Leadership and social responsibility in the SSND tradition

Sister Linda Stilling with NDMU students

At Notre Dame of Maryland University, leadership is demonstrated in many different ways. The phrase “ . . . educating women as leaders to transform the world . . . ” appears in the first sentence of the University’s mission statement. One professor said: “One of the things that I have valued the most during my 18 years at Notre Dame is having the opportunity to learn from the School Sisters of Notre Dame as they live the mission of our institution, developing and promoting leadership and a sense of social responsibility in members of our Notre Dame community.”


NDMU’s Community Day, celebrated annually in late October, is an outgrowth of the institution’s celebration of SSND Foundation Day, Oct. 24. Community Day themes always focus on issues of Catholic social justice and responsibility. This annual event is a unique opportunity for all members of our Notre Dame community to share in the vision and values of SSND. Faculty, staff and students are invited to present and/or attend workshops that complement the theme.


The SSNDs have also helped so many students develop their full potential as leaders. In the first-year seminar course, students participate in a service project. They travel to Villa Assumpta, where they are randomly paired with some of the School Sisters living there to record their oral histories. Every year it is amazing to see some of the quietest students in the class confidently interacting with the sisters. Through their humble encouragement, the SSNDs are able to bring out the best in the students. An SSND serves as a connector in each first-year seminar course. The students especially enjoy Sister Mary Roy Weiss’ visits when she brings her musical talents to the classroom. S. Mary Roy has a way to get even the least-engaged students in the class on their feet singing, dancing and fully participating in the activities! Sister Gerold Mobley and Sister Marie Vincent Brothers found ways to tap into the creativity of students who insisted they could not even draw a straight line! The students were inspired by the artistic talents of these two sisters, who will be greatly missed. There are reminders everywhere of the sisters’ work: notecards, bookmarks and programs used to mark many Notre Dame occasions.


The School Sisters also sponsor a Service Abroad program where students have the opportunity to travel abroad to complete service projects under the direction of School Sisters around the globe. Sister Kathleen Marie Engers is one of the key promoters of this program.


Every other year, a group of students sponsored by the Global Solidarity Committee joins SSNDs at the UN Commission on the Status of Women to participate in sessions on global issues affecting women. Sister Sharon Kanis has often accompanied these students.


Students have opportunities to participate in an alternative spring break. Sister Mary Fitzgerald has accompanied groups of students from Notre Dame, along with high school students, on several trips to work in areas of New Orleans ravaged by Hurricane Katrina. They build houses with Habitat for Humanity.


These are just a few of the ways that SSNDs promote leadership and instill a commitment to social responsibility in members of the Notre Dame of Maryland community. NDMU has been enriched and inspired by the firm, confident guidance of SSND.

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