Kyoto, Japan

On a wall of the Honbu Convent are portraits of the first four missionaries who came to Japan from St. Louis in 1948. From left, Sisters Vivienne Hazelett, Eugenia Laker, Mary Paul Niemann, Mary Louise (Richard Ann) Fitzgibbon. The description under the middle picture reads: “The first School Sisters of Notre Dame from St. Louis arrived in Japan November 28, 1948. Congratulations on the 40th anniversary.” It was presented by the former St. Louis Province for Japan’s 40th Anniversary in 1988.


The heritage display in the Honbu Convent in Kyoto, Japan, exemplifies the internationality of the School Sisters of Notre Dame.

Missionary Call

The SSND call to Asia came in 1947 after World War II, when a missionary from Belgium described the needs of the people to the sisters in St. Louis, Missouri. In 1948, the first School Sisters of Notre Dame accepted the invitation to go to Kyoto, Japan.

In April 1970, Japan obtained the status of region, forming an independent SSND unit. In 1998, when the sisters of Japan celebrated their 50th anniversary, there were 82 Japanese sisters recognized as “pearls of great price.” These Japanese sisters, along with SSNDs from the United States, ministered together in schools and related works.

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They established a junior high school in 1952, a senior high school in 1953, an elementary school in 1954, and a women’s college in 1961.

In August 2013, the SSND Region of Japan rejoined with the Central Pacific Province. There currently are 58 School Sisters of Notre Dame in Japan.

The heritage display in Japan illustrates these moments in history with portraits of the first SSND missionaries, as well as photographs of the regional councils over the years. It also includes gifts and items from the various locations where sisters from Japan and other countries have ministered, including Guam, Nepal, Ghana and Sierra Leone.

You can read more about the SSND presence in Japan on the Sturdy Roots website.