Founder’s Week, hosted at Emmanuel College from January 29th to February 2nd, is an annual tradition to commemorate the founding of the Sisters of Notre Dame de Namur by St. Julie Billiart in 1804 and the founding of Emmanuel College in 1919.
Ringing in the annual tradition, speakers at the Founders' Week Address on February 1st called upon the fierceness and fearlessness of both Emmanuel College and the Sisters of Notre Dame de Namur’s (SNDdeN) founders: a reminder of the journey taken to establish the longstanding values and identity of the 220-year-old institution and how they’ve existed at Emmanuel since 1919.
The address panel featured two Emmanuel College alumni: Sr. Ginny Scally, SNDdeN ’69, born and raised in Boston, as well as Sr. Isabelle Izika, SNDdeN, ’13 of the Democratic Republic of the Congo, who is the non-governmental organization’s representative for the SNDdeN’s at the United Nations. Also visiting to speak was Kathleen Quiazon, Ed.D, Director of Mission and Ministry at Notre Dame High School in San Jose, California.
Though all three had different winding paths to where they are today, their unique experiences all drew upon the values of the SNDdeN’s founders.
“They have been about that communal effort, that mutuality, and they have done so as fierce and fearless women who are breaking the stained-glass ceiling. In their own time and place, when women -were not afforded the opportunity to be spiritual leaders, let alone educators, they said ‘nuh-uh,’ we’re doing it our way. And they did – that’s why we’re here today,” Quiazon said.
Sister Ginny’s experience was similar. On her road to pastoring, she said she saw the obstacles in front of her and women in general to becoming ordained ministers. She wrote to Pope Francis with her thoughts, and argued that a woman’s call to be ordained needs to be acknowledged and affirmed.
“I want to use my voice, and my hope and my advice to all of the women who are here is that we continue to use our voices, that we speak our truth to the power of the hierarchy and the institutional Church – and to share our experience and our convictions, because the Church and the world need our experience and our voices,” she said.
Sister Isabelle’s anecdote from her work at the UN epitomized both the need to speak out and the reach of the SNDdeN worldwide. She shared the story of an indigenous woman from Peru, who with the backing of the SNDdeN, stood up and defended the well-being of her home at a UN forum.
“She was the only woman in the room – but she had a very strong voice – talking about how they are treated by corporations, how their land is destroyed and how they get nothing back,” Sister Isabelle said. Thankfully, she added, strong institutions like the SNDDeN exist worldwide to stand up for justice, equality and peace and help empower women to do so.
As another Founders' Week nears its conclusion, the newly appointed 14th president of Emmanuel College, Dr. Beth Ross, spoke on what the reflection means for the campus and its community.
“Today as ever,” President Ross said at the address Thursday, “that spirit continues to unite and animate our college community. The vibrancy we’ve seen in these past days speaks to our deep and abiding commitment to the convictions that have been at the heart of our community for over a century.”
Rest assured, that campus spirit will remain after Founders' week has concluded, just as it has from day one to year 105 of Emmanuel College.
Committed to education and social justice, the Sisters of Notre Dame de Namur serve in 16 countries across five continents. For more on their mission and recent work, visit https://www.sndden.org/.