General Superiors

Accepting the Call to Leadership

Sister Roxanne Schares, General Superior 2018-Present
Sister Roxanne Schares
General Superior 2018–Present

Mother Theresa of Jesus Gerhardinger was the foundress and first General Superior of the School Sisters of Notre Dame. In “Called, Challenged, and Committed,” one can empathize with her anguish in negotiating the role of a woman as General Superior with the hierarchical church and her eventual beatification. After her beatification in 1985, she was honored with the title of “Blessed.” In “Woman of the Word,” the source of her courage and stamina are explored.

In her research on General Superiors who followed Mother Theresa, Mary Ann Kuttner, SSND, shares a summary of their lives. She begins with the successor to Mother Theresa, Mary Margarita of Cortona Wiedemann (1879–1894). Her successors, Mary Josepha Hermanna Glink (1894–1900), Mary Innocentia Loibl (1900–1909), and Mary Bruno Thoma (1909–1928) are also included.

The Grand Cross of the Order of Merit of the Federal Republic of Germany (Das GroBe Verdienstkreuz Des Verdienstordens der Bundesrepublik Desutchland) From the James J. Norris Collection of the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception,
The Grand Cross of the Order of Merit of the Federal Republic of Germany

At the General Chapter of 1928, Mother Almeda Schricker (1928–1955) was elected. She served with creative fidelity in this position until her death in 1955. She was given an award by the German government for her leadership in rebuilding the educational system of Bavaria after World War II.

Her successor was Mother Ambrosia Roecklein (1956–1968), the first American to serve as Mother General. She was instrumental in moving the Generalate from Munich to Rome. Highlights of her term in office are included.

Prior to Vatican II and the General Chapter of 1968, the governance of the congregation was more in the hands of the General Council. However, the call of Vatican II for more collegiality led to a momentous decision at the 1968 General Chapter. When  Mother Georgianne Segner (1968–1977) was elected, she asked to focus her vow of acceptance on the spirit of Vatican II rather than using the customary oath (on page audio available). She visited Sisters living under communism and shared their heroic struggles with the congregation. Highlights of Mother Georgianne's term are included. And in her unique way, Mother Georgianne reminds us of her Texas roots in "Howdy."

Mother Georgianne’s successor, Sister Mary Margaret Johanning (1977–1987) recited her own promise to lead the congregation (on page audio available). It was a custom to address the SSND Superior General as “Mother” until Sister Mary Margaret asked that this be changed to “Sister.” Her role in leading the congregation culminated in the beatification of Mother Theresa. Her desire to work toward reconciliation is evident in her negotiations with the hierarchical church regarding the New York Times ad. Some highlights of Sister Mary Margaret's term are included.

The election of Sister Patricia Flynn (1987–1998) was a graced moment and she led the congregation through the challenges following the fall of communism. Her leadership was also expressed in the celebration for the 100th anniversary of the death of Mother Caroline Friess, SSND (on page audio available). Some highlights of Sister Patricia's term are included.

Sister Rosemary Howarth (1998–2008) was invited to dance with previous leaders and delegates upon her election at the General Chapter of 1997. She called the congregation to deeper contemplation at the 21st General Chapter of 2002. Her leadership in supporting the restructuring of the congregation as well as her role in the induction of Blessed Theresa into the Vahalla and the beatification of Blessed Antonina Kratochwil are also significant.

Sister Mary Maher (2008–2018) continued the congregational dialogue on restructuring and moving toward a shared vision of communion.  Her insight and leadership inspired the establishment of the Congregational Novitiate. Carrying out directives of the General Chapter, she fostered a plan for congregational communications and the establishment of the Gerhardinger Fund, which provides for continuing the Mission of the School Sisters of Notre Dame.

Sister Roxanne Schares (2018–Present) was elected at the 24th General Chapter held at Marriottsville, MD, USA in the fall of 2017. It also began the 185th year of the graced history of the School Sisters of Notre Dame. Sister Roxanne is the 12th successor to Blessed M. Theresa of Jesus Gerhardinger, the foundress of the School Sisters of Notre Dame. Prior to being elected, Sister Roxanne lived in Nairobi, Kenya, and served as the temporary professed director for the Province of Africa which includes The Gambia, Sierra Leone, Ghana, Kenya, and Nigeria. In her previous ministries, Sister Roxanne was novice director for seven years; worked with the Jesuit Refugee Services in Africa for 10 years; and served as the International Shalom Coordinator (2007-2015) in Rome, Italy. Sister Roxanne entered the congregation in Mankato, Minnesota, USA, and was professed in 1972. She was a high-school teacher in the United States for 10 years before being missioned to Kenya in 1982 and is now a member of the Province of Africa.

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