This year marks the 100th anniversary of the end of World War I, which was a difficult period for the School Sisters of Notre Dame in North America and Europe, but for very different reasons.
The School Sisters of Notre Dame was founded in Bavaria in 1833. The motherhouse for the Congregation was located in Munich and German was the official language of the Congregation. Many of the sisters in North America were of German descent and worked in schools where German was the predominant language. During the war, anti-German sentiment ran high in the United States with organizations that had German roots. Like many other organizations the School Sisters of Notre Dame had to be careful not to be perceived as German sympathizers.
The School Sisters of Notre Dame in the U.S. tried to maintain contact with the leadership in Germany, but all communication was cut off when the U.S. entered the war in 1917. When communication was restored after the war, the sisters in the U.S. learned of the terrible living conditions in Germany – inflation ran wild, food and other materials were scarce and unemployment was high.
In response to requests for assistance, Mother Stanislaus Kostka, Commissary General, sent money, food and supplies to the sisters in Germany. Below are excerpts from some of the thank you letters she received in reply.
Oct. 1920, Munich: “…The beautiful under-clothing and the warm stockings! To buy such clothing and articles is far beyond our finances; also, the soap is a precious gift!... And the needles! We shall keep and appreciate them, and use them very carefully!...”
Undated: “ The dear Saint Anthony has brought the American dollar – the 50 dollar bill well and good at the place and spot. A Sister had jumped so joyfully at the news she almost sprained her ankle, - and almost took the joy from Reverend Mother General and the Sisters…”
Jun. 1923, Munich-Au: “On May 24 came the first shipment, 1 sack of wheat flour and 1 box (48 cans) condensed milk, then 8 days later 1 sack of sugar and 1 sack of oatmeal. Almost simultaneously the mail brought 1 package with 3 cans of powdered milk and now two sacks of rice…In our poverty we know how to appreciate the smallest gift and are therefore the more grateful for the rich and precious alms you have given us…”
Sep. 1923, Weiden: “…The famine is now unbearable. A pound of lard costs 12 million marks. A lb. of beef costs from 7 to 9 million marks; 1 small bread costs 150,000 marks; The next weeks might even be worse for our people…”
Nov. 1923, Orphanage, Augsburg: “…The beautiful new shoes for children, the little dresses, the warm caps and jackets, the panties and skirts, stockings, etc. we can use all of it very well. You should have seen the beaming eyes of the children, how they jumped for joy and clapped their little hands when they could try on the cute little caps. We Sisters and the 132 orphans send a very hearty ‘May God reward you…’”