Reaching the Borders for Refugee Women and Children

By Sisters Denise Curry, Therese (Tracy) Dill, Mary Alice McCabe, SNDdeN

During more than 200 years as a Congregation, we, Sisters of Notre Dame de Namur have been and are a strong presence in service to immigrants and refugees around the world. In the United States, with an increasing persecution of immigrants living in this country and the denial of entry to asylum seekers, our Sisters search for new ways to help peoples suffering under inhumane US immigration policies. The CARA Pro Bono Volunteer Project, established by the Catholic Legal Immigration Network (CLINIC) with 3 other immigrant advocacy organizations provides a new opportunity to serve immigrant peoples.

Sisters Denise Curry, Mary Alice McCabe and Tracy Dill, SNDdeN discuss plans for more Sisters to assist the refugees in the detention center.

In 2017, three of us, Sisters Denise Curry, Mary Alice McCabe and Therese (Tracy) Dill spent a week as CARA Project volunteers in Dilley, Texas at a “Family Residential Center,” under US Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE). This privately-owned facility houses 2,400 refugee women and children. It is a detention center, filled to capacity with mothers and their children, fleeing from persecution in El Salvador, Honduras and Guatemala. These mothers make this dangerous flight toward the US border in a desperate attempt to protect their children from violence and even death. In fact, these innocent women and children entering the USA find themselves in a prison which treats them like criminals and terrorists.

The CARA Project offers sensitive and compassionate legal assistance to these families. Spanish-speaking mothers prepare for interviewswith ICE asylum officers in which they tell their distressing stories of persecution from either gang-related or domestic violence. As volunteers, we found a number of ways to help at the center. As interpreters in Spanish, we gave in-take talks for helping the women to understand the steps and to feel relaxed and safe in this asylum process. Meeting with each woman individually, we listened to her story and assisted her in preparing for her interview with an ICE asylum officer. We also assisted with the office work that needs to be done in order for the CARA lawyers and paralegals to provide legal services for the women.

To serve the increasing numbers of asylum seekers at Dilley, the Project needs more volunteers: lawyers, paralegals and interpreters. Volunteers meet hundreds of mothers and children, thin, exhausted, and frightened, who have been walking and hiding for weeks. The women and children remain in detention in Dilley until ICE determines their fate. In the interview, the ICE asylum officer listens to the woman’s experience and decides whether or not the persecution in her country of origin is “credible” enough under US immigration law to allow her to seek asylum and stay in the US. The woman must tell her story of having been terrorized and traumatized, in a convincing manner. She must show that she has fled for her life and that return to her country would mean death. The stories are very disturbing: gangs kill family members, kidnap children, force men and teenage boys into gang “membership,” extort monthly payments from well-off and poor alike, abuse and rape girls. In domestic violence cases, women are beaten, treated as property, held captive, and receive death threats.


We-are-HumanA positive evaluation from the asylum officer is required for a mother and her children to be released from detention and sent on to their destination in the USA.

A negative evaluation will send the mother and children into the deportation cycle, which in most cases, means a “death sentence.” CARA lawyers always appeal negative evaluations and do everything to give these women and children a chance at a new life.

A week with these mothers and children is an experience that shakes one’s heart and soul in a unique way. We meet brave women from both cultures: Central American women struggling against all odds to protect their families, and North American women, volunteers, pro bono lawyers and our own Sisters committed to social justice and basic human rights for immigrant families. At this time, more Sisters of Notre Dame de Namur are preparing for volunteer service at this detention center in Texas during the current year 2018.

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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.)

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…

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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.)

Stewards of the SNDdeN Charism

By Sister Maria Delaney, SNDdeN, Co-Director in US Office of Sponsored Ministries

In a world of instant communication where circumstances can change in an instant and people can be redirected from one path to another in the blink of an eye, the words “mission integration” take on new meaning. The process of integrating the Mission becomes the root and anchor which ensures that an organization, whether religious, educational, social or corporate, remains true to its original vision and purpose.

Many of our SNDdeN educational and health care ministries worldwide trace their roots deep into the 19th century. As the Sisters of Notre Dame have aged out of many ministries, many dedicated lay professionals have taken our place as stewards of the SNDdeN Charism. To assist them in their preservation of our legacy, we have created many opportunities to instill the Charism, values and Hallmarks of a Notre Dame Learning Community.

In this global community where terrorism and destruction in all forms capture all news cycles, the values that have sustained the Sisters from the time of Napoleon through multiple world and civil wars still resonate throughout our ministries worldwide. The question of what difference we make in our geographical area propels us to do everything in our power to keep our relationships strong.

The strength of our network of Notre Dame colleagues depends upon the connections made among the participants. To this end, every year in the United States and Europe, the Sisters offer day long workshops and retreats and multi-day conferences for administrators, boards and students which provide a solid grounding in our history and philosophy for everyone carrying forward the Notre Dame de Namur Charism.

Recent Meetings and Beyond
In late June 2017,
the US Office of Sponsored Ministries gathered 50 Juniors and Seniors from Notre Dame high schools across the country for a Student Leadership Conference at Emmanuel College in Boston, MA. At this second gathering for young people, the enthusiasm and energy were infectious among them, and groups from different schools instantly intermingled and began to share their specific realities.

Education Mtg Sept 2017 005

In Belmont, Srs. Mary Laxague and Maria Delaney SNDdeN continue the conversation with Drew Henry and Jennifer Khoury.

From July 16 to 19, 2017, the Office of Sponsored Ministries held their third annual conference of US Administrators from Notre Dame schools at Notre Dame High School in Belmont, CA where speakers provided stimulating presentations on:

  • How we weave the “Hallmarks” into our school,
  • Inclusive Just Schools – Are We Serving All of Our Students?
  • How the Challenges of St. Julie’s Times Resonate with Ours Today
  • Educating for Life in the Current Global Situation
  • Energizing New and Re-energizing Veteran Staff in Living the Mission.

iPhone Image EBF42These sessions centered on the importance of insuring that administrators, faculty and staff in our Notre Dame schools resonate with the dynamism of our Charism.

On October 2-3, 2017, Notre Dame schools in the United Kingdom held a conference entitled “The best is still to come,” in Wrightington, England.  Bringing together head-teachers, colleagues and Sisters, the conference reaffirmed for these educators a holistic approach in educating the whole person and preparing students for what they need for life.  This annual meeting opened doors to newness in a future for Notre Dame education in the 21st century.

On October 16, 2017, in Namur, Belgium, the Association des Ecoles Notre Dame (Association of Notre Dame Schools) organized and directed a formation meeting for new directors, teachers and staff in the Notre Dame Schools in Belgium.  Following input sessions and discussions on the charism and educational goals of St. Julie Billiart, these educators toured the Heritage Centre. For the purpose of networking with the schools in Belgium and around the ND world, the participants were delighted to receive a long list of our Notre Dame schools on five continents.

The planning is in process for an International Meeting: Networking FOR MISSION III, scheduled for July 25-28, 2018 to be held in the USA at Emmanuel College, 400 The Fenway, Boston, MA 02115. This Conference is open to “those who minister, with, for, on behalf of or under the name of the Sisters of Notre Dame de Namur or St. Julie Billiart.” **

The opportunity to connect with other professionals strengthens the ties among the schools and health centers founded by the Sisters and still carrying the Notre Dame name deep into the twenty-first century.

** For further information, please go to or contact Sr. Maria Delaney, SNDdeN ( or Sr. Rita Sturwold (

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Reprinted from Good Works, Volume 13, No. 2, November 2017.

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.)

Prision Ministry in South Carolina, USA

By Sr. Christina Murphy, SNDdeN

Sr. Christina Murphy, SNDdeN works with another parish minister at the Conference.

When I first began my ministry in 2004 at Our Lady of the Hills Parish in Columbia, South Carolina (SC), I never expected to be involved in Prison Ministry. In my first meeting with the pastor, he told me about the large number of the correctional institutions located within our parish boundaries, even though such boundaries in SC are loosely acknowledged and configured. He asked me to become involved in this critical area of parish life, since no one was visiting the women’s correctional institutions. Once I completed all the paperwork, background screening and orientation, I began this new and challenging ministry.

Correctional Institutions
In South Carolina, there are 22 correctional institutions which do not include the detention centers, jails, 4 federal correctional institutions and the Department of Juvenile Justice. These institutions have three levels: Level 3 for high maximum security, Level 2 for medium security and Level 1 for minimum security or work camp. When I began my service in prison ministry, there were two women’s prisons in Columbia, SC, one maximum and the other minimum security. In July 2016, the minimum security prison was changed to a men’s facility and the women were moved over to the maximum security facility.

From the beginning, I recognized that God was present in this new venture. I made an immediate connection with the women who attended our Catholic services. These inmates were both Catholic and non-Catholic. All who came seemed to crave a spiritual
connection and wanted to hear the Word of God, in listening to Scripture. For some, this was the first time since early childhood that someone had spoken to them of God and God’s love for them. I remember the first time in teaching these women that each of us is
created in the image and likeness of God and that each time someone looks at one of them or they look at another person, individuals can see a little bit of the face of God. So touched to the heart by this concept of being persons who are reflections of God, some of the women even wept at this thought! I knew then that this prison ministry was a call to me for further transformation.

Parish Involvement
As the ministry has grown, more involvement and activities became possible. Eventually two additional women joined me each week in visiting the facilities. Now, a diocesan priest visits the correctional institutions across the state and celebrates a Eucharistic liturgy once a month. He also provides the Sacrament of Reconciliation when requested. Each Christmas Eve, our bishop goes to one correctional institution in the state to celebrate Mass with the inmates. We take to the prison a meal at Christmas time after each item has been approved by the warden. We bring the women hygiene items, such
as toothpaste, shampoo, body wash lotion, etc. Again, the size and type of items is determined by the Department of Corrections.

We are able to provide these items from generous parish members and through a fund from the Sisters of Notre Dame de Namur. According to a statistics report in 2016, there are about 20,000 inmates in these 22 institutions. The state spends $49.50 per day for food, housing and personal care of the inmates. Of the 22 institutions, 2 are for women and 20 for men. Nothing is free in prison. The inmates have to pay fees for medical visits and hygiene items: they do this through a special account, a personal account in which inmates keep any money sent by family or friends. It is much like a “mail in bank.” If the person has no outside financial help, the inmate is listed on the indigent list. Due to budget cuts, there are not many educational opportunities in these penal institutions, and especially not for women. The men in some institutions are able to learn horticulture and make furniture. The needs of prisoners, both women and men often go unseen.

In June 2017, we held the first state wide Prison Ministry Conference, so well attended that we had to close off the registrations. From this Conference we are developing a Diocesan Plan. We are meeting with people who volunteered to be on Advisory Boards, to work on committees, such as programs for Volunteer Training, Re-entry Programs for ex-offenders, Victim Assistance etc. We are planning for an Office of Prison Ministry in our diocese to help oversee all volunteer services in these correctional institutions.

Necessary Work of Mercy
So much is still needed for all persons who are imprisoned, especially for volunteers who are willing to step forward and give their time, talent and even expertise to the imprisoned. As ministers in prisons, we recognize the necessity for programs to support persons who serve their terms and are released back into society. They need mentors,
jobs, places to live, transportation, supportive people in their lives, and most definitely, a Church which accepts and challenges them to be the persons that God created them to be. Prayer with and for prisoners and for those whose circumstances in life has led them to crime is another work of mercy for all Christians and believers in our good God.

One day when I was leaving one women’s institution, I saw a pencil sketched picture on the wall. The picture was titled: Forgotten Faces. It showed three faces, all women, looking out from behind bars. It caused me to wonder:

• What faces have we forgotten that once were so present to us?
• Family members, friends, those who have passed away—faces we thought we would never forget.
• What about our own face? Have we forgotten where the laugh lines,the worry lines have come from? The ever-aging process?
• What faces do we see today when we look in a mirror or see someone on the street?
• Who do we see in those faces? Do we take the time to see the face of a child of God, hidden behind whatever face is presented to us?

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Reprinted from Good Works, Volume 13, No. 2, November 2017.

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.)

Sisters of Notre Dame de Namur | Congregational Mission Office | 30 Jeffreys Neck Road | Ipswich, MA 01938

Dorothy Lives!

By Sr. Judith Clemens, SNDdeN

Picture11In the twelve years since February 12, 2005, when Sister Dorothy Stang, SNDdeN was killed in the Amazon in Anapu, Brazil, the Sisters of Notre Dame de Namur (SND deN) and many organizations and projects around the world keep her memoryand her mission alive. On May 27, 2017, on a bright Saturday afternoon, a parish in Hamilton, Ohio dedicated and blessed Dorothy Stang House in a newly renovatedparish home. St. Julie Billiart Parish welcomed eight Sisters, from the
Ohio SNDdeN Province to the celebration of a Eucharistic Liturgy and this dedication. The Sisters presented a framed poster of Sister Dorothy to be hung in “Dot’s House.”

Ministry for Families St. Julie Parish participates in a program called Family Promise, in collaboration with two other Catholic parishes, eleven support churches and a mosque. This program in Butler County, Ohio seeks to provide temporary resources for homeless families, especially women and children, with a primary goal of finding permanent housing and full time employment for each family. The churches and the mosque welcome the families for a week at a time. These families face many challenges following strict guidelines and rigid schedules while in the program. Depending on daily schedules, the guests leave by 6:30 a.m. for their work or other activities.

Picture1With the involvement of more than ninety volunteers, a supportive church staff, and the generous service of an entire pastoral region, many renovations and extended cleaning have made Dot’s House a wonderful residence for hosting homeless guests. Guests appreciate the cleanliness and being able to sleep in real beds with beautiful quilts. One parishioner, Theresa Murphy, makes and donates creative and colorful quilts for all the beds which each family takes when they leave. Over the 2017 Memorial Day weekend, St. Julie Parish hosted five families, who would have been living in their cars or on the streets without this residential program.

At the celebration, Sr. Judith Clemens expressed appreciation for theSN DdeN community, to all involved: One of Dorothy’s great gifts wasto be at home wherever she was welcomed… I know she is thrilled to be remembered in the naming of this Dorothy Stang House where homeless families are welcomed.

As daughters of St. Julie Billiart, we are so grateful to you for offering this sign of hospitality. Your choice to name this home in Dorothy’s memory opens both doors and windows into the souls of many people. We lift up the lives of all who made the renovation of this lovely dwelling possible, all who have ever lived here and those who greeted them with a smile. Dorothy is smiling with us today. We believe that all goodness shared, somehow permeates our world, so everywelcome, particularly to women and children in need, makes thishome a holy dwelling.

Dorothy lives in the people!

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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.


STUDY: International Sisters in United States

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Sr. Mary Johnson, SNDdeN

For three years, beginning in 2014, Trinity Washington University (Trinity) in Washington D.C and the Center for Applied Research in the Apostolate (CARA) at Georgetown University collaborated in a Study of International Sisters in the United States. Sr. Mary Johnson, SNDdeN, Professor of Sociology and Religious Studies at Trinity, with her colleagues in this study, Dr. Mary L. Gautier, Sr. Patricia Wittberg, SC, Sr. Thu T. Do, LHC acknowledge with gratitude the support of GHR Foundation for this project.

By Sister Mary Johnson, SNDdeN

In this study, we define an international Sister as “a woman religious who was born outside the United States and is now living in the United States, in ministry, or study or residence.”

At a time of great trial for immigrants to this country, we conducted the first-ever national survey of Sisters who were born outside the United States. We used multiple methods to find as many Sisters as possible by contacting the leaders of every apostolic, monastic, and contemplative institute of women in the United States, along with the vicar of religious of every diocese. (Only 18 dioceses reported no international Sisters.) Through these methods and using various other contacts with Sisters and groups, we identified and surveyed in this country over 4,000 international Sisters from 83 countries and 6 continents. Several Sisters of Notre Dame de Namur are included. The survey was translated into English, French, Spanish and Vietnamese. We had help with the other languages. In addition, we conducted 26 focus and individual interviews across the county.

Here are just a few demographic findings from the survey:

Continent of Origin of the Sisters (with largest sending continent first)

• Asia
• Europe (older international sisters are from western Europe, younger are from eastern Europe)
• North America (Canada and Mexico)
• Central and South America
• Africa
• Oceania

Reasons for Entering the US

39% were sent by their Congregations for ministry
28% arrived as children, teens, adults, before entering religious Congregations
13% were sent by their Congregations for study
10% were sent by Congregations as part of their formation programs
6% transferred from provinces outside US to US provinces in their Congregations
2% transferred to a Congregation in the US from another Congregation outside  the US
2% came to enter religious life in US

Demographics related to age and arrival

The average age of international Sisters is 58, which is 20 years younger than the average age of US born Sisters
On average, they entered religious life at age 23, and came to the US at age 30
Forty-one percent have been in the US for 15 years or less

Ethnic/Racial Background (self-identification)

35 % Asian/Pacific Islander
33 % European/Canadian/Australian
21 % Latin American/Mexican
11 % African/Afro-Caribbean

Current Ministries

The largest percentage of international Sisters serve in parish/diocesan/ethnic group ministry, healthcare, and education.

14 % are students in college or a school of theology.
13 % serve in congregational/vocation/formation ministry. Some of these Sisters are in Congregations that have just opened a new mission in the U.S. The mission of some of these is to evangelize.
9 % serve in social services.
5 % are contemplative nuns in monasteries all over the U.S.
1 % serve in campus ministry.

Needs identified by these Sisters:

♦  Language training to attain fluency in English.
♦  Mentoring so that Sisters are accompanied as they navigate complex situations of ministry, community, Church and society.
♦  Acculturation processes for the sending and receiving groups.
♦  New initiatives on the part of US based Congregations to reach out to international Sisters in order to increase their sense of belonging and to build solidarity.

Listed above are just a few findings. Many more findings, plus analysis and recommendations, will be provided in a forthcoming book to be published next year. In the meantime, there has been keen interest in this study, especially at a gathering of leaders of national Catholic organizations in Washington, D.C. in March, 2017 and a session sponsored by the International Union of Superiors General (UISG) in Rome in May, 2017.

Also, my colleagues and I were grateful when Sr. Mary Pellegrino, CSJ, mentioned the significance of the study to the leaders assembled in Orlando, Florida in August 2017, in her Presidential Address to the Leadership Conference of Women Religious (LCWR).

It is the hope of our research team that the findings of this study will shed further light on the experiences and gifts of those who migrate to this country. We hope that it will be a useful tool for those who are interested in issues of immigration and particularily the gifts and challenges of those women religious who were born outside this country and who minister in the United States.


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Japanese Sisters Contribute to Peace

by Sister Masako Miyake, SNDdeN

“To remember Hiroshima is to commit oneself to peace.” – Pope John Paul II

In Japan, the ministries of Sisters of Notre Dame de Namur (SNDdeN) are now mostly in the Hiroshima Diocese. In 1981, during a visit to Hiroshima as a pilgrim, Pope John Paul II gave his impressive Appeal for Peace to the world. Collaborating with the Church in Japan, Sisters of Notre Dame are challenged to be peacemakers.

Sr. Toshie Nakashima engages students in a reflection on St. Julie Billiart’s spirit of peace-making.

With our co-workers, we are educating young people to be peacemakers. Although most of our students and staff are not Catholics or Christians, in all Notre Dame schools, we do have religious education classes, pray together, study the Gospel and the spirit of our foundress, St. Julie Billiart. Peace study is an essential part of religious education in our schools. We teach and encourage students to be peacemakers. In 1950, with the prayer for peace, Japanese and American Sisters opened Notre Dame Seishin Junior and Senior HighSchool (NDSH) in Hiroshima. Today, this school has a six-year program of peace studies.

A-Symbol-of-PeaceSenbazuru ~ Symbol of Peace
Students have opportunities to hear experiences of the atom bomb from graduates; Sr. Agnes Hirota, SNDdeN is among these witnesses. All students visit the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Park “to remember Hiroshima.” Before their visit, they prayerfully make paper cranes. After sustaining serious injuries from the atom bomb, a girl named Sadako, as a prayer for her recovery, made 1,000 paper cranes (Senbazuru) before she died at age 12. Since then, other young people fulfill her desire and continue this practice with paper cranes which

Students bring peace cranes to the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Park.

have become a symbol of peace. Every year, more than ten million Senbazuru are offered to the Peace Park. Students in our school join the Recycling Project of Senbazuru by creating mosaic arts with messages for peace and send them to Catholic Schools in Korea and the Philippines; to our Heritage Centre in Namur, Belgium as well as to a Junior High School in the Japan Disaster Zone.

Challenge from the Disaster Zone
On March 11, 2011, the Great Eastern Earthquake and tsunami devastated Japan with many deaths and heavy immediate and long-term economic and environmental damage. Official records list 15,882 deaths; 2,668 people are missing and 315,196 people are still taking refuge after two years. The tsunami caused destruction to the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant, and released wide-spread radioactivity that has become a severe health hazard. Even now, the 100,000 people, evacuated from this area, live in fear and anxiety. People worry about the effects of radiation on their children.

On the street cars and stations everywhere, Sr. Miriam Miyazaki proclaims her message on a peper-bag: “Good-bye, Nuclear Plant!”

After World War II, Japan chose The Peace Constitution and economic development instead of strong military power. The choice resulted from an earnest desire never to send Japanese children to the battle field nor allow the children ever to starve again. Eventually, the priority for this goal changed to profitability and efficiency, strengthened by the progression of Globalism. With these trends, national policies promote more nuclear power plants, even though scientists predict new disasters, due to other earthquakes or tsunamis.

All 50 functioning nuclear reactors in Japan, with some on the active fault, are at risk for more horrific accidents. Without a more secure environment, the people doubt survival for the next generation.

SNDdeN Collaborate with the Church
As Catholics, we are only 0.3% of the whole population. Yet, in 16 dioceses in Japan, we are united and challenged to respond to the call from the Disaster Zone. The Sendai Diocese (three disaster prefectures) organized the Support Center for victims and formed 9 bases. All dioceses send volunteers and raise money for the Support Center. Caritas Japan supports the Center financially. All Catholics, including bishops, priests, religious and lay people are serving together and sharing resources. At first, the Leadership Conference of Women Religious Sisters sponsored a “Sisters’ Relay” to have Sisters from each Congregation join the volunteers for one week or more at the Support Center. During the second year, the women religious had a relay of prayer. Many Catholic schools collected donations and sent the students as volunteers. The Catholic Bishops’ Conference of Japan proclaimed: “Abolish Nuclear Plants Immediately.” Many dioceses encouraged parishes to study more about nuclear power.

Sr. Johanna Saiko Nakamura accoumpnied 10 high school students from Hiroshima to the Catholic Support Center in the Disaster Zone for assistance with the clean-up from the earthquake and tsunami.

To help victims of natural and nuclear disasters and to change our own life styles are constant challenges. Sisters in Japan are responding to the call. Each community decided on concrete targets in daily life to save electricity and live more simply. We sent Sister Mitsuko Shoji to the Sendai Support Center as a runner of Sisters’ Relay for a month and other Sisters joined with her in prayer. Notre Dame schools also sent volunteers. Sister Johanna Saiko Nakamura joined with ten students last summer in efforts to remove the debris. These experiences help the students to think about their own lives now and in the future.

Young people, as peace-makers of the satellite parish Higashi Hiroshima, and Sr. Masako Miyake, SNDdeN welcome the new Bishop of the Hiroshima Diocese, Bishop Manyo Maeda.

Sisters in Higashi Hiroshima belong to a satellite Parish Church. At a gathering to understand more about the plight of the victims, a graduate of our school described her work mostly for children. The local welfare commissioner, responsible for taking care of the families from the Disaster Zone, shared her experiences. All attending the meeting, Christians, Buddhists and other denominations prayed the Rosary together. At the opening of the Year of Faith, the Bishops pointed out the current social situation in Japan. They asked Japanese Catholics to “share ideas with each other, and search for measures and expressions for New Evangelization with people inside and outside of the Church, while listening to the voices of suffering people.”


From: Good Works, August 2013. Visit our Good Works Archive and download a copy.

In 2014, SNDdeN will celebrate the 90th anniversary of our Mission in Japan. We hope to listen more to the voices of our people and collaborate with the Church as peacemakers.

A Success Story in Medical Centre

By Sister Rose Ndianefo, SNDdeN

“You really saved my life!”

Bello, a mother of four children nearly died as a result of gastroenteritis. She was rushed to our hospital at 2:00 a.m. on that painful day with a case of stooling and vomiting. She had been sick for about four days. On her arrival, she looked very weak, dehydrated with sunken eyes, dry mouth and skin. She was barely able to talk, because of her general state of weakness. According to her husband, she had been using a lot of herbs, but to no good effect. When her husband saw that her condition worsened, and Bello was almost at the point of death, he decided to bring her to our hospital. He was panicking, as he said, “I am afraid that she may not make it, if I wait till daybreak, and I do not have any money to care for her.” When he was asked why he did not bring her to the hospital sooner, or why he waited so long, he repeated that he had no money.

Sr.-Rose-and-Bello-450px-webAt Notre Dame Medical Centre in Amoyo, Nigeria, we admitted Bello into the female ward; she underwent a medical assessment and her treatment began. The laboratory investigations revealed not only gastroenteritis, but also typhoid and malaria. Hospitalized for five days, with multiple medications and treatments, she got better eventually. When she was discharged to go home, her husband was not able to pay even a penny for the highly subsidized costs of the drugs and laboratory tests.

sign-board-Amoyo-300px-webThis grateful woman certainly appreciated all our care. Thanking the Sisters and members of staff, she said: “You really saved my life.” She told us that she knew about the care and special treatment at our Medical Centre; she realized too that we would give her the treatment, even though she and her husband did not have any money. Her husband confessed that when his neighbors told him to take his wife to another hospital in the town; he refused by telling them that no hospital would care for his wife if he did not have any funds. Only Notre Dame Medical Centre would help them.

Sr. Rose Ndianefo, SNDdeN (left) assists the doctor in this serious surgical procedure.

Multiple Services for Limited Staff
The Centre is open 24 hours for emergency care; it offers multiple services, including many normal deliveries and some Caesarians, ante-natal care, nutritional counselling for mothers with new babies, treatments for hypertension, diabetes, gastro-intestinal problems and various diseases (hepatatis B, malaria, typhoid,etc.) and necessary immunizations/vaccinations. Sisters Rose Ndianefo and Mary Bernadette Eboh, SNDdeN serve as staff nurses and midwives who work with one doctor, a laboratory technician, two nurses aids and two health care workers. Three persons assist with maintenance and security. Sister Antonia Uwakwe, SNDdeN is a community health worker for the Medical Centre. All staff members aim to give quality care, in a cost-effective service to the people; we offer sessions on preventative health care and child welfare. Last year, even with 100 new patients and 284 returning patients, we began a program for orphans and vulnerable children. At times, even with limited resources, our medical staff extends to home care for the elderly and to two outreach clinics, including a mobile clinic.

Sr. Rose Ndianefo, SNDdeN gives a hepititis B injection to a patient, a clinician prepares the documents and Sr. Antonia Uwakwe, SNDdeN prepares the next injections.

People have hope when they come to our Centre for medical care. The Notre Dame spirit is alive and active, with St. Julie’s option for those living in poverty and for the sick in an under-served community. The people in Amoyo recognize God’s goodness in this health care ministry of the Sisters of Notre Dame de Namur. In September 2014, I was missioned to the Medical Centre, a special kind of place where our Sisters are called to work. This is an area where the people hardly eat two times in a day. They cannot afford medical care either and often, they rely only on herbal medicine for cures.

Sr. Mary Bernadette Eboh, SNDdeN prepares a group of expectant mothers for childbirth.

In our Centre, we have a policy not to send anybody away just because she/he does not have money at hand. Of course, our policy results in outstanding debt, with challenges to search for funding through grants, sponsorships and fund-raising efforts.

We continue to network with other hospitals/clinics, churches and organizations. We do what we can to alleviate pain and suffering for underprivileged patients, living in poor situations, as they testify continuously. Bello’s story shows that we give the people some hope for getting well in Amoyo, and we will continue to bring the good news in our good works for those in need in Nigeria.

Please show your support for saving lives by funding medications, necessary treatments, and preventative care.

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Educational Vision Crosses Cultures

By Sisters Masako Miyake and Carol Shoup, SNDdeN

St. Julie envisioned the educational mission of the Sisters of Notre Dame de Namur to extend worldwide. That vision has unfolded in various ways into the 21st century. One expression of Julie’s early vision is the networking of “Sister Schools” internationally.

Exchange Students
Notre Dame Seishin* Girls’ Junior and Senior High School (NDS) in the city of Kurashiki, in the Okayama Prefecture, Japan, and Notre Dame High School in San Jose (NDSJ), California, U.S.A. are “Sister Schools” and even across a wide and deep ocean, relationships keep building. (Seishin = Immaculate Heart)

One student and Amy Huang, (back row-left) Director of the Exchange Program at Notre Dame, San Jose, welcome 12 Japanese students and their teacher, Ms. Kazumi Yamamoto (far right) outside of the school.

Every year young women from both schools have the opportunity to share their unique academic programs, cultures, and learning environments as exchange students. This year, Ms. Amy Huang, Director (NDSJ), organized the many details of the Student Exchange Program. On March 18, Amy and host families welcomed 12 Japanese students, their teacher, Ms. Kazumi Yamamoto, and their Principal, Sister Masako Miyake SNDdeN for two weeks of academic and social sharing.

The first week began with a welcome breakfast and campus tour, including a history of the City of San Jose given by Social Studies teacher Mr. Jim Floyd. Shadowing their host IMG_9680-web600pxstudents to classes during the school week, our visitors experienced spotlights in classes in Global Studies Honors, Advanced Spanish Culture and Conversation, and in Biology Honors Class, where they examined and identified hominid skull casts. Then, hosted by Notre Dame Alumnae, they visited and toured Stanford University and Intel Corporation, for glimpses of higher education and innovation in America.

Highlights of Two Weeks

In the gym at NDSJ, Ms. Kazumi Yamamoto and the students from Kurashiki, Japan, share the love of St. Julie Billiart and her mission.

Our new friends enjoyed highlights of the Woman’s Place Project, by the Ninth Grade class, who honor in original table settings, 163 women of history, as well as the Young Woman Advocacy Summit, presentations by the Seniors’ of their yearly service projects on issues of justice and peace. At the end of the first week, our exchange students delighted in a downtown culture walk, a visit and tour of City Hall and the office of International Affairs.

After a weekend with host families and friends, the Japanese students were happy to see their Principal, Sister Masako Miyake, who came for the last week of the program, and curious and eager to explore a sister ND school and capture as much as possible on her camera. The students shared with Sr. Masako their visit to San Jose’s historic Japan town and Yu-Ai Kai, a Japanese-American senior center.

The students share with Sr. Masako their visit to San Jose’s historic Japan town and Yu-Ai-Kai, a Japanese American senior center.

The girls delighted the senior citizens with Japanese songs and stories and enjoyed lunch before returning to school. During the next two days, the group toured San Francisco, with so many sights, from the cable cars and Fisherman’s Wharf to Alcatraz and the Golden Gate.

Deepened Relationships
Reflection time and discussion were interspersed over the course of the two weeks, for increased understanding and deepening of relationships. The exchange program concluded in a Farewell Party, with certificates for completion awarded to our Japanese students. There were dances and expressions of appreciation, among laughter, smiles, and tears. ND Seishin school gifted to their Sister School some beautifully decorated wooden plates. In return, NDSJ presented our Notre Dame Seishin school with a clock, engraved with a customized quote, “Time does not take away from friendship…”
(Tennessee Williams).

At the airport, NDSJ students, teachers and some parents say “good-bye” to Japanese students, Ms. Kazumi Yamamoto and Sr. Masako Miyake, SNDdeN.

Thankful for their presence in our school community, teachers and students from NDSJ said farewell to these special young women, their teacher and principal from ND Seishin. Now, both schools begin to plan for ND San Jose students to visit ND Seishin, Kurashiki during the summer of 2018 in order to expand their vision of a Notre Dame Sister School and the culture and beauty of the “Land of the Rising Sun.”

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