Saturday, May 25, 2019

The Sisters of the Congregation of Notre Dame and Saint Columba Parish

Did you know that the Sisters of the Congregation of Notre Dame have been an integral part of the Saint Columba community for many years?

As many of you may know, Saint Columba Church was built and dedicated in 1845. Its first school was built next door in 1848 and eight years later, was replaced by a brick structure and officially chartered in Manhattan. Saint Columba School was the oldest private elementary school in Chelsea and served the community and parishioners from other neighborhoods until 2006 when it was closed by the Archdiocese as were other Catholic schools in New York City.

When it first opened, and for many years, boys at the school were taught by the Brothers of the Christian Schools while girls at the school were educated by the Sisters of Charity. These two religious groups taught in the school until 1945 when the Sisters of the Congregation of Notre Dame (CND) were invited to take over. The CND Sisters served in Saint Columba School until 1999. That this order of nuns was able to keep the school running effectively - the school has thousands of successful graduates who are not celebrities — is a testament to the women who taught in Saint Columba School during some very historical times: the post-World War II boom; the ever changing demographics of Chelsea in the second half of the 20th century, which included the almost complete demolition of the neighborhood as it had been to make way for the Penn South development in the 1960s; and the cultural changes the country witnessed in these and ensuing years. Still, the CNDs persisted in their mission of teaching the children of Chelsea — and other neighborhoods - successfully for more than 50 years.

The Sisters were also instrumental in their pastoral work within Saint Columba Parish. Aside from continuing their education work in providing religious education to children who did not attend parochial schools, the Sisters visited the sick and the dying, and assisted the efforts of The Saint Anne's Guild — the parish women's group that helped support Saint Columba Parish and School for many, many years. For decades, the Sisters worked on Bingo in the school hall, organized fairs on 25th street to extend the sense of the parish community, and began and continue to work with the senior citizens in our neighborhood - including bus trips to Atlantic City! They also played a role in the formation of the Catechumenate group in Saint Columba. Indeed, the Sisters' work and influence have been longstanding, widespread and impressive!

We acknowledge their many contributions to our church community which stem from the selfless mission of their founder, Saint Marguerite Bourgeoys.

Les Sœurs de la Congrégation de Notre-Dame will celebrate the 400th anniversary of the birth of Marguerite Bourgeoys throughout 2020: click here for information. 

May 19th, 2019 installation of the statue of St. Marguerite Bourgeoys at St. Columba. Click here.