Category Archives: Educational Center

The Mission Widens in South Africa

By Sister Marie McLoughlin, SNDdeN

Little children love to read stories in special books at St. Peter Claver School in Maokeng township.

Now in our 102nd year, the growth and development in St. Peter Claver School in South Africa are quite extraordinary. The Mission of our Sisters widens with dedicated administrators, staff and teachers committed to holistic education and the unfailing
conviction that God is good. The long-awaited dream of establishing a high school on the site of the former Notre Dame Convent in Kroonstad, which closed in 1972, became a reality. In January 2018, the new academic year started with 320 pupils enrolled in Grades 7–12, and with 32 teaching and support staff in this High School building. There are 150 pupils enrolled in the Intermediate Section, now housed also in the renovated building. This expansion of the school responds to the parents expectations for continuing the education of their children. In Maokeng township, outside Kroonstad,
there are 190 children in Grade R and Grades 1–3.

Serving with our Co-workers, Sisters of Notre Dame de Namur (SNDdeN) are involved in the daily activities of the various sections of the school: Sr. Marie McLoughlin is Chaplain and Counsellor to the Senior classes; Sr. Gertrude Izuchukwu teaches Religious Education in the Intermediate Section and Sr. Chantal Kisimbila is the Financial Manager in the Foundation Phase of the School. Sr. Brigid Rose Tiernan sits on the Board of Governors, as Representative of the SNDdeN owners.


In 2016, two members of the Congregational Leadership Team, Sisters Teresita Weind and Patricia O’Brien, came from Rome, Italy to participate in blessing the newly renovated school. With the addition of new classrooms, Grade 7 students moved in

In the Intermediate Section, Sr. Gertrude Izuchukwu, SNDdeN gives a strong foundation in Religious Education to the students.

early 2017 from the Primary School in Maokeng township to the High School campus, at the site of the old convent. As hoped, this move had positive consequences, and already is providing the learners with the strong foundation necessary to meet the demands of the Independent Matriculation Examination which they will write at the end of Grade 12. St. Peter Claver is the only school in Kroonstad, and one of four in the Free State Province whose students take the school-leaving examination. Instead of preparing our school-leavers for the state-run school leaving certificate, we chose the Free State Province examination because the values on which it is based are more in keeping with our Notre Dame educational tradition. The examination by the Independent Examination Board (IEB) demands creative and independent thinking on the part of those who take the exam, and it is much more demanding on the teachers. The pupils write the examination through the medium of English, and also write their home language, Sesotho, at the same ‘home language’ level.

During 2017, we explored a further development and consulted the parents and guardians of learners in Grades 4 through 6 about a plan to move the learners of these 3 Grades also to the site of the old convent.Their response was overwhelmingly positive. In January 2018, the opening of the academic year saw nearly 500 learners, ranging in age from 9–17 years accommodated in the Intermediate Phase and High School of St. Peter Claver School in Kroonstad. Seven classes in the Foundation Phase, Grades R -3 remain in the buildings in Maokeng, with facilities specially adapted to their needs.

To the credit of all involved in the growth happening at St. Peter Claver is the value underlying all decisions and actions: St. Julie Billiart’s mission and the congregational call to serve people trapped by impoverishment. Annual school fees range between $300 for the younger children and rise to $650 for the 3 top grades. The school receives support from the State in the form of an irregularly paid subsidy for operational costs. All other school development needs, such as equipment, textbooks and school outings depend on fund-raising efforts. Despite this challenge, 40 to 80 learners from needy families receive full or partial bursaries (scholarships). Support for such student assistance comes from a bursary fund that was established by past students. The generosity of friends and families of the Sisters who make regular monthly donations insure that children in need may have the opportunity for an education in St. Peter Claver School.

St. Julie once said: “Teaching is the greatest work on earth.” The Sisters and Co-workers in our school believe strongly in the impact of this ministry! The coordination and expansion of St. Peter Claver School is a reality – a living, never-ending dream in education each day.

Sixteen members of the St. Peter Claver School community: administrators, teachers, members of the Board of Governors and our Sisters became the Heritage Pilgrims.

Near the end of the Centenary Year of the Foundation of the School in 2016, a final celebration extended our Mission significantly to Co-workers. The Pilgrimage to the heritage places of our foundresses in Belgium and France became a special journey. The purpose of this pilgrimage was two-fold: to conclude together the Centenary Year and to render thanksgiving to God for these 100 years. The participants prepared carefully with monthly group meetings, focussed on the significance of pilgrimage, the story of our foundresses, the values and history of the SNDdeN Congregation. Co-workers, Associates and Board members saw

Sr. Brigid Rose Tiernan, SNDdeN witnesses in Cuvilly the first commitment of two new Associates.

this pilgrimage as an opportunity to deepen their knowledge of the roots, spirit and ethos of Notre Dame and to strengthen their commitment for carrying the message of God’s goodness into the future. A particularly moving event during this pilgrimage took place in the convent chapel in Cuvilly, France when two administrators at St. Peter Claver School, Zunelle De Ru (Head of the School) and Veronica Phadi (Head of Foundation Phase for the School) made their first commitment as Associates of Notre Dame.

Sisters, Co-Workers and Partners, living the Mission at St. Peter Claver, belong to the Notre Dame family and exclaim constantly:

“God is good.” And the journey continues…

Blue Donate Now button
Donate now to St. Peter Claver School to help the Sisters educational ministry in South Africa.

Reprinted from Good Works, Volume 14, No. 1, March 2018.

Published in print two times a year and on-line monthly (

To subscribe to a printed edition, send your name and a mailing address to Sr. Anne Stevenson, SNDdeN by mail: 30 Jeffreys Neck Road, Ipswich, MA 01938 or by email: (International subscribers are encouraged to subscribe to this online edition through the WordPress App.)

Ministry Widens Urban Outreach

by Sister Gertrude Tonsi, SNDdeN

In 2009, the Centre Mary Linscott opened in Kisantu, Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), 120 kilometers from the capitol in Kinshasa. To meet the needs of this urban community, this ministry of the Sisters of Notre Dame de Namur (SNDdeN) evolved from a center solely for young people living with handicaps to a place also for the formation of young women who are unemployed.

Gertrude in pink with student projects
Sr. Gertrude Tonsi, SNDdeN (center) encourages the young women to show the clothing they made.

The Centre began as a response to a request from Mr. André Lukoki, (father of Sr. Solange Lukoki, SNDdeN), who managed a nearby center for persons with physical handicaps. Mr Lukoki realized that he needed the support and backing of a larger organization, such as a religious congregation whose charism included
promoting God’s goodness by reaching out to people living in poverty.

CML 2-450px web

The leadership in the Congo-Kinshasa Province accepted the challenge to take on responsibility for a center for the handicapped. For greater oversight, they decided to regroup the young people from Mr. Lukoki’s site to the SNDdeN property in Kisantu. The Sisters named the new center for a former Superior General of the SNDdeN, Sr. Mary Linscott, a woman who loved people living in poverty, and who had a “heart wide as the world.”

Here, the Sisters organized lessons providing the young men and women with possibilities enabling them to take greater responsibility for their own lives. To provide a more rounded formation adapted to the level of the students, the Sisters, aided by lay teachers, taught the students reading, spelling, (Kikongo and French), arithmetic, religion and music as well as practical training in dress making. They renovated available buildings in the convent compound as classrooms for the handicapped.

Tricycle-300 px webMoving from one place to another around the property, however, was difficult for the handicapped. Hand-powered three-wheel chairs were purchased to help them get to classes. They appreciated this Notre Dame education, which helped them to take charge of their own lives.

A New Moment
After some time, the Centre found itself called to a new moment in ministry. As local people in the area took greater responsibility for handicapped persons, they requested that the Centre Mary Linscott (CML) be transformed as a place for women, a social center for the promotion of girls and young mothers who did not have the financial resources needed to finish their formal education and were in need of means of earning a living. The Sisters staffing the CML organized a three-year formation program with literacy (reading & writing) dress-making, homemaking/household practice and courses in religion. In collaboration with the local Ministry of Social Affairs, the Sisters organize at the end of each year a jury to test the level of each candidate. Those who
successfully complete the three year cycle receive a certificate and a sewing machine, provided by World Vision. This certificate enables them to find employment in workshops and elsewhere.

receiving own sewing machines-300px web
Women appreciate the new sewing machines.

The Centre now has two classrooms. The Sisters are struggling to construct a third classroom, but the contribution of parents is minimal. The annual fee for each student is 50,000 Congo francs or $35.00. These funds are used to maintain the sewing machines and to pay the teachers. Young women come in crowds at the beginning of the year, but disappear afterwards for lack of money to buy material for dressmaking during the course of the year. Older students sewing class-450px webThe Centre is unable to meet the needs of all. These young people are often victims of every type of manipulation. Actual fees are insufficient even to provide a meal during the day. The Ministry of Social Affairs does not give finances to the Centre.

The SNDdeN Congregation does give to the Centre some support funding which is used for purchasing sewing machines, supplies and contributing to the salaries of a few teachers. Sr. Julie Santu, SNDdeN is responsible for the Centre and works with five lay women who work with these young unemployed girls and mothers. From Monday to Friday, courses begin at 8:00 a.m. and end at 12:30 p.m. The learners spend one day per week in manual labor which is called “the work of goodness.” The parents and families are happy with this environment for their daughters. This year, we have found jobs for six young women at a local market. Some unemployed men, also living in poverty, have asked to be part of this formation.

CML-300px web
Outside the clothing workshop, Sisters Emily Mullen and Julie Santu discuss with Mr. Alexis the need for blouses at Lycée Notre-Dame de Kisantu.

Collaboration with persons living with handicaps is still a focus at the Centre. Mr. Alexis, a person with a handicap, works in the clothing workshop of our school. He makes all the blouses worn by our students at the Lycée Notre-Dame de Kisantu. The Sisters continue a journey of fidelity by helping unemployed women and girls, and in supporting persons with handicaps, in a ministry which is certainly the work of St. Julie in the Congo.


Please show your support for the educational efforts of the Sisters of Notre Dame de Namur at Centre Mary Linscott in Kinsantu, Democratic Republic of Congo.


Education in Haiti with Opportunity for Employment

By Sister Katherine Corr, SNDdeN, Executive Director of Notre Dame Mission Volunteers

Sr.-Katherine-Coor,-SNDdeN,-etcNotre Dame Mission Volunteers (NDMV) are partnering with Notre Dame Family Education Center in Haiti to facilitate expanded educational access and job readiness. The Sisters of Notre Dame de Namur (SNDdeN) have been serving since 2009 in La Savane, a deprived neighborhood, located in the city of Les Cayes. Serving a community that has no social safety-net nor any basic government services, the Sisters opened a Center which provides basic education, health services, and job training skills. Guided by St. Julie Billiart’s educational principles, the Mission Volunteers with the Sisters educate for life. They are involved in a multi-year effort in planning for the future. They are engaging the people of La Savane in a transformational process for more services to increase access to education, vocational training, and basic needs like clean water and food for their families.

Four full-time Mission Volunteers, recruited from the U.S. and the La Savane community, are now involved throughout the year as co-leadership in literacy classes at the Center. They assist with projects related to needs outlined by the community. Inspired by commitment and energy of the people in the neighborhood, these American and Haitian volunteers work alongside nearly 200 women, adolescents, and children.

VolunteersIn La Savane, these Mission Volunteers:

  • Give English classes to adolescents
  • Lead an after-school literacy class for children
  • Teach reading, writing, and math to children unable to afford school education
  • Oversee a computer literacy course for young adults
  • Help women in small craft industries already begun by teaching them math skills for these industries
  • Lead community cleanups with people in the neighborhood

At the Center, the volunteers are currently aiding in the construction of a potable well, leading an agricultural program for young adults, and directing a meals program for students and other individuals in certain projects. One volunteer shared, “The strength of this program comes from the many people in La Savane who are involved.”

On-going Challenges
Hatian-Mother-and-child Haiti is currently ranked as the poorest nation in the Western Hemisphere with 80% living under the poverty level, in being deprived of food security, access to clean water, education and employment. NDMV has been successful in establishing a strong partnership with the community and expanding the capacity of the Center to meet neighborhood needs. Like the country, the neighborhood, has many challenges. Most families cannot afford to send their children to school.

In attempting to develop a holistic learning community in the neighborhood, the Sisters and lay volunteers witness firsthand the catastrophic effect of unemployment without possibilities for job opportunities, as well as the lack of educational and physical training for the children. Families ask for help in getting meaningful employment in La Savane. Parents search to rise above these seemingly insurmountable obstacles and plead for work in order to feed their families and support education for their children.

La Savane Builds a Bakery
BakersIn working closely with Sister Jeannette Pierre- Louis, SNDdeN, Director of the Center, the local Diocese, Catholic Relief Services, and with the local community, NDMV is addressing this need by establishing a small bakery enterprise. The bakery will offer the residents of La Savane a chance to learn a trade, become familiar with important business skills, and provide income for the people to pay for schooling their children. To have food for families and financial resources for educating the children is the primary goal. To build a bakery in collaboration with neighborhood leaders and the Sisters of Notre Dame de Namur, is a shared objective for creating jobs for twelve men and women. NDMV is currently engaged in a the Haiti Project to raise $150,000 as seed money to begin initial stages for opening a bakery in La Savane. This is an enormous business enterprise, and one way out of poverty for this Haitian community, while upholding the human dignity and God-given potential of those in need. The opening of a bakery is a tangible action for change of the Notre Dame Mission Volunteers and the Sisters of Notre Dame de Namur.

 From Good Works, June 2015. Reprinted with permission.