HISTORY AND MISSION OF SSMN
In this most amazing story of our beginnings and of the courageous women who have gone before us, we witness to the undeniable and incredible impact of the mission of education that our Sisters have carried on for over 195 years. We no longer have academies, but the seeds planted in many institutions, parishes, and social ministries continue to grow and spread our mission of education and dedication to the poor, reading the signs of our times.
The Congregation of the Sisters of St. Mary of Namur was established in Namur, Belgium in 1819, when religious communities were forbidden throughout Belgium and France. Josephine Sana and Elizabeth Berger came together on November 11, 1819, in the small house provided by their pastor, Father Nicholas Minsart, and began to offer sewing lessons, together with religious instruction, to the young women of the area. The community quickly spread to other towns. Parents soon asked that their girls be taught to read and write as well as sew, and thus began the tradition of Catholic education that continues to mark the Sisters of St. Mary of Namur on four continents.
The Sisters of St. Mary Move West
The Sisters of St. Mary came to the United States in 1863, to work as missionaries to the American Indians. Due to the confusion of the Civil War, the Sisters never reached the missions, but ended up in Lockport, New York, where they established a school for immigrant children.
As demands for schools increased, more Sisters were sent from Europe, and in 1873 the Sisters arrived in Waco, Texas. Gradually following the path of the early railroad lines, the Sisters established academies in Ennis, Corsicana, Denison, Sherman, Fort Worth, Dallas and Wichita Falls. Young women started joining the community and in 1921 the Western Province of the Sisters of St. Mary was established.
The Mission Continues
Our Sisters are still educators and missionaries, passionate supporters of non-violence, and promoters of the pursuit of peace. We continue our work in education, health care, prison ministry, immigration and adult formation, as well as maintaining missions in Africa, Brazil and the Dominican Republic. The Sisters of Saint Mary are committed to spreading the Good News wherever the Spirit leads us in meeting the needs of God’s people on earth.
The International Leadership Team is comprised of the General Superior and four councilors elected every six years at an international gathering of Sisters who are delegates from the eight provinces of the Congregation.
The General Superior is Sr. Maureen Quinn from the Eastern Province. The members of the General Council are left to right: Sr. Marie-Justine Penge (Province of Congo/Cameroon), Sr. Marie-Françoise Assoignon (Belgian Province), Sr. Maureen Quinn (Eastern Province), Sr. Immaculée Mukabugabo (Province of Rwanda), and Sr. Rosemary Stanton (Western Province).
The mission of the leadership is to oversee the religious life and ministry of the Sisters and to encourage unity and solidarity within the Congregation.
The new leadership team of the Sisters of St. Mary of Namur was installed in September, 2017. The Council is composed of Sr. Gabriela Martinez, provincial, Sisters Dorothy Powers and Patricia Ste. Marie as councilors. The three sisters will serve for a period of three years.
The leadership council meets once a month to look at the life, ministry, and mission of the Sisters in the Province.
As the new leadership prepares to lead the Texas Province they hope to be a meaningful presence to others, touching and being touched by the God of life who calls us to mission. "We pray to be a new parable for the 21st century, one of renewed simplicity, creativity, and communion." – Transformation p.10, Chapter Document 2013.
The Sisters of St. Mary convoked a General Assembly in Belgium from Oct. 23 to Nov. 2. Provincials and a representative from each of the nine Provinces met with our Superior General and her Councilors. Sr. Gabriela Martinez and Sr. Dorothy Powers represented the Sisters in Texas.
Provincials and Councilors at the 2017 Assembly in Belgium
198 ANNIVERSARY CELEBRATION
The Sisters celebrated their 198th birthday!
On Nov. 11, 1819, two young women came together to work for the poor with Dom Nicholas Joseph Minsart in the Parish of St. Loup in Namur, Belgium. Their supper that night consisted of baked potatoes and baked apples. Since that time, it has been our annual tradition to have a special prayer to commemorate that occasion and then to have the same supper together. Our work of education and work with the poor has now spread to ten countries.