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Our History

Though its roots lie deep in the past, the congregation traces its actual beginnings to October 24, 1833, when Caroline Gerhardinger and two other women began a common religious life in Neunburg vorm Wald, Bavaria. Their action was inspired by an apostolic spirituality destined to shape their own lives and profoundly affect those of many others.

The structure of her congregation flowed from her perception of the needs of those she served, as well as those of her sisters. By sending sisters in two's and three's to reach people in rural areas, she departed from the contemporary pattern of large, formal monasteries. In order to maintain a common spirit, direction and goal among the sisters, among the branch houses, and later among the provinces, she insisted on a unifying central government in her congregation. In contrast to established precedents and the prevailing spirit of the times, she was convinced that a woman could better understand and, therefore, direct and motivate her sisters.

Appreciated and supported by hierarchy and laity, the congregation spread from Bavaria to eleven countries of Europe and North America. At the time of Mother Theresa's death in 1879, more than 2,500 School Sisters of Notre Dame were living religious life according to her spirit. They met the needs of their time by educating girls, principally in elementary schools but also in orphanages, day nurseries, and industrial schools. They trained future teachers and pioneered in the development of kindergartens. For girls who were factory workers, they established homes and provided night schools where these girls could receive basic education.

In 1871 the School Sisters of Notre Dame first arrived in Canada. Father Eugene Funcken, CR petitioned for Sisters to staff the orphanage he had founded in Saint Agatha, Ontario. In 1927 a Canadian Motherhouse was built in Waterdown, Ontario.

The Pioneers
of the Canadian Province
Today, the Canadian Province of the School Sisters of Notre Dame is present internationally. We have 202 sisters in mission throughout the world, including Africa, England, Italy, and Peru. In Canada we have Sisters in British Columbia, Saskatchewan, Alberta, Ontario and the NWT. The Sisters continue to minister and live in the spirit of Mother Theresa - educating women, children and the poor in every sense of the word.

 We struggle in solidarity for justice and a global community