Notre Dame, Sisters of the Congregation de

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(Official Catholic Directory #2980); the Sisters of the Congregation De Notre Dame (CND) was the first religious community of women founded in North America. It was established at Montreal, Canada, by Saint Marguerite bourgeoys who, at the request of the governor of Montreal, opened the first school in Ville Marie, as the colony was originally called. This was in 1658, 16 years after the founding of the colony. Despite ecclesiastical opposition, she held firmly to the concept of an uncloistered congregation of simple vows, dedicated to Our Lady, following the Rule of St. Augustine, and committed to the work of education. Mother Bourgeoys' company of school mistresses of Montreal was composed of recruits from France, Canadian-born girls, two former Indian pupils, and, in 1696, Lydia Longley, the first woman from the English colonies to join their ranks. Their society acquired legal status in 1671 with letters patent from Louis XIV. On Aug. 6, 1676, they attained ecclesiastical status as the Congregation de Notre Dame of Montreal by approbation of François de Montmorency Laval, Bishop of Quebec, and on June 24, 1698, received approbation of the rule that Mother Bourgeoys had formulated. Final papal recognition of the community was granted when the constitutions were approved by Leo XIII in 1892.

The first foundation in the U.S. was made at Bourbonnais, IL, in 1860. By 1890 there were ten foundations in Illinois, Connecticut, Rhode Island, Vermont, Maine, and New York. These and subsequent foundations formed, in 1946, a U.S. province with headquarters in Staten Island, NY. The motherhouse is in Montreal, Canada.

Bibliography: Histoire de la Congrégation de Notre Dame de Montréal, 10 v. (Montreal 1941).

[r. m. donahue/eds.]