Shalom and the UN

Pioneers for Human Rights

On September 3, 1998, Blessed Theresa Gerhardinger was inducted into the Bavarian Hall of Fame. Hans Zehetmair, the Bavarian Minister of Education said: “Mother Theresa…has made a decisive contribution to the improvement of life and education for women and girls. In fact, Sister Mary Theresa could be called one of the most important pioneers for women’s rights and human rights in our area.1

School Sisters of Notre Dame, like Mother Theresa, are dedicated to enhancing human rights. The roots of this dedication have grown from contemplation on the life of Jesus and fidelity to Catholic social justice teaching. Rosemary Howarth, SSND, former General Superior, and the directors of Shalom and the UN-NGO describe this desire at the 2002 General Chapter.

The General Chapter of 1992, celebrating the 100th anniversary of the death of American foundress Mother Caroline Friess, SSND, was an experience of her spirit of fearless faith. Patricia Flynn, SSND, General Superior and the General Chapter gave voice and vision to this longing by initiating the International Network for Justice, Peace, and the Integrity of Creation, known as Shalom. There is an SSND Branch Representative in Latin America, Asia, Oceania, Africa, Europe, and North America. The School Sisters of Notre Dame in retirement homes are also involved through their prayer and suffering. Explore the original spirit of the Shalom Network by viewing the video at right. Read the documentation recalling the development of Shalom.

The Shalom Network is under the patronage of Blessed Antonina Kratochwil, SSND (1881–-1942) from the Polish Province. She was one of 108 persons chosen from among the many Polish laity, clergy, and sisters who were killed for their faith during World War II. She was declared “Blessed” by Pope John Paul II on June 13, 1999, in Warsaw. Polish School Sisters of Notre Dame have created a Lenten prayer remembering her spirit.

The Shalom Network educates and links SSNDs on issues of justice throughout the world. The strong leadership of Shalom Coordinator, Kathy Schmittgens, SSND continues to provide leadership in peace, justice and the integrity of Creation. Explore actions for justice and peace among School Sisters of Notre Dame in the North American Major Area.

Evolving from this network, thirty-two Shalom Clubs have been organized on four continents. Two of the most recent clubs formed in North America are composed of adults. The Shalom Network has been gifted with many fine educators who have offered ways to begin a Shalom Club.

School Sisters of Notre Dame treasure Mother Theresa’s gift of internationality. This internationality and a desire to educate in Catholic social teaching led the School Sisters of Notre Dame to apply for accreditation as a Non-Governmental Organization at the United Nations. In 1977, Mary Beth Reissen, SSND raised the question that led to this decision that resulted in 15 years of dialogue. Like most SSND decisions this was a community dialogue across cultures that brought deeper global consciousness. An address to the UN in 1979 by Pope John Paul II gave further support to this SSND desire. In 1997, the School Sisters of Notre Dame submitted an application to become associated with the Economic and Social Organization; view the actual proposal using the video above.

Sister Ethel Howley, SSND, was the first representative to the United Nations.
Sister Ethel Howley, SSND, was the first representative to the United Nations.

In their capacity as an NGO in special consultation status with the UN Economic and Social Council, (ECOSOC) SSNDs at the UN focus especially on the rights of women and girls to education and development. In her role as the first representative to the UN, Ethel Howley, SSND, reflects on what this experience meant to her. Ann Scholz, SSND, current director of the SSND Non-Governmental Organization at the United Nations shares reflections and her quadrennial report of 2005. To understand the scope of the ministry of the School Sisters of Notre Dame at the UN read her quadrennial report.

Has this desire for justice attracted others to join the School Sisters of Notre Dame? Catherine (Missy) Gugerty, SSND explores her decision to become an SSND based on a desire to educate for justice and work with the materially poor. She is Director for Values and Service at Loyola College in Baltimore. To read her story, visit Educators for Peace.

One way to educate students in Mother Theresa’s spirit is to offer a Mother Theresa Award. Learn more about how Notre Dame High School, St. Louis, chooses a senior to receive this award.


  1. Quoted from Eine engagierte Frau – in der Walhalla geehrt. “Woman of commitment honored in the Valhalla.” Munich: October 1998. p. 37

To learn more about Shalom and the UN, explore the following options.

Origins and GoalsBlessed Antonina Kratochwil, SSNDShalom Clubs Starting a Shalom ClubGlobal Dialogue NGOSSND at United NationsCommunity Effort Educators for Peace Mother Theresa Award Return to Shalom and the UN


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