Hilligonde Wolbring founded the Sisters of Notre Dame of Coesfeld, Germany in 1850. Hilligonde lovingly embraced all of her students, but especially those who were poor or disadvantaged. She and her companion teacher, Elisabeth Kühling, experienced God’s goodness and provident care, and were impelled to pass it on to others. Gradually the young women discerned that their attraction to service was a call to religious life. Under the guidance of the Sisters of Notre Dame of Amersfoort in the Netherlands, they established a new religious family based on the spiritual heritage of St. Julie Billiart, foundress of the Sisters of Notre Dame de Namur.
We are now an international congregation of women religious, serving the Church in educational, pastoral and social ministries in 17 countries on five continents.
Arriving in America
In July of 1874 eight sisters arrived in Cleveland, including the foundress, Sr. Maria Aloysia (Hilligonde Wolbring). Two hundred Sisters of Notre Dame came to the United States to teach children of immigrants within the next four years. They taught the children of immigrants in Delphos, Fremont, Toledo and other communities across northern Ohio. In 1904, Notre Dame Academy was established near downtown Toledo.
The congregation grew through the entrance of American young women into the community and through volunteer Sisters coming from Germany. In 1924, the Toledo province was established and property was purchased in West Toledo. The campus began with a Novitiate building and expanded over the years into a Provincial Center. The campus now includes an early learning ministry for young children, and Notre Dame Academy and Junior Academy.
An overseas mission was established in 1961 when four Sisters were sent to the highlands of Papua New Guinea (PNG) to educate women at the request of Bishop George Bernarding, SVD, of Mt. Hagen. They established ministries as educators, nurses, and pastoral care ministers. Notre Dame Secondary School for girls was established in PNG in 1969.
Since 2014 one sister has been in ministry in the Philippines and one sister has been in Lyamutundewe, Uganda, to direct the Notre Dame Nursery School (sponsored by the Covington and Thousand Oaks Provinces).