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History and mission celebrated at
North American Archives dedication

Our goal is God because he alone is the reason for our existence.

Blessed Theresa Jesus of Gerhardinger,
Letter #5226, 1877


In the news:

July 25, 2018 Over 150 years of Catholic sisters’ history preserved in new archives. Listen to Michele Levandoski, Archivist of the SSND North American Archives on Wisconsin Public Radio (WPR). Michele explains the types of materials found in the archives and shares some stories about sisters. Learn more about the archives and SSND.


Preserving history has always been important to the School Sisters of Notre Dame, since its founding by Blessed Theresa of Jesus of Gerhardinger in 1833 Germany. Sisters’ stories and experiences have been chronicled in many ways and provide a testament to sisters’ unwavering dedication toward their mission, to those they serve and to God. Many of the documents containing sisters’ stories, accounts and reflections about their way of life and their ministries are now housed under one location: The School Sisters of Notre Dame North American Archives.

For many years, the School Sisters of Notre Dame housed historical documents about SSNDs in North America in 11 collections. In 2013, provincial leaders approved a proposal to consolidate the SSND archives to ensure preservation of historical documents, facilitate research and efficiently handle reference requests.

SSND Archivists, Sister Mary Kay Ash, Sister Mary Ann Kuttner and Sister Charlaine Fill were chosen to organize and coordinate the consolidated archives project. After a long search, the sisters chose Bergstrom Hall at Mount Mary University in Milwaukee, as the site for the North American Archives. Renovation of the space at Bergstrom Hall began in June 2017 and concluded in early October. The first shipment of records arrived from Wilton, Connecticut and Baltimore later that month, and the transfer of all 11 collections was completed in December.

The archives facility holds 2,800 linear feet of records from the current Atlantic-Midwest and Central Pacific Provinces, the Collaboration Staff Office and from eight former provinces: Baltimore; Chicago; Dallas; Mankato, Minnesota; Milwaukee; St. Louis; Wilton, Connecticut; and Waterdown, Ontario, Canada. It also holds records from missions that have been opened in Guam, Puerto Rico, Japan, England and various countries in Africa and Latin America. In addition to these mission records, the archives houses approximately 9,000 deceased sister files. All of these records are unique pieces and cannot be found anywhere else. Not only do they document SSND history but the history of Catholic education in North America along with the towns and cities where schools and missions were established.

A special feature of the North American Archives is the artwork, particularly the wood carvings created by Sister Mary Ann Osborne from Mankato, Minnesota. One of the wood carvings depicts Blessed Theresa, Mother Caroline and a group of sisters making their way across the Atlantic Ocean to North America. Part of this wood carving includes stars showing the locations of missions that were founded by SSNDs in North America and the rest of the world. A second wood carving also uses stars to honor the donors who generously gave to the archives project. Many of these donors gave in honor or in memory of a sister; those sisters also have their names engraved on the stars. In addition to the recognition wall, donor names are listed in a commemorative leather-bound book housed in the archives.

The School Sisters of Notre Dame North American Archives was formally dedicated on Saturday, June 2, 2018, in the presence of sisters, donors and staff. Sister Charlaine Fill and Dr. Christine Pharr, President of Mount Mary University, welcomed guests to the archives. Sister Mary Ann Kuttner presented a historical perspective on the North American Archives. Michele Levandoski, SSND North American Archivist, provided a look into how the archives will continue to preserve SSND’s history. The blessing of the archives was led by Sister Charmaine Krohe, Atlantic-Midwest Provincial Leader, and Sister Mary Anne Owens, Central Pacific Provincial Leader. A ribbon-cutting ceremony and a recognition of donors by Mary Kay Murray, Resource Development Director for the Central Pacific Province, concluded the program. After the dedication, guests were invited to tour the archives, take a closer look at the beautiful artwork, speak with the archivists and attend a reception.

Donor Ann Kampeter developed a connection with the School Sisters of Notre Dame when she met Sister Willibald Vierling at 10 years old. Ann attended the archives dedication and was particularly touched by Sister Mary Ann Osborne’s wood carving. Ann said, “It’s important to know the history of the sisters. They have done a great deal.”

Donors Jerry and Betty Mutza attended the dedication with Sister Benilda Dix and were surprised to learn of all the places SSNDs have served. When asked why preserving SSND history was important, Jerry stated, “The sisters have given so much, and I want to give back. We need to help them preserve their history. Who will otherwise?” The School Sisters of Notre Dame is very grateful to all of the donors who made the archives project possible.

The archives is open through appointment only. There is no charge for on-site research; however, copy and reproduction fees may apply. For more information about the North American Archives, please visit www.ssnd.org/archives or contact archives@ssnd.org or call 414-763-1000.


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