February 7, 2014

Founders’ Day Address Recognizes Global Mission of the SNDs

On February 6th, Emmanuel celebrated its 22nd annual Founders' Day, a significant event in the life of the College commemorating the founding of the Sisters of Notre Dame de Namur (SND) by St. Julie Billiart in 1804, and the founding of Emmanuel College by the SNDs in 1919.

Sr. Anne Stevenson, SND, Director of Communications for the Sisters of Notre Dame de Namur, and Sr. Kristin Hokanson, SND, Founder and Principal of the Notre Dame Virtual School, offered the keynote address on "Celebrating the Global Mission of the Sisters of Notre Dame de Namur." Sr. Masako Miyake, SND, a member of the SND leadership team for the Japan Province, also spoke on the Sisters of Notre Dame's presence in Asia.

Maureen Desmond '14 and Emma Ryder '15, members of the 1804 Society, a mission and leadership organization named in honor of the founding year of the SNDs, provided a student perspective on the SND global mission. On April 6th, for the third consecutive year, the 1804 Society will run the Fool's Dual 5K in support of Sr. Isabelle Izika, SND '12, the principal of an SND school in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. In their previous efforts, the students have raised enough money to build an office, a classroom and to provide year-long scholarships for fifty students. Desmond and Ryder also shared that Sr. Helen M. Ingraham, the founding dean of Emmanuel College, went on to establish another SND college in Okayama, Japan.

Sr. Anne Stevenson, SND, took the audience on a "worldwide tour" of the five continents where the SNDs have ministries. The SNDs began in Africa in 1894 and are currently in Nigeria, Kenya, DR Congo, Zimbabwe, South Africa, and more recently, South Sudan. Ministries include formal schooling, health care, a new mission for teenage girls who have never attended school in Zimbabwe, and education on sustainability in DR Congo. In Latin America since 1859, the SNDs currently have a presence in Guatemala, Nicaragua, Peru and Brazil, focusing on job training for women, the purification of water and the reforestation of the Amazon. With the impending 2014 World Cup and 2016 Olympics in Brazil, the SNDs have also worked on raising awareness of the trafficking of young Brazilian girls. In the order's birthplace of Europe, where they maintain a presence in France, Belgium, England, Scotland and Italy, the SNDs have a number of formals schools at all levels of education, as well as a number of ministries focusing on social services, counseling and therapy. Since 1840, the SNDs have expanded to 28 countries. In addition to Emmanuel College, the SNDs have two other institutions of higher education--Notre Dame de Namur University in Belmont, Calif., and Trinity University in Washington, D.C.

"We are one with each other," Sr. Anne said, "we are one with creating, we are one with the faculty, staff and students and we are one with education."

Visiting from Japan, Sr. Masako Miyake, SND, noted that 2014 marks 90 years of SND ministries in Japan. While Christianity makes up less than one percent of religious in the country, formal Catholic education is well-attended and valued by both students and parents. Sr. Masako herself is a graduate of Notre Dame Seishin High School in Kurashiki. ("Seishin" is included in the names of all SND schools in Japan and translates to "immaculate heart of Mary.")

Aside from schooling, Japanese SNDs work on behalf of the country's large population of Brazilian and Filipino immigrants.

Sr. Kristin Hokanson, SND, founded the Notre Dame Virtual School (NDVS) in 2001, inspired by St. Julie's quote, "In the schools, teach whatever is necessary to equip the students for life," and the creation of a virtual school system that would unite the education mission of the SNDs worldwide.

"It's not about replacing classrooms," Sr. Kristin said. "It's about creating classrooms wherever students want to learn."

Sr. Kristin manages a number of social media accounts for NDVS--a sometimes daunting task, but one that is worth the effort, especially when organizations such as the Smithsonian Institution take notice of SND projects.

"I danced around my house," she said, when seeing a Twitter mention from the Institution. "It was a special moment for me and for us."

To close the program, Jillian Vaccaro '14 and Liturgical Music Director Greg Paré performed "Go Light Your World" and Emmanuel's a cappella group For Good Measure performed the Emmanuel alma mater.

The Founders' Day tradition, which began as a one-day celebration at Emmanuel in 1993, expanded into a weeklong series of events in 2009. Sponsored by Emmanuel's Center for Mission Engagement, Founders' Week was held February 1st through February 7th and included evening prayer services; discussions and dinners; spiritual yoga and meditation; and the screening of the award-winning documentary, "They Killed Sister Dorothy," about the life and murder of Sister Dorothy Stang, SND and her work on behalf of the indigenous people of Brazil and the Amazon rainforest. The Class of 2014 also marked "100 Days: A Founders' Day Celebration," with the ringing of the Chapel bells 100 times in recognition of the number of days the seniors have left until graduation. The Center for Mission Engagement also commissioned new members of the 1804 Society.