The Congregation of the Sisters of Notre Dame came into being in Coesfeld, Germany in 1850. In 1849, two young teachers, Hilligonde Wolbring and Elisabeth Kuhling, befriended orphaned and neglected children and took them into Hilligonde's home where they educated and cared for them. Both young women had been educated in the spiritual and pedagogical tradition of Reverend Bernard Overberg.
Their spiritual director, Reverend Theodor Elting, invited them to consider religious life. Three sisters of Notre Dame of Amersfoort, The Netherlands, came to Coesfeld in 1850 to give these two women preparatory training for religious life. The Amersfoort congregation had received their spirit and rule from the Sisters of Notre Dame de Namur, founded in France by Julie Billiart in 1804.
Hilligonde became Sister Maria Aloysia, and Elisabeth, Sister Maria Ignatia. Both these pioneers were soon joined by Gertrud Perger, later known as Sister Maria Bernarda, who was pivotal in engrafting educational principles in the sisters and lay staff, both in Germany and the United States.
Today the Sisters of Notre Dame and their collaborators serve the Church throughout the world in 18 countries on five continents in education and other ministries. Out of their rich heritage, they have articulated their educational vision and principles to respond to the realities of the 21st century world. Together they continue to be bearers of hope and joy, witnessing to God's goodness and provident care.