Open main menu

School Sisters of Notre Dame is a worldwide religious institute of Roman Catholic sisters founded in Bavaria in 1833 and devoted to primary, secondary, and post-secondary education. Their life in mission centers on prayer, community life and ministry. They serve as teachers, lawyers, accountants, nurses, administrators,[1] therapists, social workers, pastoral ministers, social justice advocates and more.

School Sisters of Notre Dame
SSND symbol 2017.png
MottoTransforming the world through education
Established1833; 186 years ago (1833)
PurposeChristian education
Region served
World-wide, 34 countries
Over 3,000
Theresa Gerhardinger
Main organ
AffiliationsRoman Catholic

The School Sisters of Notre Dame are known by the abbreviation "SSND" and are not to be confused with another teaching order, the Sisters of Notre Dame de Namur (SNDdeN), which was founded in France.


Founding and growthEdit

The School Sisters of Notre Dame developed from the Canonesses Regular of St. Augustine of the Congregation of Our Lady, founded by Peter Fourier and Alix Le Clerc in the Duchy of Lorraine in 1597 for the free education of poor girls. In the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, several convents of the congregation were established in Germany.[2]

Karolina Gerhardinger commenced her training as a lay teacher at the local monastery of the Canonesses Regular of Notre Dame in Ratisbon. She developed her skills as a teacher at the monastery until it—like all monastic communities—was closed in 1809, after Bavaria had been occupied by the Napoleonic army. By 1812 she had secured a teaching accreditation and began teaching at a girls school in Regensburg. In 1815 she asked Bishop of Regensburg, Georg Michael Wittmann for guidance on entering the religious life. Unable to pursue this religious calling at that time, however, she continued to teach at the school from 1816 until 1833.[3]

The congregation was founded in Bavaria in 1833, during a time of poverty and illiteracy under the direction of Bishop Wittmann of Ratisbon and Father Job of Vienna. While retaining the essential features of the rule and constitutions given by Peter Fourier, they widened the scope of the Sisters' educational work. Its founder Karolina Gerhardinger, known by the religious name of Mary Theresa of Jesus, formed a community with two other women in Neunburg vorm Wald to teach the poor.[2]

In 1839 they removed to a suburb of Munich, and in 1843, into a former Poor Clare convent, built in 1284, and situated within the city limits.[2] In 1847, Blessed Theresa and five companion sisters traveled to the United States to aid German immigrants, especially girls and women. That year the sisters staffed schools in three German parishes in Baltimore, Maryland: St. James, St. Michael, and St. Alphonsus, as well as opened the Institute of Notre Dame, a private school for German girls. Eventually the congregation spread across the United States and into Canada, ultimately forming eight North American Provinces.[citation needed]


The original rule of the School Sisters of Notre Dame, approved by Pope Pius IX in 1865, allowed Blessed Theresa and her successors, instead of local bishops, to govern the congregation. The main motherhouse was moved from Neunburg vorm Wald to Munich in 1843 and remained there until the 1950s. Today, the Generalate of the Congregation can be found in Rome, Italy.


Much of their work has been in schools,[4] but the curriculum vitae of a group of jubilarians in 2014, from a province based in St. Louis, showed a wide variety of assignments: spiritual direction, retreats, adult basic education, RCIA programs, pastoral care among Hispanics, in hospitals, and among the disadvantaged,[5] language interpreting, outreach to native Americans and to migrants (also founding an Immigrant and Refugee Women's Program), and on mission to Honduras, Hungary, Sierra Leone, Ghana, and Japan.[6] Empowering underserved women has been a special effort of theirs.[7][8] Their involvement in migrant services is evidenced in their hosting at the US-Mexican border a conference for Shalom, an international network for justice, peace, and integrity of creation.[9]

In 2017 more than 3,000 School Sisters of Notre Dame were working in thirty-four countries in Europe, North America, Latin America, Asia, Africa and Oceania. Africa has come to produce the largest number of vocations.[10][11][12]

Nun Study of Aging and Alzheimer's DiseaseEdit

Since 1986, 678 members of the congregation in the United States have been participating in Nun Study of Aging and Alzheimer's Disease, a longitudinal study of aging and Alzheimer's disease. Convent archives have been made available to investigators as a resource on the history of participants. The sisters have also participated in several rounds of intellectual and physical tests for the study and agreed to donate their brains to science.[13]


Notable membersEdit


  1. ^ "Board of Directors & Administrators - The Sarah Community". The Sarah Community. Retrieved 2017-03-18.
  2. ^ a b c Josephine, Sister Mary. "School Sisters of Notre Dame." The Catholic Encyclopedia Vol. 11. New York: Robert Appleton Company, 1911. 2 March 2019
  3. ^ Borrelli, Antonio. "Blessed Maria Teresa of Jesus (Carolina Gerhardinger)". Santi e Beati. Retrieved 12 July 2016.
  4. ^ "School Sisters of Notre Dame being honored for 155 years of service in Quincy". Herald-Whig. Retrieved 2017-03-18.
  5. ^ "School Sisters of Notre Dame staff 'oasis' in North Little Rock - Arkansas Catholic - October 18, 2008". Retrieved 2017-03-18.
  6. ^ "JUBILARIANS: School Sisters of Notre Dame (SSND) | St. Louis Review". Retrieved 2017-03-18.
  7. ^ "SSND Educational Center". Retrieved 2017-03-18.
  8. ^ "SSNDEC Woodhaven on NY1 News - SSND Educational Center". Retrieved 2017-03-18.
  9. ^ Dispatch, Aaliyah Montoya For the Douglas. "Douglas School Sisters of Notre Dame Host International SHALOM Representatives". Douglas Dispatch. Retrieved 2017-03-18.
  10. ^ Writer, Brian OjanpaFree Press Staff. "School Sisters of Notre Dame: We're not going away". Mankato Free Press. Retrieved 2017-03-18.
  11. ^ inc., 501creative,. "Reception to the African Novitiate | School Sisters of Notre Dame". Retrieved 2017-03-18.
  12. ^ "School Sisters of Notre Dame - Africa". School Sisters of Notre Dame - Africa. Retrieved 2017-03-18.
  13. ^ "Educating in many forms: School Sisters of Notre Dame committed to long-term Alzheimer's disease study". Global Sisters Report. July 6, 2015. Retrieved March 18, 2017.
  14. ^, Remains of 300 nuns to be exhumed from Waterdown convent cemetery

Coordinates: 41°53′6.08″N 12°24′0.68″E / 41.8850222°N 12.4001889°E / 41.8850222; 12.4001889

External linksEdit