School Album

Notre Dame College

Notre Dame College, institution founded in 1931, Staten Island, New York, United States, [19-]. Archives Congrégation de Notre-Dame - Montréal.

Sakura no Seibo Gakuin (Elementary School, High School and Junior College) - École Notre-Dame-des-Cerisiers (primaire, secondaire et collège junior)

Sakura no Seibo Gakuin (Elementary School, High School and Junior College) - École Notre-Dame-des-Cerisiers (primaire, secondaire et collège junior), institution founded in 1938, Fukushima, Japan, 2014. Photo : Mr. Yusuke Okuyama. © Sakura no Seibo Gakuin Elementary School.

Sakura no Seibo Gakuen in Fukushima, Japan, is a modest Congrégation de Notre-Dame school. Since 1938 (barring the five years of World War II the Pacific), it has continued its mission sustained by the patience, dreams and prayers of the sisters. In 1932, five sisters were missioned to Fukushima from Canada: Sister Saint-Arcadius (Marie-Rose-Marcelline Olivier), the Congregation leader until just before leaving for Japan; Sister Marie-Damase (Marie-Laura-Emérence Gauthier, dit Landreville), nurse; Sister Sainte-Jeanne-d’Aza (Marie-Flore Antoinette Castonguay), French teacher; Sister Sainte-Marguerite-de-l’Enfant-Jésus (Anne-Marie-Rose-de-Lima Cauchon), musician; Sister Sainte-Marie-Agnès-de-la-Charité (Joséphine Dillon), cooking teacher. At that time, Pope Pius XI had appealed for “Spreading the Gospel in Asia” and missionary zeal had spread in the western world. As a result the five sisters travelled across Canada to Vancouver and took a ship to Japan. There were eighteen missionaries on the ship. When the five sisters arrived in Fukushima, they lived in a rented Japanese-style house in Shin-machi, where they struggled to familiarize themselves with the customs of Japan. It is recorded that, at that time, about thirty Catholics attended Christmas Mass in the parish church. The sisters began to teach religion on an individual basis. In 1933, two additional Canadian sisters, Sister Saint-Jean-d’Avila (Léocadie Tremblay) and Sister Sainte-Marie-Anne (Marie-Mélina Chicoine) arrived in Fukushima.

In 1935, in the area that would later be named Hanazono-cho, a two-story wooden building was erected as a convent. It was a beautiful building. Many people attended the blessing ceremony and the event was also reported in the newspaper. The central part of the building was the convent area and the south wing became the kindergarten. In 1936, when four more sisters arrived from Canada, a clinic was opened in the north wing. In 1938, the kindergarten named Hinagiku (Marguerite) Kindergarten opened. At that time, Japanese women began to join us and everyone believed that the flower of Congrégation de Notre-Dame education had begun to bloom in Japan. In 1937, however, war between Japan and China began. In December 1941, when the United States entered World War II, our Canadian sisters were considered the enemy and lost their freedom. From 1942 to August 1945, they were interned in Aizu-wakamatsu with three Japanese candidates: Sister Tomiko Saito (Sainte-Maria-Hostia), Sister Tome Sasamori (Sainte-Thérèse-de-Marie) and Sister Kimi Ogata (Sainte-Angéline-de-Jésus). During that time, Hanazono-cho Convent became an internment facility for foreign prisoners from many countries who had been captured aboard ships in or near the war zone. When the war ended in August 1945, the sisters returned to Fukushima. Other Japanese women soon joined us. In 1946, nineteen war orphans were welcomed in our convent. At last our Congrégation de Notre-Dame education ministry began. Sakura no Seibo Elementary School was founded for the orphans who were of school age. The kindergarten reopened and, gradually, the junior high school, senior high school and junior college were founded to meet the needs of the students as they grew older. Sakura no Seibo Gakuen’s educational program totalled sixteen years. After the war, as the relationship between Japan and North America improved, many sisters came to Japan from Canada and the United States. We increased to forty and the majority taught at Sakura no Seibo Gakuen. Currently, there are fifteen Japanese and Canadian sisters working full-time at Sakura no Seibo Gakuen. Fukushima is primarily an agricultural area, In March 2011, after the triple disaster that hit Northeastern Japan, the number of students decreased significantly. At present, there are about one thousand, one hundred students.

Less than one percent of the population of Japan is Catholic. As a result, the majority of students and their parents are not Catholic, but they are very open to Christianity. The students say the Our Father and Hail Mary every day, and welcome the message of love and justice into their lives. It is a work of evangelization that requires patience and perseverance. However, in every period of the Congregation’s history, Marguerite’s daughters have earnestly and sincerely spread the Good News which, we believe, have penetrated the hearts of at least some of our students and their parents.

NB: This text was written using documents found in the archival holdings in our possession and does not constitute a complete administrative history of the teaching establishment.

Notre Dame High School

Notre Dame High School, institution founded in 1959, Schenectady, New York, United States, [198-?]. Archives Congrégation de Notre-Dame - Montréal.

On July 20, 1960, after five years of negotiations, Sister St. Philippa (Genevieve McMahon), accompanied by several of her companions, arrived in Schenectady, New York, where The Most Reverend William Aloysius Scully, Bishop of Albany welcomed them to the school which was attached to the convent he had had built for them containing everything they would need. The school and the residence were located on Corlaer Avenue. From the first day, over 300 young women from Grade 9 to Grade 11 were received at Notre Dame High School. In addition to the academic program, the sisters taught French, Latin, Spanish and music. During the summer, the sisters took courses in nearby colleges and universities, where some sisters also taught. They participated in and organized many seminars and training programs on topics related to education and its administration in different cities in the Eastern United States. Community and volunteer associations of all kinds began in Notre Dame High School. Also, the students took part in clubs such as the Drama Club, Glee Club, Choral Club, Sciences Club, Business Club, Poetry Club, Art Club, Culture Club and many others. They were awarded many prizes at contests and competitions. Many girls participated in the televised quiz show Little Red Schoolhouse. To attend theater and other performances, to participate in competitions and to broaden the students’ knowledge of the world, the sisters organized trips to other countries (Portugal, Spain, Canada, etc.).

In 1965, more than twenty sisters taught at Notre Dame High School. Grade 12 was added to the school, and it was also the year the sisters began wearing the modified habit. At the end of the 1960s, the sisters began a night school program in religious studies for adults. They also started teaching religion in the neighbouring public primary and secondary schools. Later, some sisters taught in the Adult Education Program of the Schenectady Education Council. The sisters were very active in several groups which planned events such as the liturgical music Festival of Praise. On September 8, 1970 they celebrated the school’s 10th anniversary. That same year, a flexible schedule was put in place to allow the students greater freedom in choosing their courses. In the 1970s, apostolic ministries outside the school became as important as those in the school; half of the fifteen sisters in Schenectady worked at the school while the others saw to the needs of the parish or their surroundings through teaching or other types of work. At this time, different assessment committees concerning the merger of two Catholic high schools in Schenectady were created. In 1975, Bishop Gibbons School (1958) for boys and Notre Dame High School (1960) for girls were merged in the Bishop Gibbons building on Albany Street. The new school was named Notre Dame-Bishop Gibbons High School. A CND was the vice-principal and the sisters served in administration and teaching positions. The same year, the sisters moved on DeCamp Avenue. The 25th anniversary of the school was celebrated in 1984. In 1985, an addition was built to the house. In 1989, the school received Grade 7 and Grade 8 students and thus became a Junior and Senior High School. The sistersleft Schenectady residencein July 1993.

NB: This text was written using documents found in the archival holdings in our possession and does not constitute a complete administrative history of the teaching establishment.

Wa-Yo-Gakko Gakuin (also known as École Notre-Dame-de-la-Merci)

Wa-Yo-Gakko Gakuin (also known as École Notre-Dame-de-la-Merci), institution founded in 1937, Hachinohe (Aomori), Japan, [between 1937 and 1941]. Archives Congrégation de Notre-Dame - Montréal.

In 1937, five years after the first CND sisters arrived in Fukushima, they were asked by Bishop Marie-Joseph Lemieux, O.P. to go to Hachinohe. Sister St. Marie Damase and Sister Jeanne d’Aza answered the call. They taught piano and cooking in a school which was then called Japanese and Western Sewing School for Girls. At that time, the school was having difficulty to make ends meet. They also taught religion in the kindergarten of their parish church.

In 1938 the first two sisters were joined by 3 others: Sister St. Claire de la Providence, Sister Saint Augustine du Sauveur and Sister St. Alphonse de Valence. Where there had been only 12 students the number increased to 102 in four years.

When war broke out in 1941 the sisters were first interned in the city of Aomori but after that they were required to return to their country. After the war their school was transferred to the Ursuline Community and it continues its mission to this day, with one of its specialities being music education.

 A young woman who worked with the CND sisters in Hachinohe, Anna Saito Tomi, was one of the first Japanese women to enter the CND and become a foundation stone of Maria Province, Japan. Her name in religion was Sister St. Marie Hostia. 

Académie Notre-Dame-du-Saint-Sacrement - Academy of our Lady of the Blessed Sacrament / Notre-Dame Academy Elementary School and Notre-Dame Academy High School

Académie Notre-Dame-du-Saint-Sacrement - Academy of our Lady of the Blessed Sacrament / Notre-Dame Academy Elementary School and Notre-Dame Academy High School, institution founded in 1903, Staten Island, New York, United States, [19-]. Archives Congrégation de Notre-Dame - Montréal.

During the winter of 1903, William Miller-Jones met Mother Saint-Anaclet (Marie-Pulchérie Cormier), the newly elected Superior General of the Congrégation de Notre-Dame, to discuss the lack of Catholic schools in Staten Island. Father of four girls and resident of this New York City borough, he had had to send his children to the overpopulated public schools which at the time received mainly immigrant and Protestant children. The General Council of the Congregation accepted his request, on the condition that the future school be under the sole direction of the sisters of the Congrégation de Notre-Dame and that it would be completely independent of the control of the Diocese of New York. The Archbishop of New York,Bishop John M. Farley, approved and on August 18, 1903, Our Lady of the Blessed Sacrament Convent, Mother Saint-Anaclet’s first official mission, was founded. Funded by William Miller-Jones, a house on Howard Avenue in Grymes Hill was purchased and converted into a convent. It was blessed by Father Murphy, pastor of Staten Island’s Our Lady of Good Council Parish, on September 13, and received twenty boarders the very next day. The school’s first Superior was Sister Sainte-Scholastique (Marie-Anne-Cécilia Bell) and her founding companions were Sister Sainte-Marie-Cécile (Mary Ann Lester), Sister Sainte-Catherine-des-Anges (Josephine Catherine Pia Schlachter) and Sister Sainte-Jeanne-de-Jésus (Eleanor Ludovica Coghlin). Right away, the sisters got involved in Staten Island’s community: they taught Sunday school to the Italian immigrant children; offered music and needle work lessons to women; established the Association of Christian Mothers. In addition, through courses offered at the convent school, students were initiated to choral singing, drama and music.

In the fall of 1906, the limited space and the many repairs this wooden convent on Grymes Hill required obliged the sisters to look for another residence. They chose a bigger site situated at 76 Howard Avenue. The building was enlarged in 1911 and 1912 to add more classrooms as well as a chapel, a refectory and a music room. The following year, the school’s curriculum had to be modified in accordance with the recommendations of the State of New York’s education authorities. Therefore, the elementary school comprised eight levels and the high school had four. Furthermore it was possible to choose between two options: academic or an art specialization. In that same year, the Academy was affiliated with New York University and, in 1917, the diplomas awarded to the graduates allowed them to pursue higher education. The campus underwent many other changes between 1921 and 1928. Adjacent properties were purchased and annexed to the school bringing the number of buildings to five. These buildings contained administrative services, dormitories, the elementary school, the high school and the new college with its Department of Business Studies. The stock market crash of 1929 and the ensuing Great Depression resulted in a decrease in the number of students and the closing of the commercial wing after four years. This made room for new laboratories and a kindergarten.

At the turn of the 1940s, with the approval of the Superior of the time, several committees were organized, such as, the student council, a religious association, an equestrian club, a choir, a student newspaper, a yearbook committee as well as Latin and French clubs. In addition, in 1946, the Staten Island institution was selected to house the administration of the new province of the Congrégation de Notre-Dame called Blessed Sacrament Province. Even though the school was commonly known as Notre Dame School by its staff and students, its official name was Our Lady of the Blessed Sacrament Convent until 1950, when she was named Notre Dame Academy.

The 1960s were also years of change. So much so that by 1967 the administration of the school required not one director but three: one for the elementary school, one for the high school and a third was Director General of the two schools and the convent. At that time, many sports teams were created, for example, softball and swimming. However, the most popular sport at the Academy was basketball, and in 1975, not only did the team win the championship it also played a perfect season.

For the benefit of high school students who wanted to go on to university, the Academy also wanted to add an intensive preparatory class to the high school curriculum. However, because of admission exams, not all Notre Dame students who completed their elementary school were able to pursue their high school education in the same place. Thus, at the beginning of the 1990s, a pre-kindergarten was established at the Academy and the students were evaluated from a very early age. They needed to know their letters, numbers and colours to be admitted to kindergarten. The administration was once again restructured in 1996 when the position of Director was divided between the Superior and a lay person. Currently, the school is under the direction of the sisters of the Congrégation de Notre-Dame.

NB: This text was written using documents found in the archival holdings in our possession and does not constitute a complete administrative history of the teaching establishment.

Saint Columba School

Saint Columba School, institution under the direction of the Congrégation de Notre-Dame from 1945 (formerly the Sisters of Charity of New York), New York, United States, [19-]. Archives Congrégation de Notre-Dame - Montréal.

Saint Jean Baptiste School

Saint Jean Baptiste School, institution founded in 1886, New York, New York, United States, [19-?]. Edition: The Eagle Post Card Company. Archives Congrégation de Notre-Dame - Montréal.

Villa Maria Academy

Villa Maria Academy, institution founded in 1886, New York, New York, United States, [19-]. Archives Congrégation de Notre-Dame - Montréal.

At the request of Father Frédérick Tétreault of the Saint Jean Baptiste parish in New York City, the Sisters of the Congrégation de Notre-Dame agreed to establish a mission there. Three Sisters arrived on January 28, 1886, two to teach at Saint Jean Baptiste School and one to begin Villa Maria Academy. Mother Saint-Gabriel (Ann Darragh) and her companions taught the elementary school children of the parish in the church on the corner 79th Street and Lexington Avenue.

Saint Paschal Baylon Convent / Saint Paschal Baylon Elementary School

Saint Paschal Baylon Convent / Saint Paschal Baylon Elementary School, institution founded in 1955, Cleveland, Ohio, United States.

Saint Anthony School

Saint Anthony School, institution founded in 1912, Providence, Rhode Island, United States, 1913. Archives Congrégation de Notre-Dame - Montréal.

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