School Sisters of Notre Dame celebrate 185 years

Thu, Oct 25th 2018 12:00 pm

The School Sisters of Notre Dame, an international congregation of over 2,500 women religious in 32 countries on five continents, are celebrating 185 years of faithful service since their foundation in 1833. Their mission, to deepen communion with God and among all people, is lived out in ministries focused on education. The sisters educate with a world vision believing that the world can be changed through the transformation of persons. Through their educational ministries the sisters have touched the lives of hundreds of thousands of children and their families. In Rochester, this occasion will be celebrated with a special liturgy offered by Bishop Salvatore R. Montano on Oct. 28 at 1:30 p.m. at Sacred Heart Cathedral. All are welcome to join the School Sisters of Notre Dame of the Atlantic Midwest Province in giving thanks for their many years of faithful service.

In 1847, Blessed Mother Theresa of Jesus Gerhardinger, foundress of the School Sisters of Notre Dame and three other sisters and a novice, just 14 years after the congregation was formed in Neunburg vorm Wald, Germany, travelled to the United States to establish a foundation that would serve the needs of German immigrants who were arriving in rapid succession.

On June 18, 1848, Blessed Mother Theresa of Jesus visited Rochester to explore the possibility of starting a foundation here. She chose Buffalo instead but promised the School Sisters would come back someday. That dream came true in 1854. Less than a year after the SSND passed through Buffalo, New York, Sister Caroline Friess with another SSND and a Candidate, returned on March 19, 1849, to found the congregation's fourth branch house in America. They were welcomed by John Timon, first bishop of the newly created diocese of Buffalo and Redemptorist Rector Benedict Bayer. The sisters took charge of the girls, while the boys continued to be taught by lay teachers. In 1864, the sisters took charge of the smaller boys, and the entire school in 1888.

In 1852, thanks to the efforts of Father Helmprecht, an orphanage, St. Mary was founded and turned over to the care of the School Sisters of Notre Dame.  The sisters conducted the orphanage until 1874, when the German Catholic Orphan Asylum came into being under the care of the Franciscan Sisters. In 1911, the SSND taught in All Souls School and from 1940-46 at St. Augustine School. The sisters also taught at the Business School opened in 1918.  

From the very beginning of the School Sisters of Notre Dame in Buffalo, there was a constant flow of vocations to the School Sisters of Notre Dame.  Eighty-four women from Buffalo were professed and remained for their lifetimes in the congregation. Some families even had multiple vocations to the SSND.

For more information about the School Sisters of Notre Dame and/or this event, you may contact Sister Lorraine Burns, SSND at 585-342-8843 or, or visit  

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