Pioneers in California

The Sisters of Notre Dame first arrived in California in 1924. Since then their passion and spirit have spread and grown into the diverse ministry it is today. Listen to Sister Mary Sheila Fay tell stories of the struggles and successes of those early days.

Special thanks to Sister Mary Joanne Wittenburg and Sister Mary Sheila Fay.


  • 1CeciliaRomen
    Reverend Mother Mary Cecilia Romen who accepted the first two schools in California
  • 2Train
    La Grande Station where the first eleven sisters arrived in Los Angeles in 1924
  • 3FirstEleven
    The first eleven sisters who came to California
  • 4Saint Matthias Convent
    Saint Matthias Convent in Huntington Park in 1924
  • 5SaintMatthiasPioneers
    Sisters (top) Mary Bernard Flury, Amandis Thyen, and Fortunata (visiting from Cleveland), (bottom) Mary Isabel Lang, Ellen Healy,Walburge Schmitt, and Hildegarde Delahanty
  • 6Saint Matthias School
    Saint Matthias School in 1924
  • 7Sisters at Saint Lawrence
    Sisters Mary Clarissa Westhoven, Sirana Kirchner, Alice Lang, Balbina Hagedorn, and Blanche Wolf in 1925
  • 8LawrenceDedication
    Dedication of Saint Lawrence school in 1924
  • 9StLawHallway
    Third and fourth grade students
  • 10ClarissaWesthoven
    Sister Mary Clarissa Westhoven with her first and second grade students
  • 11Balbina
    Sister Mary Balbina who was the first principal and local superior at Saint Lawrence
  • 12SiranaKirchner
    Sister Mary Sirana Kirchner, who taught third and fourth grade, on the day of her Golden Jubilee
  • 13Beach
    Sisters of Notre Dame on a picnic at Emerald Bay in 1926
  • 14Mission
    Sisters at Mission Santa Inez
  • 15Saint Rose of Lima
    Saint Rose of Lima, the third school established by the sisters in California
  • 16Ruth
    Sister Mary Ruth, a teacher and member of the first faculty at Saint Rose of Lima
  • 17RoseGraduation
    The first graduating class from Saint Rose of Lima with Sister Mary Balbina
  • 18Matthias Dedication
    Re-dedication of Saint Matthias school after the earthquake in 1933
  • 19New Matthias
    Saint Matthias convent was rebuilt to repair damage caused by the earthquake
  • 20BernardFlury
    Sister Mary Bernard Flury, who was principal at Saint Matthias and helped build the spirit of the California province
  • 21Sisters with Bishops
    Sister Mary Walburge, Cardinal Timothy Manning, Sister Mary Balbina, and Bishop John Ward celebrating the 50th anniversary of the province in 1974
  • 22Anniversary Sisters
    Pioneer sisters in 1974