Friday, September 10, 2010


When the Sisters of Notre Dame came to the states in the thick of Germany’s Kulturkampf, Bismarck’s attempt to keep religious influence from interfering with his designs for the newly unified German states, they were known as Schwestern Unserer Lieben Frau—Sisters of Our Dear Lady. Tradition has it that the Sisters coming to the United States were advised that this name would be too big a mouthful for their new neighbors, and that there were already several religious congregations with the titile of Our Lady. Why not take a name much more esteemed in the minds of Catholic Americans—Sisters of Notre Dame, thus S.N.D.? The Sisters in Germany still use U.L.F. since they did not change the name when they were able to return to Germany after the Bismarck era.

The title tells all—a strong devotion to Mary, our Lady—that lives on in the institutions sponsored by the Sisters of Notre Dame. Earlier graduates of Notre Dame Academy will recall the frequent little and big celebrations of Marian feasts. There was, of course, the Sodality of Our Lady, the recommendation to wear the scapular and the Miraculous Medal, the crowning of the statue of Mary at proms since Mary was the Prom Queen, the remembrance of Mary in the receptions given to students’ mothers on Mother’s Day, and on and on. “Mother Beloved,” Father Lord’s hymn adopted by Notre Dame University as their devotional song, was sung with fervor by students at Notre Dame Academy for many years. It is still sung at Alumnae anniversary gatherings.

And who can forget Sr. Mary Agnetis’s insistence that all the students bow to the statue of Mary in the entrance hall on 5th Street, a statue that students passed often, and which received perhaps thousands of nods of recognition in the course of a day. Sister’s whole philosophy of courtesy and gentility was often couched in references to Mary. We were to conduct ourselves as Mary would.

While we don’t nod to the images of Mary around the school (there’s one in each classroom besides the several statues scattered throughout the campus), Mary is not forgotten. Each school morning, students are invited to come to chapel at 7:40 to pray a decade of the Rosary. Each year at a Marian devotion near the Feast of the Immaculate Conception, the freshman are given the Miraculous medal on a sturdy chain, and are encouraged to wear it. We have May Crowning at our May Holy Mass. Graduates of yesteryear will recall the banner on which is a painting of Mary. In the past when we have gone to the cathedral for Mass, the banner has been carried in the entrance procession; it is still used occasionally at school functions.

Sr. Mary Shauna, the President of Notre Dame Academy, recently arranged the lovely display of Marian statues and pictures you see in a few of the photos. Most of this collection is on loan from the Sisters’ provincial center at St. Joseph Heights. The statue from the Fifth Street entrance hall, another precious heirloom, has always been prominent here on Hilton Drive. For years, until the 1996 renovations, it was on the wall facing the administration entrance. With the ’96 construction of Heritage Hall, now leading to the new Fine Arts Center, the statue stands on the west wall atop the cornerstone from the Fifth Street chapel, and under the window from above the Fifth Street student entrance—true pieces of our heritage, as well as of our devotion to Our Lady, Notre Dame (photo).

“O Mary,
To thee I give the lily of my heart;
Be thou its guardian forever.”