Mother Julia and our Spiritual Family have often witnessed God’s good and wise guidance. In the book of Psalms it says: “The counsel of the Lord stands for ever, the thoughts of his heart to all generations.“ (Ps 33:11). Here we may narrate a few events from God’s history with our Foundress and our Community.
Julia was born in Geluwe (diocese of Bruges, Belgium) on 11 November 1910 as the eighth of eleven children. From 1914 to 1918 raged the First World War. The family had to leave Geluwe in 1917 and only returned in 1920. From the age of 14, Julia worked for various families in Belgium and France.
While listening to the Word of God during Mass, Julia was deeply seized by the person and the words of St Paul.
The film “King of Kings“ about the life of Jesus left a deep impression in Julia’s soul. In the same year, a time of suffering began after she fell from a staircase. Later, Julia wrote, recalling the depiction of Jesus‘ suffering in the film:
Through a grace-filled light Julia was granted a profound encounter with Our Lord wearing the crown of thorns on the solemnity of the Sacred Heart of Jesus. She answered Christ’s call with a resolute Yes.
Fr Cyrill Hillewaere, who guided Julia spiritually, recognised God’s work in her. On 18 January he himself answered the call to be at the disposal of The Work. We consider this day as the founding day of The Work.
Under the protection of Our Lady Julia left her parental home on 16 July, Feast of Our Lady of Mount Carmel, in order to better follow God’s call in interior freedom.
In St. Niklaas and shortly afterwards in Brussels, Mother Julia developed the communal life with the first Sisters. The young community took over an empty convent in Villers-Notre-Dame (diocese of Tournai) in 1950. Soon other centres in Belgium came into being.
The community received the first ecclesial approval as a “Pia Unio” through Bishop Charles-Marie Himmer, Bishop of the diocese of Tournai, in Wallonia (Belgium).
In Innsbruck (Austria) the first centre of The Work outside of Belgium comes into existence. Experiencing joy and confident faith, as well as labours and difficulties, the Community further expanded into various countries.
Mother Julia handed the governance of the community into younger hands. New forms of membership developed: diocesan priests, families, widows and single persons join The Work.
Bishop Bruno Wechner established the Priests‘ Community of The Work in the diocese of Feldkirch (Austria). The Work’s own formation of priests began two years later in Rome.
On 29 August Mother Julia completed her earthly pilgrimage of faith und returned to the heavenly Father’s House. She found her last resting place in the church of the Thalbach convent in Bregenz (Austria).
The Work received ecclesiastical approval as a new form of consecrated life on 11 June 1999 in the diocese of Rome. In the Apostolic Exhortation “Vita Consecrata” (1996) we read:
We recommend the book “ She loved the Church” to all who wish to know more about Mother Julia and the beginnings of The Spiritual Family The Work:
Book-order:"She loved the Church". Mother Julia Verhaeghe and the beginnings of the Spiritual Family The Work.
The Spiritual Family The Work, 2009.
Message of John Paul II to The Spiritual Family The Work during the audience on 10th November 2001
Not long after our Spiritual Family The Work was given pontifical approbation, Cardinal Ratzinger celebrated a Mass of Thanksgiving with us and for us in St Peter’s, on 10th November 2001. He preached the sermon on that occasion.
The Work received papal approval as a “Family of Consecrated Life.” Pope John Paul II addressed a message to The Work Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger celebrated a Mass of Thanksgiving in St Peter’s in Rome and delivered the homily.