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Success in ministry schools

Notre Dame School of Dallas and Marian Middle School in St. Louis, both School Sisters of Notre Dame ministries, share their 2020 year-end wrap-up and plans for the coming school year.


Another school year to come

By Theresa Francis, Principal of Notre Dame School of Dallas

Wow, how the world has changed in a very short time. The staff at Notre Dame School of Dallas did an amazing job of converting face-to-face interactive lessons to Zoom classes. I am so grateful for their tenacity during these unprecedented times. I am also thankful to our families for supporting their students to maximize their learning at home. It has been amazing to see how our students have engaged in online learning and how much they love seeing their peers and their teachers on the Zoom platform. Although challenging, the Zoom classes have given our parents a window into how their student learns. So, in this sense, it has been a blessing.

Another challenge faced is how to celebrate our graduates and their accomplishments. We have done three different drive-up graduations, held a Zoom candlelight prayer service and delivered graduate yard signs. We still are waiting to determine whether we can have an in-person graduation service. This is a rite of passage that every student deserves, and we want to make sure that our students get to experience this once-in-a-lifetime event in a special way.

Notre Dame School of Dallas students gathered for a social distancing 2020 graduation.

With all of the uncertainty, it is difficult to determine what our next school year might look like, but our enrollment currently is holding steady and our donors have reached out to us to ask how they can help. We have increased our financial aid for the coming year, knowing that our families will continue to struggle. Right now, the hardest part for me personally, is not being able to jump up from my desk when I need a break to visit a classroom and see a smiling face.

Here at Notre Dame School of Dallas we always invoke the words of Blessed Theresa Gerhardinger, our foundress, “All the works of God proceed slowly and in pain; but then their roots are sturdier and their flowering the lovelier.” We pray that the lessons we learn through this pandemic make us stronger in our faith and lead us to treat all God’s creatures and our earth with a renewed sense of responsibility and care.


Celebrating Marian’s 2020 graduates and forging ahead

By Kristin Gumper, Director of Development and Communications, Marian Middle School in St. Louis

A student studies at Marian Middle School in St. Louis.

Throughout the 2019 - 2020 school year, Marian Middle School celebrated its 20th anniversary of “Educating Girls for Life!” Twenty years ago, 14 women answered a divine call with a vision and courage to start St. Louis’ first all-girls Catholic middle school. They were comprised of representation of seven congregations and lay women. In a spirit of love and commitment to the underserved, Marian Middle School was founded and given a name in honor of the blessed mother of Jesus.

Marian’s mission to break the cycle of poverty through education naturally aligns with the calling of the School Sisters of Notre Dame (SSND) foundress, Blessed Theresa Gerhardinger, who sought to provide education for girls who were deprived of an adequate education. SSND have played a vital role throughout Marian’s 20-year history by providing financial support and volunteer assistance such as tutoring students and serving on various Marian committees. As a result of the fidelity SSND have to Marian, girls across the St. Louis region receive a high-quality education that empowers them to succeed in their educational and career journeys.

Marian’s foundresses boldly imagined an innovative education model to empower girls to flourish — spiritually, academically, socially, emotionally and physically. The beginnings were humble… a rented space, 14 students, two grades and four staff. Today, the impact is profound.

As Marian concludes a year of unprecedented challenges, the school is incredibly proud of the growth of Marian girls in the face of adversity. (As context, at least 90% of Marian girls experience poverty and travel from 25 zip codes to receive a life-altering education.) Together, we celebrate Marian girls on their accomplishments:

  • 14 graduating eighth graders were accepted into five academically challenging high schools across the region: Bishop DuBourg, DePaul Prep (in Chicago), Incarnate Word Academy, Rosati-Kain High School and Villa Duchesne.
  • 11 students received high school scholarships totaling $75,800, plus an incremental $5,775 in textbook scholarships.
  • 100% of Marian alumnae graduated high school, in comparison to 73% locally.
  • 100% of Marian alumnae will attend college or a post-secondary institution in 2020 as compared to 64% of students from local public schools. They will attend 12 different colleges, including Maryville University, Missouri Science and Technology, Truman State University, Southeast Missouri State University, Webster University, Tennessee State University, Ranken Technical College, Franciscan University of Steubenville, and Xavier University in Louisiana.
  • Altogether, nearly 280 girls have graduated from Marian Middle School and received transformational education!

We believe, once a Marian girl, always a Marian girl! Together, we look forward to watching these girls start the next step of their academic journeys. Marian will be with them along the way as part of the school’s Graduate Support Program, which provides long-term high school, college, and career preparedness support for Marian girls so they can continue their journey of success.

As for finishing the year strong, throughout this time, through the pandemic and continued unrest across the nation, Marian continues as a beacon of hope for girls with limited resources and tremendous potential. Marian is already working on contingency plans for next year, with the goal of finishing strong to prepare for next year’s needs. The school will be taking the following actions in preparation for the coming school year:

  • Replacing the majority of computers, given their heavy usage during the pandemic and performing maintenance on those that will be kept.
  • Increasing hygiene products for students and overnight sanitation throughout the school facility.
  • Providing larger quantities of food and household supplies to students and their families due to the current economic situation.
  • Providing counseling services to address the increased emotional strain families are experiencing at this difficult time.
Max a Marian Middle School student, does school work from home during COVID-19.

Throughout this past year, especially with the pandemic, everyone has been stretching themselves and making significant changes. And now, during the unrest throughout the United States, many are re-evaluating how to address systemic change to make the future brighter for the next generation.

“As our country looks for solutions, we are grateful Marian was founded on the values of fostering justice, peace, and equality,” said Mary Elizabeth Grimes, President of Marian Middle School. “We are proud to stand as a model for others. Making a quality education possible for all children - no matter their background - is the first step in creating more equitable communities. We appreciate the School Sisters of Notre Dame for making all of this life-changing work possible for decades. We have more work to do together!”

You may also be interested in:
  • Prayer through quilting Sister Josephine Niemann displayed two fabric pieces at Good Shepherd Gallery in north St. Louis to honor Pope Francis’s encyclical Laudato Sí. The quilt, “Global Warming,” and the banner, “Creation,” represent a creative take on the serious subject of caring for the Earth.
  • Supporting Fair Trade School Sisters of Notre Dame support and believe in Fair Trade. By following Catholic social teaching principles of respecting the dignity of work and caring for the poor, people can make a profound difference.
  • St. Louis sisters, associates Adopt-a-Highway Sisters and associates in St. Louis took to heart Pope Francis’ call in his second encyclical, Laudato Si’, for people to take swift actions to improve the world’s environment. The section of I-255 at Telegraph Road they were assigned as part of the Adopt-A-Highway program got its first cleaning in August, with a second planned this month.

Want to learn more?


School Sisters of Notre Dame

320 East Ripa Avenue

St. Louis, MO 63125

Phone: 314-561-4100



© 2017 School Sisters of Notre Dame