This year, the School Sisters of Notre Dame (SSND) celebrate the 50th anniversary of the founding of their mission in Sierra Leone.
In 1973, what was then the St. Louis Province sent four sisters to Yengema in Sierra Leone to start a girls’ section at Yengema Secondary School. Sisters were sent to Port Loko in 1976, Kabala in 1979, and Mange Bureh in 1990. In the early years in Sierra Leone, sisters ministered primarily in classroom settings at the secondary and teacher training levels, along with coordination of religious education and parish work. They also assumed the care of children whose parents could not provide them with shelter, food, and clothing. In 1981, the sisters were able to purchase a seven-room house and hire permanent caregivers for the children.
In 1995, the sisters were forced to leave Sierra Leone due to the rebel war. Three sisters returned in 1997 and within the same year, were asked to leave by Bishop Biguzzi because of continued conflict.
Although SSND ministry in Africa began as an entirely foreign missionary activity, with time, young indigenous African women found themselves called to life as a School Sister of Notre Dame. Over the years, the membership component of Africans in SSND grew steadily.
Today, six sisters minister in two communities in Sierra Leone—in Makeni, at the University of Makeni and Holy Spirit Hospital, and in Bumbuna at St. Joseph’s Preschool and in parish work and social ministry with women and children. SSND also minister in Ghana, Nigeria, Kenya, and The Gambia.