Celebrating the Sisters Contributions to Society During Women’s History Month and Catholic Sisters Week

Each year, March is designated as Women’s History Month. This is one month out of the year when we make a point to honor women’s many contributions to American society. Embedded in this month-long celebration of women is Catholic Sisters Week, which runs from March 8 to 14, recognizing Catholic sisters around the world for their longstanding devotion to working with the underserved in our society. To commemorate this month, let us reflect on the contributions of the Notre Dame Sisters whose history extends centuries and changed communities for the better.

The Notre Dame Sisters came to the United States in 1907. They first worked at an orphanage in Fenton near St. Louis, Missouri, and later came to Nebraska and Iowa to staff Catholic schools.

In 1917, several Sisters were sent to staff Boys Home, founded by Father Flanagan. In 1920 Father Flanagan sold Seven Oaks Farm, originally intended for Boy’s Town, at 35th and State Streets, to the Sisters and they established their provincial headquarters in Omaha.

As the Congregation of the Notre Dame Sisters grew in the United States and Omaha, they continued their work in meeting unmet needs, and in 1926 the Sisters opened Notre Dame Academy under the leadership of Sr. Mary Qualbertina Vanek. The school opened with 15 students, and by the end of the first academic year, attendance had grown to 26 students from around the Midwest. The Sisters educated thousands of young women throughout the Academy’s 48 years, while additionally providing a comprehensive experience in faith, civic responsibility, and community living.

In 1974 the Notre Dame Academy merged with Rummel High School to form Roncalli Catholic High School. Today Roncalli continues to carry out the Notre Dame Academy’s legacy.

After careful evaluation and prayer regarding the current and future circumstances surrounding the Notre Dame Sisters, their Motherhouse and their former Academy, it was decided in 1997 to continue pursuing the Notre Dame Sisters’ mission of meeting unmet needs in the community, and convert the buildings into safe, affordable housing for seniors, now Notre Dame Housing.

In 1998, Safe Homes was born as a social justice ministry of the Notre Dame Sisters. In 2016, the Sisters added the Keeping On program to continue supporting women after their first month of independence. Safe Homes, a nonprofit that serves local women and children in the Omaha Metro area who have broken free of the domestic violence cycle. Safe Homes provides the first month’s rent or utilities to help women obtain affordable housing. This is the only program of its kind currently in the area, so in many cases, Safe Homes is a woman’s only resource to help her move forward on her own in Omaha.

We are so grateful for the contributions and achievements of The Notre Dame Sisters whose lives continue to be devoted to education, promoting systemic change, economic justice, and personal growth that ultimately helps individuals and their communities reach their potential.