March 18, 2022
Founders' Day 2022: Continuing and Translating the Mission of the Sisters of Notre Dame de Namur

On Tuesday, March 15th , Emmanuel College celebrated Founders' Day, a significant event in the life of the College commemorating the founding of the Sisters of Notre Dame de Namur by St. Julie Billiart in 1804, and the founding of Emmanuel College in 1919.

This year, a panel discussion followed a celebratory Mass, centering on the mission of the Sisters today. Sister Janet Eisner, SNDdeN, President of Emmanuel College, invited three newly elected members of the five-person Congregational Leadership Team, Sister Mary Johnson, SNDdeN ’79, Sister Lorraine Connell, SNDdeN ’74 and Sister Amarachi Grace Ezeonu, SNDdeN, to share perspectives on their current work within their vocation. 

In her welcome remarks, Sr. Janet commented, “It is indeed so good to have this opportunity to be together to reflect on a vision that is such a source of unity and inspiration both for us at Emmanuel and for the Sisters of Notre Dame around the world.” 

Sr. Mary, general moderator of the religious congregation and former professor of sociology and religious studies at Emmanuel, began by explaining the global mission of the SNDdeNs and how it applies to today’s world. “The five of us who were newly elected to the congregational team will be going to Rome in the next few days to start a six-year term. We will form an intercultural community and, we will work across 16 different countries, 18 time zones and five continents to engage with the Sisters and all the people that they minister to within those nations,” she explained.  

“Right from the start, St. Julie had a vision that her sisters would go throughout the world proclaiming God’s love and care to all people and fast forward 218 years, they do,” Sr. Amarachi, NGO representative to the United Nations reflected. In 2001, the Sisters of Notre Dame de Namur became an accredited non-governmental organization (NGO) for the United Nations. Sr. Amarachi is the representative for the SNDdeNs to the UN and follows issues related to poverty eradication, migration, rights of women and girls, sustainable development, financing for development, education, and eradication of human trafficking. 

For the last 20 years, Sr. Lorraine, former associate professor of economics and management at Emmanuel and general treasurer of the Sisters of Notre Dame de Namur, has been working with the Sisters in the global south to encourage them to learn skills such as financial management, but also how to take care of themselves as they have transitioned from being mostly missionaries in the global south to being sisters from those countries in the global south. 

She explained, “We are educating in many different ways,” and has proudly led and orchestrated important initiatives such as the African Photovoltaic Project, which was created to provide electricity, clean water and Internet access by harnessing the power of the sun. 

The Sisters of Notre Dame de Namur, in their 218th year, continue to actively listen to the world around them to better minister and aid those within their ministries and are enthusiastic to talk about their mission.

Watch a recording of the Mass and the panel discussion.

Sr. Mary Johnson, SNDdeN ’79, Sr. Lorraine Connell, SNDdeN ’74, Sr. Janet Eisner, SNDdeN and Sister Amarachi Grace Ezeonu, SNDdeN

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