that corresponds better to its purpose and becomes an association according to the Law of 1901.
- In 1995, the Roman congregation for the Institutes of Consecrated Life and the Societies of Apostolic Life (CIVCSVA) establish by decree Le Service des Moniales in France (SDM) and approve its statues.
The SDM has for objective the promotion of monastic women’s religious life, allowing it to practice with joy and fidelity its proper charism.
It proposes is particular :
- To provide communities with the means for initial and permanent formation.
- To gather and disseminate information and, through a periodical bulletin (“Lien des Moniales”), to train for questions essentially in monastic spirituality.
- To facilitate all forms of collaboration between monastic communities.
- To maintain ties with the Holy See, the Conference of Bishops of France (CEF), the Conference of Religious Men and Women of France (CORREF), to which the SDM is associated. The Monastic Conference of France (CMF) – who regroups the men’s abbeys and monasteries – , the National Service for the Evangelization of the Youth and for Vocations (SNEJV), along with the moniales of other countries – particularly those who enjoy an authority equivalent to the SDM.
- Open up the members to ecumenical and interreligious dialogue.
- To represent the interests of the moniales in the sector of public authority administration and to protect their civil, economic, and social rights.
A General Assembly is summoned every three years. It gathers the representatives of all the monastic Orders and it elects the office made of one representative from each order. This office elects its President (2014 Sr Veronique Laforêt, Dominican from Dax) and her Vice-President (2017 Sr Marie-Christine, cistercienne from Rivet), (2021 : President : Sr Marie-Christine Vilmain, cistercienne from Rivet).
Assemblies on the level of Ecclesiastical Provinces are organized to impact the orientations of the General Assembly and help out the communion to grow among all the communities that are part of the SDM. These assemblies elect a representative from the Province and a deputy who participate in the General Assembly.