Notre Dame, Sisters of (SND)

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The congregation of the Sisters of Notre Dame (SND, Official Catholic Directory, #2990), a pontifical institute, is devoted chiefly to education at all levels. It was founded in 1850, in Coesfeld, Germany, by two young teachers, Aldegonda Wolbring (Sr. Mary Aloysia) and Lisette Kuehling (Sr. Mary Ignatia), assisted by their spiritual director, Rev. Theodore Elting. The first members were trained by sisters from the Notre Dame Convent of Amersfoort, Netherlands, who gave them the rule that St. Marie Rose Julie billiart had adopted for her community. In 1900 the Holy See gave final approbation to this rule as adapted by the new congregation.

The first teacher-training school for the sisters and for other young women was opened, with government approval, in 1853 by Sr. Mary Bernarda Perger. Three years later, the Amersfoort sisters returned to their own community and the Coesfeld group elected their first superior general. Growth and expansion characterized the next 20 years until the congregation's further development was arrested by the anti-Catholic decrees of the kultur kampf.

In 1874, therefore, Mother Mary Chrysostom, second superior general, welcomed the invitation of Bp. Richard Gilmour, of Cleveland, Ohio, to work in his diocese. She and eight sisters arrived in the U.S. in July 1874 and two months later they began to teach in St. Peter and St. Stephen schools in Cleveland, and the Mother of God school in Covington, Ky. Two hundred sisters were transferred to the U.S. during the next three years, and Cleveland became the administrative center of the community. In 1884 a few sisters were permitted to resume work in Germany, and when their work prospered, the motherhouse was reestablished in Muelhausen, Germany, in 1888. Over the several decades, new foundations were established in Latin America, Europe and Asia.

From the Cleveland province, other houses were established through the U.S. as the community expanded. In 1924, three new provinces were established: Covington, Ky., Toledo, Ohio, and Los Angeles, Calif. In 1947, the motherhouse was transferred to Rome, Italy.

[m. m. smith/eds]