In 1949, six Sisters of Notre Dame left the United States to begin the work of educating and healing the poor and marginalized in Jamalpur, in the state of Bihar, India. Their efforts have grown into two established SND provinces in Patna (1961) and Bangalore, (now Bengaluru) 2004. Today, more than 300 Indian Sisters of Notre Dame are serving in their native country, educating women and children, teaching skills that empower women, delivering health care, and working in various social ministries. They are impacting their own culture and elevating their own society.
The sisters opened a small healthcare facility in Jamalpur in 1949. In 1950, an English medium (language) school was opened for kindergarten through Standard 11. The sisters also administered and taught in the St. Joseph Parish Hindi medium school. We now have established over 30 mission stations in both north and south India and many Hindi and English schools in Patna and Bangalore. In the culturally and religiously diverse country of India, more than 90% of the 1.34 billion people are Hindus. Only about 2% are Christians.
The apostolic works of the sisters spread in the States of Bihar, West-Bengal, Uttar Pradesh, Karnataka, Tamil Nadu, Kerala, Chhattisgar, Maharashtra, Odisha, Andhra Pradesh and Assam, and the Union Territories of Delhi, Jammu and Kashmir.
The Bangalore province of the Sisters of Notre Dame was established in southern India in 2004 by the sisters of the Patna, India, province. Political unrest in northern India, restrictions in college admissions for young sisters, and irregularities of Board-examinations in the State of Bihar (home of Notre Dame headquarters and Formation Centers), made it urgent to establish a house in south India. Sisters from the Bangalore province currently minister in the following states: Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka, Kerala, Maharastra, Odisha and Tamil Nadu.
Currently, the expanded Jamalpur clinic serves an average of 350 people every day. There are 11 additional health care centers located in seven Indian states. Taking a holistic approach to health, four sister doctors and more than 25 sister nurses minister in underserved areas of India where hospitals are hours away. They also minister in other situations including a leper colony, a prison, and a government program for the eradication of tuberculosis.
Since assuming the administration of St. Joseph School, Jamalpur, in 1949, Sisters of Notre Dame have opened schools in many areas of India, including pre-school Montessori, elementary and high schools, community colleges and teacher training colleges. The Opportunity School in Bangalore provides for special-needs children. Some Notre Dame schools have as many as 3,000 students! The sisters also conduct non-formal education programs for rural village children, and adult literacy programs.
Empowerment of Women
SND social workers conduct hundreds of skills-training and empowerment programs to increase the self-confidence of women and offer economic training to improve their options for self-support. Empowerment programs for illiterate women often use music as a teaching method. In rural self-help groups, the women learn to generate income by making items such as leaf-plates and rope, which they bundle and sell at local markets. The women also support one another in difficult circumstances and learn to stand up for their rights in a culture where women frequently suffer discrimination and violence.