Our History

Our History

A Short History of the Congregation of the Sisters of Notre Dame
“The congregation was founded in Coesfeld, Germany, during a time of religious and social need. A young teacher, Hilligonde Wolbring, out of love for the poor, took orphaned and neglected children into her home. Together with Elisabeth Kühling, her friend and colleague, she educated and cared for them. Both women had been formed in the spiritual and pedagogical tradition of Bernard Overberg.

Through the support of their spiritual director, Theodor Elting, the spontaneous charitable service initiated by the two women became an organized work. Recognizing the significance of their apostolate in the Church, he invited them to consider religious life.

In the Sisters of Notre Dame of Amersfoort, The Netherlands, Theodor Elting found a similar apostolic aim. At the request of Bishop Georg Müller of Münster, three Sisters of Amersfoort came to Coesfeld in 1850. Under their guidance, the two young women, Hilligonde Wolbring to be known as Sister Maria Aloysia and Elisabeth Kühling to be known as Sister Maria Ignatia, began their formation for religious life, abandoning themselves in strong faith to God’s action.

From 1850 to 1855, the Sisters from Amersfoort introduced the steadily growing community in Coesfeld to the spirit and rule of the Amersfoort congregation as they had received it from the Sisters of Notre Dame de Namur, founded in France by Julie Billiart in 1804.

In 1855 the foundation in Coesfeld became an independent congregation. According to tradition the foundation date is October 1, 1850. In the spirit of St. Julie Billiart, Sister Maria Aloysia, Sister Maria Ignatia and the first Coesfeld Sisters, our congregation continues to witness God’s goodness and provident care throughout the world today.”(Origin of the Congregation- Const.)

History of the Assumption Province, Patna
The Assumption Province, Patna, now approaching its platinum Jubilee, has a fascinating history of nearly 75 years. In 1949, responding to the invitation of Rt. Rev. A.F. Wildermuth, SJ, Bishop of Patna, Mother Mary Agnes, the provincial of Christ the King Province missioned 6 Sisters to start a Notre Dame foundation at Jamalpur in the State of Bihar. The six chosen pioneer missionaries: were: Sister M. St. Thomas (the superior of the mission) Sister M. Magdela, Sister M. Maris, Sister M. Joelle, Sister M. Lauretta and Sister M. Kieran. They arrived in Jamalpur on October 31, 1949. Each year the whole Province celebrates October 31st as Pioneers’ Day.

Over the years, 18 missionaries from USA have served in India and helped to build up the Assumption Province. Sister Mary Ann Gemignani, the last of the 18 missionaries, who spent 67 years in India, passed away on Feb.8, 2021 at the provincial house, Patna.

In 1950 the pioneers opened Notre Dame Academy, Jamalpur an English medium school. They also administered and taught at St. Joseph Parish Hindi Medium Primary School. Sister Mary Kieran, one of the pioneer Sisters, began medical work and built up a one-room health centre.

The Novitiate opened in Jamalpur in 1954 and since then, nearly 400 Indian women have made their profession as Sisters of Notre Dame. With increase in the membership, the Sisters of Notre Dame were able to establish foundations in 11 States and serve the people through various ministrie

“Many cultures and much diversity characterize the Sisters of Notre Dame the world over. Exposure to diverse cultures and peoples at home and abroad, different ways of living and praying together, myriad approaches to God and increased sensitivity to Jesus’ special love for poor and marginalized people have been some of the benefits of our internationality and diversity.”(SND1.org)

The first foundation of the Sisters of Notre Dame in India was in Jamalpur, Bihar, started in 1949.For

the first 10 years that was the only house of the Sisters in India. In 1959 the affiliation at Patliputra, Patna was begun. The Provincial house was shifted from Jamalpur to Patna in 1969. The first house the Sisters started in a village setting was at Burhan village in the outskirts of Sasaram. The first affiliation in the south of India was at Mysore, in the State of Karnataka, started in 1969. By 2004, the Assumption Province had eight (8) affiliations in the southern States, twenty-eight (28) houses in the northern States and four (4) affiliations and a novitiate Tanzania-Kenya Mission.

Our Mission to East Africa

Heeding the “Call to Mission” of the Pope Paul VI, and with the support of Sister Mary Joel, the Superior General, the Assumption Province started the first mission in Africa. In 1992, Sister Mary Shobana, the provincial of the Assumption Province, missioned three Sisters to start a mission in Arusha, Tanzania. The three pioneers- Sister M. Aruna, Sister M. Shobha and Sister M. Thara- initially taught and administered a diocesan Higher Secondary School and boarding at Ngarenaro, Arusha, in Tanzania. Over the years 16 more Indian Sisters have served in the mission in East Africa. The mission in Tanzania- Kenya was a central concern of the Assumption Province from 1992 to 2015.

The First Vocations from Africa
In 1996, at the invitation of Fr Jose Kalili, the superior of the CMI Fathers, Sister Mary Shobana and Sister M. Shaija travelled to Nairobi, Kenya for vocation promotion. They visited several sub- stations of Ngunga parish in the diocese of Machaco where the CMI Fathers were ministering. The first two candidates, Pascalia and Domitila, recruited with the help of the CMI Fathers, were welcomed to Arusha on April 14th, 1999 and the third candidate, Christine, joined them in May, 1999. Part of the Ngarenaro Convent became the ‘Candidates’ House.’ Since a formation House was still at its planning stage, Christine and Domitila were brought to Patna to do their College studies. The annals of Arusha recount the powerful and even miraculous interventions of our good and provident God that the Sisters experienced through the many hurdles they had to face in the establishment and development of the Mission of the Sisters of Notre Dame in East Africa.

The Property at Njiro, in the suburb of Arusha, was purchased as early as 1996. However, the decision at the time was to concentrate all our effort and resources in developing the Gnarenaro Higher Secondary School. So the building of a convent of our own and a formation house was set aside until 2001.
A spacious Formation house was built in 2001 financed by the African fund of the Congregation. Sister M. Shobana and the candidates moved into the formation house in November 2001. The first group of 9 postulants were invested on oct.1 2002. The profession of this first group of the novices was a grand celebration on October 1st, 2004 in the presence of Sister Mary Sujita, the Superior General, the provincials who had missions in Africa and several visiting Sisters. The mission grew in membership with more candidates entering the Novitiate and more missionary Sisters coming from India. Under the direction and leadership of Sisters M. Aruna, Sister M. Shobana, Sister M. Mukti and Sister M. Roshini, and with the guidance and support of the Superiors General, the Sisters and many benefactors, the mission in Tanzania has grown and flourished.

The Mission in Tanzania and Kenya was raised to the status of a ‘Delegation’ of the Assumption Province, Patna on may 10, 2009, with the name “Holy Spirit Province Delegation”. In 2015 the two houses in Uganda under the U.S. Provinces, were amalgamated with the “Holy Spirit Province Delegation” and brought under the Generalate as “Holy Spirit General Delegation.” The affiliations started in East Africa by the Assumption Province before 2015 were: 1) St. Joseph’s, Gnarenaro, Arusha; 2) Formation House, Njiro;3) Zinduka, Njiro; 4) Don Bosco School, Shinyanga; 5) Mount Sinai, Mlolongo, Nairobi, Kenya; 6) Syokimau Nairobi; 7) Simanjiro, Tanzania and 8) Kiomboi, Tanzania.

Sister M. Roshini served as “Holy Spirit General Delegation Superior” until 2022, and Sister M. Christine Syombua followed her as the Delegation Superior. All the missionary Sisters from India have returned to the home-province between 2020 and 2023 as the African Sisters were prepared to replace them in various offices and ministries. The last Indian Sister to return to Patna was Sister Mary Prerana, who was serving as ‘postulant directresses of the “Holy Spirit General Delegation” The Assumption Province owes a tribute of thanks and congratulations to our 19 missionary Sisters who established and brought up the East Africa Mission of the Congregation to such a visible fruitfulness and growth.

Contact Us

Patliputra Colony, Patna-13. (INDIA)
Phone: 0612 – 2260111
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