Cleansing Fire

Defending Truth and Tradition in the Roman Catholic Church


School Sisters of Notre Dame

August 21st, 2009, Promulgated by Choir

The School Sisters of Notre Dame (SSND)have been in the Rochester diocese for over 150 years. Actually their incorporated name is the “Poor School Sisters of Notre Dame” but years ago they dropped the “Poor” because it was thought their teaching might have been worth somewhat less because of the word “Poor”. Official documents still use the “Poor”.

In 1833, Blessed Theresa of Jesus Gerhardinger founded the order.

Mother Theresa Gerhardinger brought five School Sisters of Notre Dame (SSND) from Bavaria to America in 1847 to educate German immigrant children.

The SSNDs originally taught only in parishes with German congregation. In Rochester that would have been Holy Redeemer, Holy Family, St. Michael’s, St. Joseph’s, St. Boniface, SS Peter and Paul (my church as a boy. I was taught by SSNDs), Holy Ghost in Coldwater and Sacred Heart in Perkinsville (this was a short lived assignment).

They were absolutely the best teachers. Each day, school began with Mass
at 8 a.m. Then after walking (single-file) over to school we hung our coats up in the “cloak room”, we began our daily studies with one hour of religion. They knew it was their mission to get souls to heaven. I was lucky because I was an altar boy so I got a chance to serve funeral (Requiem) Masses every so often.

In later years, they opened Bishop Kearney High School and went to both St. Margaret Mary’s and St. Philip Neri to teach grade school. Today I think there is one nun left at Bishop Kearney and some tutor at the Notre Dame Learning Center on the west-side of Rochester. There are a few in parishes within the Rochester area.

Until about 1957, all the Rochester SSNDs were under the Balitmore Province. In 1957, the order had grown so large that the powers-to-be decided to split the province in two. Baltimore would still be its own province and the new province would be in Wilton, Ct. The nuns were given the option to stay with Baltimore or join Wilton. The new motherhouse opened in the very early 60s, right before the Second Vatican Council.

They wore a very traditional habit until 1963 when they went to a modified habit, which isn’t bad considering how few nuns (except the newer orders) wear habits. Today they are very, very left of center.

I’m sure there were some nuns who were too strict. That happens and it’s wrong. But all the nuns I had were just fine, holy and devoted woman. I never had a problem with them, then again I wasn’t a trouble maker (I just asked too many questions). That was brought up to my parents when the nuns had a twice a year open house for the parents. “Your son is very inquisitive and asks many good questions. Does he do this at home?”, asked Sister Meinulpha. “Oh, yes”, my parents replied in unison.

Guess which nun that is standing in the photo above is going to be principal this year? Rich Leonardi from Ten Reasons wrote an excellent story that mention the SSND when Rich’s Dad went to Saint Peter and Paul’s. It’s on Catholic Exchange. If I knew how to put a link in here, I would have. Sorry. The nuns didn’t teach me anything about computers or links. hahaha



11 Responses to “School Sisters of Notre Dame”

  1. avatar Dr. K says:

    Those habits in the 3rd picture look like they are very effective at keeping the sun out of ones eyes.

    ~Dr. K

  2. Yea, but with all that black, they were hot. But the sisters said that they "offered it up". In the really warm mission climates, the dress in an all white habit. They were allowed to take off the veil and headgear in the convent to keep cool. I remember when they went to the modified habit. When we left school on Friday they said that on Monday they would have a new habit on. So Monday morning comes, it's about 10 minutes before Mass starts. The church door opens and 12 nuns file in church with a totally modified habit. All kids' eyes were on them. The general consensus was they kids DID NOT like the new habits. Some cried. The nuns were very consoling and said that well most nuns didn't want to change the habit, they did it out of obedience to their superiors. The kids still cried. I was shocked at the habit and totally did not like it absolutely one bit. The kids attention span that day was short. So the nuns let us ask our questions. Bad move for me. It was quite an experience.

  3. OH yeah. The nuns who drove the car got to take out the starchy side part of the veil in order to have been highway vision.

  4. avatar Jess says:

    I love that first picture. Too often the stereotypical nun is stern, unforgiving, or even abusive. I love to see pictures of merry, joy-filled nuns who truly express happiness in their vocation.

    I don't mean to say that all nuns everywhere should always be dancing or laughing, but I've seen the joy in many nuns' faces even in seriousness and it saddens me that so many don't (or refuse to).

  5. avatar Anonymous says:

    That is so true, Jess. There are very many joyful nuns out there overflowing with the Spirit. So often we get a negative image of the religious orders because a couple of individuals (e.g Sr. Joan and Sr. Binsack) like to push the limits of Church law and make themselves known. Despite these individuals, there are many good, holy, and happy nuns out there offering their service to God and the poor.

  6. avatar Mike says:

    Links are easy.

    First, go to the page to which you want to link and grab its URL by highlighting it and then doing a right click/copy.

    Go back to the blog editor and highlight the text that will hold the link.

    At the top of the editor mouse over the little buttons until you find the one that says LINK and click on it. A dialog box will pop up.

    In the dialog box put your cursor over the "http:/" and do a right click/paste.

    That's it.

  7. Jess. Good points, especially the
    "stereotypical nun is stern, unforgiving, or even abusive".

    I think Catholics of a certain age have bought into the "nuns-were-mean-to-me". It's all part of "look at me I'm a victim" mentality. Truth be known, we probably deserved it.

    No doubt there were some nuns we went overboard. They should have been dealt with accordingly. Today you just look at a kid wrong, and they complain to the principal. I also saw the nuns as kind, firm, strict, understanding, patient and holy. If you were to say to a kid today, "virtue is its own reward", I'll betcha they wouldn't have the foggiest idea of what you were talking about.

    We, as the Catholic Church in America, lost more than we could have ever imagine when the Catholic school system caved into Modernism after the Vatican II. Due to strictly teaching the faith, we had at least a somewhat well formed conscience. I honestly don't see that with a lot of kids now.

    The Catholic Church truly did, indeed, build Western Civilization.

  8. avatar Anonymous says:

    The tales of the nun with the "ruler of discipline" are often grossly exaggerated. I knew many good nuns in my Catholic education. There was the occasional grumpy sister, but most were very kind, and orthodox in faith. Now we're left with but a few, and many of these are heterodox.

  9. The tales of the nun with the "ruler of discipline" are often grossly exaggerated.

    To paraphrase Antony Esolen, it's one-tenth truth, nine-tenths calumny.

  10. avatar Sister Emily says:

    When I was very young and not catholic, someone told me Nuns could read minds, so I stayed clear. Now I have become friends with some.

  11. avatar Sister Emily says:

    test sorry

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