Listen to the show:
Today’s host(s): Scot Landry and Susan Abbott
Today’s guest(s): Sr. Mary Corripio and Sr. Marietta Brown of the Sisters of Notre Dame de Namur
Today’s topics: Sisters of Notre Dame de Namur
Summary of today’s show: Scot and Susan are joined today by Sr. Mary and Sr. Marietta to discuss the Sisters of Notre Dame de Namur, an international religious order with strong roots in Boston ad a tradition of educating young women and the poor, serving them and bringing them the light of Christ.
1st segment: Scot welcome Susan back to the show. He noted that she is co-hosting on Monday, not Thursday, because of her fondness for the Sisters of Notre Dame de Namur. She went to a Notre Dame Sisters high school. The sisters have many schools in Boston and have had a profound effect on the Archdiocese of Boston. Susan said St. Julie, the foundress, had a particular devotion to educating young women, especially poor women.
Scot noted that his mom is 65 years old today. She is the number one fan of The Good Catholic Life.
Scot welcomed Sr. Mary Corripio and Sr. Marietta Brown. Sr. Marietta grew up in Dorchester, as many Notre Dame sisters have. She went to public school until high school when she went to an SND high school. After school, she joined the Sisters of Notre Dame, which was the only congregation she knew. She attended Emmanuel College, Boston State, and Boston College. She taught in many towns around Boston and then was appointed as a principal in the Midwest then came back for a time. She later spent eight years in South Africa doing teacher training. She now works in a preschool in New Mexico on a Navajo reservation. Reaching out to the poor is one of the founding charisms of the congregation. It is incredible to see how the people remain joyful even in their struggles.
Sr. Mary found the SND when she went to college. She grew up in Louisiana and wanted a Catholic women’s education like she had in high school. She found Trinity College where she got the call. After college, she went to Japan to teach English for a year. After that, she went to Europe on a pilgrimage to figure out what she wanted to do. She ended up in the town where St. Julie was born in the 18th century. She met the Sisters of Notre Dame in the village and ended up staying there for a weekend. That was the beginning of her life with the order.
Her first ministry was to work in the Archdiocese of Boston in the Office of Cultural Diversity. She said working working with immigrants is a big part of the ministry of the order. She now works in the vocations office for the order. In the US, they have five people working in vocation ministry in California, Ohio, New Mexico and the US.
2nd segment: St. Julie Billiart came from a large family and was a very religious child attending church daily. She was recognized as an extraordinarily spiritual child and received the Eucharist at an earlier age than other children. At one point in her life, her dad was confronted with violence and she was so shocked by the incident that she was paralyzed. Nevertheless, she continued to educate young women in religious instruction from her sick bed. Even after her recovery she continued to impress others with her special faith. She was constantly heard to say in all circumstances, “God is good.”
When God gave her the vision to found the order, it was through the cross. She saw women in a particular habit joined in prayer around the cross. She saw the cross was not just suffering, but also joy.
Sr. Marrietta said the physical cross was making her stronger spiritually because she had a strong trust in God’s will. At the time in France, the government was persecuting the Church and she snuck into areas to bring religious instruction despite her handicap and military patrols on the lookout. In the cross we see the will of God. The cross is marking this mission so stay with it and live with it because God will provide.
Sr. Mary said she began the novitiate in August 2001 and 9/11 happened one month later. St. Julie used to day that if turmoil happens at the beginning of something, God will bless it. If something happens and it’s too easy, then something’s wrong, St. Julie used to say.
there are diocesan religious orders, there are missionary orders, and there are international orders. Missionary orders make vows and promises to deliberately go out into foreign lands. International orders can go out to foreign lands, but they can also stay in the lands where they were born and raised. Diocesan sisters sometimes go internationally, but they are vowed to the diocese and are expected to stay in the diocese normally. Sr. Mary said each kind has a gift. There’s something beautiful about giving back to the community that raised you. There is also the bringing the Gospel to the ends of the earth which is also such a good witness.
The first SND came to the US in Cincinnati and later to Boston. They started in the North End of Boston and have grown from there, starting schools. Many sisters have worked in parishes across the Archdiocese and are in schools in every region of the archdiocese. Sr. Marietta said when they were founded, they educated young women who were too poor for education. In the Boston area, they kept to the charism very much. The Sisters of St. Joseph educated boys and the SND educated girls.
In addition to the schools, the congregational also has universities. Trinity University is in Washington, DC and Emmanuel in Boston. In Africa they have sisters in hospitals and schools in Congo and Nigeria. In Japan, they also have several schools. They are in 15 countries.
3rd segment: The schools in the local area at which SND now work:
- Emmanuel College, Boston, MA
- Notre Dame Montessori School, Dorchester, MA
- Notre Dame Academy, Hingham, MA
- Notre Dame Academy, Tyngsboro, MA
- Notre Dame High School, Lawrence, MA
- Notre Dame Education Center, Lawrence, MA
- St. Mary of the Assumption School, Lawrence, MA
- St. Patrick Elementary School and Education Center, Lowell, MA
- Notre Dame Education Center, South Boston, MA
- Julie’s Family Learning Program, South Boston, MA
- Saint Jude Elementary School, Waltham, MA
- Cuvilly Arts and Earth Center, Ipswich, MA
- Notre Dame Children’s Class, Wenham, MA
- Bishop Fenwick High School, Peabody, MA
- Bishop Stang High School, Dartmouth, MA
- St. Augustine, Andover, MA
- St. Mary Star of the Sea School, Beverly, MA
- St. John the Evangelist School, Beverly, MA
- St. Michael School, Hudson, MA
Sr. Marietta said the congregation is also working in the area of human trafficking. they are working to raise awareness and looking to see what they can do as a group. Sr. Mary said there was a collaboration among the various religious congregations in Boston to raise awareness about trafficking, holding symposia twice a year, giving talks at parishes and more. They also now have a safe house for women who have escaped and are trying to establish a new life. Much of the trafficking in Boston is domestic, people forced into either labor or sex exploitation. Recently a young woman was kidnapped by a neighbor and forced into prostitution in hotels around Boston. Young people are lured into a situation and taken advantage of. Sr. Marietta said internationally some families sell a child because they think the child will live the good life in America.
The Cristo Rey high school model is one way to target poverty that leads to such desperation. The children get a good education and job experience. In Peru, the sisters live in the neighborhoods of extreme poverty. They are so poor that sometimes the teachers teach without pay. On the Navajo reservation the families are extremely poor as well, even to where they don’t even have running water. They can’t get rid of their garbage because they have to pay to bring it to the dump. They take their laundry into town because it’s cheaper than bringing water to the homes.
4th segment: Sr. Mary said the postulants and novices are very diverse. They have one woman who was born in Nigeria. Their novice is from Mexico. Another woman entering this year is a doctor from Italy and the other is from Arizona. The average age upon entry is 40. The national novitiate takes place in Cincinnati. The house in Ipwisch is a center for retreats and much of the order’s local work. They house provincial offices, congregational offices, to provide a home to the elderly and infirm. Sr. Marietta said miracles take place through the prayer of the sisters living at their house.
Susan said the Office for Religious Education often takes directors of religious education to Ipswich for days of recollection and formation.
Sr. Mary said Cardinal Cushing was instrumental in helping the Sisters get the property in Ipswich. Scot said the cardinal was one of the biggest builders in the history of the Church in the United States.
Sr. Mary said the order’s sisters work locally mainly in the poorest areas.
Susan recalled that Notre Academy in Roxbury when she went to school covered 16 acres between Duley and Eggleston Squares. She spoke about the sisters who were so formative in her life.
The order has 1,600 sisters internationally and 400 of them are here in the Archdiocese.