Through the centuries, laity have associated themselves with religious as hermits, oblates and third order seculars. Many orders started lay associations in the years after the Second Vatican Council (1962-65), with Pope Paul VI’s directive to religious institutes to “re-found” themselves, getting back to the charisms of their founders and foundresses.
Following the Second Vatican Council, the first seeds for associates for the School Sisters of Notre Dame were sown in the Polish province with the Daughters of Mary, a group of lay women, who shared in the apostolic ministry of the sisters. This innovation was reported at the first session of the 13th General Chapter in 1969. At the second session in 1970, the General Chapter accepted the concept of affiliation, as it was then called. It was allowed to continue and become a topic for further study.
A proposal to admit Catholic laywomen as associates in the congregation was presented by the St. Louis province to the 15th General Chapter in 1974. The proposal was approved.
The concept of affiliation became known as association and was incorporated into You Are Sent, the Constitution and General Directory of the School Sisters of Notre Dame, by the 17th General Chapter in 1982. Provinces were given the opportunity to establish associations by which individuals enter into a spiritual relationship with the congregation. The opportunity to establish associations was extended to regions and mission extensions in 1992 by the 19th General Chapter.
Because others are inspired by the same charism and spirituality as we, provinces, regions and mission extensions may establish associations by which individuals enter into a special relationship with our congregation. Essentially spiritual, such associations mutually enrich the associates and the congregation. Plans for provincial associations are approved by the general council; plans for regional and mission extension associations are approved by their respective provincial councils. (You Are Sent, 1992, GD 9)
The first associates were received by the St. Louis province, and the first guidelines for associations were approved by the General Council in 1977-1978. By 1998, each of the then-eight North American provinces, plus Guam and Japan, had established associations.
Dialogue was part of the process of introducing associations into provinces and regions and continues to be important in their growth and development. Though men were not considered in the initial proposal, they were soon included as associations were established.
The associate relationship continues to grow and develop in North America as many changes happen in the congregation. On December 31, 2005, the former School Sisters of Notre Dame Provinces of Baltimore, Chicago and Wilton, CT joined to become the new Atlantic-Midwest Province. On June 12, 2011, the former provinces of Dallas, Mankato, Milwaukee, and St. Louis, along with Guam and Japan, joined to become the new Central Pacific Province. In 2012, the province of Canada joined the Atlantic-Midwest Province. The seeds sown on another continent continue to grow and flower. Associates are part of the SSND family carrying forward the charism of Blessed Theresa and Mother Caroline.
St. Louis 1976
(Adapted from Together in Mission, Associates and School Sisters of Notre Dame, North American Major Area Guidelines)