SSNDs celebrate 150 years - Catholic Courier

SSNDs celebrate 150 years

How ya doin’ there, pumpkin?” Sister Rita Habecker said as she took a 9-month-old boy into her arms.
Though the child has numerous physical problems following a premature birth, Sister Habecker exclaimed, “He’s such a beautiful baby – oh, my God.” She continued to cradle the boy lovingly as she met with a visitor.

Sister Habecker has served as co-director for the past 20 years at Andrew’s Center, a foster-care outreach in the convent of Irondequoit’s St. James Church, where she also resides. She is one of many School Sisters of Notre Dame in the Rochester Diocese who have branched out from their backgrounds in education. Several of those SSNDs are involved in parish ministry, and two -Sister Lorraine Burns and Sister Mary Louise Brien – have committed to an SSND-operated learning center for low-income women and their children that just opened in Rochester this year.

The order celebrated 150 years of service in this diocese on Sunday, April 25. Mass was celebrated by Bishop Matthew H. Clark at St. Michael’s Church in Rochester, and a banquet followed at the Diplomat Party House. All 15 School Sisters of Notre Dame who currently reside and minister in the diocese, as well as 50 additional SSNDs, were to have taken part.

According to a history provided by the order, the Rochester connection began on Oct. 15, 1854, when two SSNDs and a candidate came to Rochester to teach 178 girls at the former St. Joseph’s School – the first parochial school in Rochester. Most of the families at that time were of German extraction.

The teaching ministry spread rapidly to other German parish schools: Ss. Peter and Paul in 1855; St. Boniface in 1856; Holy Family and Holy Redeemer in 1867; St. Michael’s in 1874; St. Joseph’s Commercial School in 1904; and Holy Ghost, Gates, in 1918. Three new missions were added in 1962: Rochester’s St. Philip Neri School and Irondequoit’s St. Margaret Mary School, as well as Irondequoit’s Bishop Kearney High School.
Sister Evelyn Breslin, a Boston native, said she was attracted as a young child to an SSND vocation due to the sisters’ “openness, their friendliness, their eagerness to work on educating children.” Sister Breslin, who entered the SSNDs in 1965, taught at St. Joseph’s Business School and was then a teacher and administrator at Bishop Kearney for 22 years before taking on her current role – as executive assistant at School of the Holy Childhood in Henrietta – in 1994.

Sister Habecker, who entered the SSNDs in 1962, said that she “always found the sisters to be extremely friendly and caring” at her childhood parish, Ss. Peter and Paul in Rochester. She is a former principal at Holy Family and Holy Ghost schools.

The SSNDs’ provincial headquarters are in Wilton, Conn. While education is still a focal point for several of the Rochester sisters, Sister Habecker and Sister Breslin noted that some of the other ministries are closely linked with the founding sisters’ focus in 1830s Bavaria -care of the poor. This is true in both the United States and the many other countries where SSNDs serve, Sister Breslin said.

“Well, you know, you teach in different ways,” Sister Breslin remarked. “We’re constantly becoming more involved in the communities.”

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