from Patti Andrews,
Mission Integration Council
(Abbreviated for this space)
February brings Founders’ Week to our campus – a celebration of the lives and legacies of Julie Billiart and Francoise Blin de Bourdon. On February 2, 1804, these women formed a new congregation dedicated to education and took the name Sisters of Notre Dame. The members of the Mission Integration Council, together with the many collaborators who helped put this week’s activities together, invite you to learn more about these amazing women and the heritage of NDNU. ..
In 2004, the Sisters developed and introduced the Hallmarks of a Notre Dame de Namur Learning Community. A major goal of this process was to encapsulate key values of the SND from the past so that members of our community can carry those values into the future. In developing the Hallmarks, the Sisters began by seeking input from teachers already established in Notre Dame classrooms, demonstrating … a bold willingness to look at their own core values in the context of an ever-evolving world.
This willingness has been with them since the beginning. Julie’s life as a teacher began in the 1760s, when the focus of education for the poor in France was almost entirely on religion. …Upon founding the SND in 1804 and opening the first schools, the curriculum included not only religion but also several secular subjects that the Sisters felt were necessary for young women in post-revolutionary France to learn – reading, writing, arithmetic and sewing. Explicitly excluded in 1818 were certain other secular subjects such as drawing, dancing and music which the Sisters feared would lead to dissipate behavior. But by 1829, the world had changed. Students and their parents were increasingly asking for lessons in music, dance and other subjects. Francoise gave much thought to these evolving requests with an open mind and found herself convinced….
It took several years for Francoise to put this new conviction into concrete form. … Finally, in May of 1833, after many difficult meetings and four years of thoughtful discussion, Francoise circulated a well-considered set of guidelines for introducing drawing and music (but not dancing) into the curriculum of SND schools. Our own recent introduction of the nation’s first PhD program in Art Therapy took at least as many meetings and at least as many years. I think Francoise would be proud of that collaborative process and its history-making result. She would be especially pleased that, 180 years after she ushered in the schools’ first drawing program, NDNU is poised to pursue new and innovative applications of healing through “drawing” well into the 21st century, expressing the values of the SND in ways the Foundresses themselves could barely have imagined.
As you go through your [week], whether you take classes, teach classes, or support the work of the university as a member of the administration or staff, give some thought to this important legacy of our Foundresses and ask yourself… What ideas do you have for making your [work] ever more relevant in the evolving world of the 21st century? What can you do to explore the possibility of putting those ideas – big or small – into practice?
Mission Integration Council