Celebrating 100 Years of Empowering Women
NDB was founded in 1851, sponsored by the Sisters of Notre Dame de Namur (SNDdeN), dedicated to the educational mission of St. Julie Billiart. The first students were enrolled at the Belmont campus in 1923. Although the School’s entrepreneurial and undaunted foundress began teaching young women “what they need to know for life” during the French Revolution, her spirit lives on as a timely inspiration today for the young women of Notre Dame Belmont. In the heart of the Bay Area, students pursue their dreams of becoming innovative change agents and leaders with a commitment to social justice.
About St. Julie Billiart
Born in 1751 in Cuvilly, France, Julie Billiart was the sixth child of shopkeepers. As a teenager, she helped her family survive a financial crisis by making linens, working in the fields and selling goods for her father. Life dramatically changed for Julie at age 22 when she lost the use of her legs. With her body failing her, she turned to God as the source of her comfort.
The French Revolution was a time of difficulty. Julie spent a portion of the revolution in hiding, at risk of being harmed for her religious beliefs.
In 1804, churches reopened and the message of the Gospel could once again be preached. In June of that same year, Julie was healed from the paralysis that had plagued her for 22 years. Finally, she could walk again.
In October 1805, Julie professed vows of the Sisters of Notre Dame. Many at this time saw a whole generation of children growing up unschooled, undisciplined and unchurched. Julie intended to change that. She and her friend Françoise opened day schools for children and girls. Their work with children, including some orphans, was a great success and they attracted many young women to join them.
Bringing the Mission to California
From the city of Namur, the congregation expanded. The first request to go across the ocean came after St. Julie's death when Bishop Purcell requested Sisters of Notre Dame to go to his diocese in Ohio. In 1840, Belgian Sisters arrived in Cincinnati. In 1849, three Sisters of Notre Dame traveled there by rail and coach to Boston, Massachusetts to take over the church school at St. Mary’s in the North End. In 1843, Father De Smet, a Jesuit missionary, requested Sisters’ help in his mission in Oregon, and in 1851 Sisters began to serve here in California.
A Global Network
The Congregation of the Sisters of Notre Dame de Namur serves 16 countries across five continents. The Sisters continue the mission of proclaiming God's goodness and educating for life as did St. Julie.
Notre Dame Belmont acknowledges that our lands are located on the ancestral homeland of the Ohlone peoples, and that, as the original stewards of this land, the Ohlone understood the interconnectedness of all things and maintained harmony with nature for millennia. Indigenous communities have lived in and moved through this place over hundreds of generations, and indigenous peoples from many nations live and work in this region today. Please join us in acknowledging and honoring their ancestors, their elders, and their communities