Latin America

From left to right: Sisters Carmen Garana, Rosaire Helling, Helene Gerstner and Fatima Carcamo leaving for Honduras in 1956. Sister Fatima was the first native honduran to enter the School Sisters of Notre Dame.
From left to right: Sisters Carmen Garana, Rosaire Helling, Helene Gerstner and Fatima Carcamo leaving for Honduras in 1956. Sister Fatima was the first native Honduran to enter the School Sisters of Notre Dame.

The development of the District of Latin America offers evidence of the School Sisters of Notre Dame responding to the call of the Church. The first SSND mission outside the continental United States was Puerto Rico in 1915. Eleven SSNDs from Baltimore, Mankato, and Milwaukee arrived in San Juan. Additional missionaries to Latin America included German sisters fleeing Nazism. In 1981 Puerto Rico responded to a call to serve in Banica, Dominican Republic.

From 1952–1956, sisters from St. Louis had offered catechetical ministry in Honduras, limited to summers only, because of other teaching commitments in the States. The call of the Church found a response in the hearts of sisters willing to establish the first permanent SSND community in Honduras in 1956.

The Canadian Province sent School Sisters of Notre Dame to Bolivia in 1961. Additional SSNDs from Baltimore joined them in 1964. School Sisters of Notre Dame remained in Bolivia until 1998.

The call of the church for sisters to serve in Guatemala found willing hearts from the Mankato province in 1962.

The story of the School Sisters of Notre Dame in Chile explores the discussion of the Wilton Provincial Assembly and their decision to send missionaries in 1964. Their experiences under Salvador Allende and a desire to live “a preferential option for the poor” led them through crises in the 1970s.

Sisters leaving for Chile are left to right: Sisters Mary Emmanuel Teehan, Mary Theodora VanBemmel (Provincial Councilors accompanying missionariies), Mary Simplicia (Mary Ann O'Connor), Maria Jose Tresch, M. Alejandro Ortiz (Maria Eugenia).
Sisters leaving for Chile are left to right: Sisters Mary Emmanuel Teehan, Mary Theodora VanBemmel (Provincial Councilors accompanying missionaries), Mary Simplicia (Mary Ann O'Connor), Maria Jose Tresch, M. Alejandro Ortiz (Maria Eugenia). Sister M. Alejandro was a native of Puerto Rico.

Canadian School Sisters of Notre Dame went to Peru in 1965. Like most missions in Latin America, their communities are composed of native members as well as sisters from various provinces in North America.

The Milwaukee Province discerned that sisters should be sent to Paraguay in 1967. Following a series of events, the decision was made to close the mission and then reopen it.

Sisters from Dallas began ministry to the parish of El Porvenir in Oaxaca, Mexico in 1985. They ministered in 15 villages until it was closed in 1996.

In 1988, the first School Sister of Notre Dame went to El Salvador. The civil war had left much hardship for the people and called for an unusual ministry.

The evolution of the idea of a District of Latin America can be recognized in a conversation that Mother Georgianne and Sister Loretto Gies shared in their visit to Latin America in 1969. The first SSND South American Conference was held in 1971 in Chile. Listen to Mother Georgianne’s greeting to the conference as shared by her representative, Sister Mary Luke Baldwin. Today the District of Latin America has its own elected leadership and governance.

 

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