Our Founding Story
God called into being the Congregation of the Sisters of Notre Dame and, in the unfolding of its history, we recognize the signs of his goodness and provident care.
We were founded in 1850 in Coesfeld, Germany, by Sister Maria Aloysia (Hilligonde Wolbring) and Sister Maria Ignatia (Elisabeth Kühling) during a time of religious and social need. Our foundresses are pictured to the right with one of the orphan children that received their care.
As a young teacher, Hilligonde Wolbring, out of love for the poor, took orphaned and neglected children into her home. Together with Elisabeth Kühling, her friend and colleague, she educated and cared for them.
Pictured: Hilligonde Wolbring and Elisabeth Kühling with one of the poor girls they took into their home and their hearts. Art by Sister Suzanne Marie Phillips, SND.
Both women had been formed in the spiritual and pedagogical tradition of Bernard Overberg. Through the support of their spiritual director, Theodor Elting, the spontaneous charitable service initiated by the two women became an organized work. Recognizing the significance of their apostolate in the Church, he invited them to consider religious life.
In the Sisters of Notre Dame of Amersfoort, The Netherlands, Theodor Elting found a similar apostolic aim. At the request of Bishop Georg Müller of Münster, three Sisters of Amersfoort came to Coesfeld in 1850.
Read this article and the reflection that invites you to travel back in time to enter into some of the scenes of our Foundation Day.
Under their guidance, the two young women, Hilligonde Wolbring to be known as Sister Maria Aloysia and Elisabeth Kühling to be known as Sister Maria Ignatia, began their formation for religious life, abandoning themselves in strong faith to God’s action.
From 1850 to 1855, the Sisters from Amersfoort introduced the steadily growing community in Coesfeld to the spirit and rule of the Amersfoort congregation as they had received it from the Sisters of Notre Dame de Namur, founded in France by Julie Billiart in 1804.
In 1855 the foundation in Coesfeld became an independent congregation. According to tradition the foundation date is October 1, 1850. In the spirit of St. Julie Billiart, Sister Maria Aloysia, Sister Maria Ignatia and the first Coesfeld Sisters, our congregation continues to witness God’s goodness and provident care throughout the world today.
Watch this video to see our history unfold.