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Catholic Faith Corner

Living in the Light
of Jesus Christ

US SNDs’ July 4 Anniversary

Art by Sister Maresa Lilley, SND

The first Sisters of Notre Dame came to the United States 150 years ago on July 4. They were greeted with New York fireworks. The government in Germany had been closing their ministries, so their future in that country was bleak. The eight Sisters were exiles who were willing to be missionaries in the United States. They learned English and endured two weeks of seasickness as they crossed the Atlantic. A day after landing in New York, they took a train to Cleveland. There they moved into St. Peter Convent. Our foundress, Sister Mary Aloysia, was one of them. At age 46, she was the oldest pioneer.

To celebrate this momentous occasion, this year on July 4 we US Sisters had a grand all-day party. It began with a traditional breakfast: egg custard and gritzie (barley and pork). Both dishes are my favorites.

We gathered in the main dining room for an opening prayer service. Then we held a Zoom meeting uniting SNDs in the USA, Germany, and Rome, where our motherhouse is located. During this meeting, Sisters were gathered in our four US regions (Chardon, Toledo, California, Covington), and each group presented a talk and a song. The Sisters in Germany responded. Previously we had sent them individual letters thanking them for coming to the USA. We all enjoyed waving to one another.

A Mass in Chardon followed, beginning with a choir alternating with the congregation singing “Heritage Hymn” accompanied by a little orchestra. This song composed by our Sisters gave an overview of who we are and what we are about.

For dinner we feasted on chicken, ribs, macaroni salad, carrots, cookies and fruit. Door prizes (dozens of them) were awarded throughout the day. My contribution was a coupon for my upcoming book, Cherished by Jesus: A Daily Devotional for Women, hopefully published this November. Sr. Margaret Ann won it.

Sister Mary Aloysia, SND, our foundress

On each table were papers for a game testing our knowledge of SND history. Key Sisters and buildings from the Chardon province’s past were listed.  We were challenged to match the description of each one. Then even more interesting:  Large photos of these Sisters and buildings were posted on the walls of our Health Care Center, its five halls. We were to match the photos with the descriptions on the paper.

Notre Dame Academy on Ansel Rd., once the provincial house and my high school

There was also a word search and the opportunity to play bocci ball or cornhole in the afternoon for those brave enough to venture outside in the heat.

Although there was heavy rain in the early morning, the skies cleared for a special activity. For days a chart was displayed with the names of the almost 500 Sisters buried in our cemetery. We could sign up to place a carnation on their headstone.  So this afternoon we paraded out to the cemetery in the hot, humid air, picked up a flower from the vase at the end of the row, and set it on the chosen Sister’s grave.

Photo by Sister Brendon Zajac, SND

For a 3:00 snack we made our own strawberry shortcake on cake baked by our superb bakers and helped ourselves to soft serve ice cream from our new machine. Supper was a German meal of bratwurst and German potatoes. This was followed by singing songs from our formation days, like “Never Give Up” and “This Is My Father’s World.” We also sang a clever, many-versed song written by one of our Sisters long ago: “Where in the World but Here in Notre Dame.” Its last line is “Where in the world but here in Notre Dame can you come so close to God?”

We ended the day by praying Compline together.

The plan called for gathering around our fire pit for s’mores in the evening, but we all agreed we couldn’t eat anything more, so that activity was postponed.

Dave, one of our maintenance men, did research to find a long-lasting tree as a reminder of this day. It is now planted in our courtyard and marked with a red ribbon.

Commemorative tree with red ribbon, photo by Sister Brendon

Now we look forward to celebrating the 175th anniversary of our founding next year!

• Have you attended an institution staffed by the Sisters of Notre Dame?

3 Responses

  1. I enjoyed reading about the 8 Sisters of Notre Dame arrival in New York, and about your celebration 150 years later. It sounds like it was a festive day! I was taught by Sisters of Notre Dame for 8 years at St. Rose of Lima School in Maywood, California (1956 – 1964), and am grateful for that time.
    I would like to know more about Sister Mary Aloysia, SND so am hopeful you will write about her on your blog
    Blessings to you 🙏

    1. Glad to meet you, Kathy! Let’s see what I can do about providing a blog on Sister Mary Aloysia. Blessings back to you!

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Jesus depends on us to spread the Good News of God’s love, offering the world hope and joy. Mary Kathleen, a Sister of Notre Dame from Chardon, Ohio, responds through writing, speaking, giving retreats, and teaching. Her motto, adopted from Eddie Doherty’s gravesite, is “All my words for the Word.”

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