The Early Days of Our Congregation
Hilligonde Wolbring founded the Sisters of Notre Dame of Coesfeld, Germany in 1850. Hilligonde lovingly embraced all of her students, but especially those who were poor or disadvantaged. She and her companion teacher, Elisabeth Kühling, experienced God’s goodness and provident care, and were impelled to pass it on to others. Gradually the young women discerned that their attraction to service was a call to religious life. Under the guidance of the Sisters of Notre Dame of Amersfoort in the Netherlands, they established a new religious family based on the spiritual heritage of St. Julie Billiart, foundress of the Sisters of Notre Dame de Namur.
The Sisters of Notre Dame, an international congregation of women religious, now serve the Church in educational, pastoral and social ministries in 17 countries on five continents.
History of the California Province
In 1924 eleven pioneer Sisters of Notre Dame came to Los Angeles, California from Cleveland, Ohio. Since then, the Notre Dame charism has flourished through the lives and ministries of the sisters of the California province. Like the general population of Southern California, the sisters represent a variety of nationalities and cultures. We proclaim God’s goodness through our lives, using the unique talents of each sister and respond to the needs of the Church and the world.
Reflecting the universal missionary spirit characteristic of the congregation, sisters from the California province currently serve in Italy, Uganda and Southern California. In 1995 two sisters from the California province, together with two sisters from the Kentucky province, pioneered the Notre Dame mission in Uganda.
History of Ministry in Uganda
In 1992, Bishop Deogratias Byabazaire, Bishop of Hoima Catholic Diocese in Uganda, East Africa, recognized the need to raise educational standards and prepare children for Catholic leadership within the Kibaale district. In 1992, he approached Sister Mary Joell Overman, the Superior General, about sending Sisters of Notre Dame to undertake this work. Sr. Mary Margaret Droege and Sister Mary Amy Hauck, leaders of the Kentucky and California provinces of the Sisters of Notre Dame, approached their sisters about responding to this need. The provinces decided to jointly establish a mission.
In July 1995, four Sisters of Notre Dame arrived in Buseesa, Uganda. By 1998 St. Julie Primary School began and in 2003 Notre Dame Academy Senior Secondary School opened its doors. Young Ugandan women first entered a formation program in 2002. With these steps, Notre Dame made a new home in Uganda. The first novices from Uganda made their profession of vows in October of 2006. The second foundation, a house of study and formation, opened outside Kampala in the spring of 2009.