It's 'Notre Dame Week' this week and on Friday, staff and students will be celebrating 'Notre Dame Day'. But why do we celebrate Notre Dame Day?
On February 2 1804, St Julie Billiart and two companions began the order of Notre Dame de Namur, dedicating their lives to the education of poor children as she saw education as a basic human right. She said it, "was the greatest work on Earth".
The sisters of this Belgian religious order came to Leeds in 1898 at the invitation of Canon Croskell of St Anne’s Cathedral to run the schools in the cathedral parish. They arrived on August 29 1898 to No.7 St Marks Avenue in a horse drawn cab to find a neglected residence and no-one to welcome them. The story goes that the cab driver had a wooden leg, which he took off to bang a door down to let the sisters in and the rest as they say is history!
The sisters taught here and opened new school buildings behind No.7 in 1904-5 (the majority of which were demolished in Oct 2008). The name of the new school was Notre Dame High School for Girls. It opened with 7 teachers and 75 pupils.
The sister's aim was to embody the spirit of St Julie by teaching their charges how to live, to know right from wrong, to love God and to serve, what we now know as character formation – something we continue to deliver every day through our Stella Maris virtues!
In assembly students learned about how living the Golden Rule; to treat others how they would wish to be treated, common to all faiths and none, is lived out, through the Stella Maris Award, Culture Week, and all the charitable activities that take place throughout the year. Messages wishing us Happy Notre Dame Day were sent by some of the sisters who used to teach here.
'We are very happy to see that the work of out congregation - which was started in 1804 - is being kept alive. You are in our prayers and we wish you every blessing and success as you continue your studies'.
Sr Joan Mary Brown, who used to attend Notre Dame sent a book for children about the life of St Julie, the foundress Sr Joan Mary was instrumental in helping establish Notre Dame schools in Nigeria, including our twin school in Enugu.
Many of our fellow Notre Dame schools across the UK and Nigeria recorded messages for us - wishing all the students in Leeds a 'Happy Notre Dame Day'
Staff and students will be marking the occasion through various activities:
- From Wednesday 31st January to Friday 2nd February there will be a treasure hunt sent to students, to explore the history of Notre Dame for a prize
- Staff and students will be offered free porridge across the 3 days
- Thursday 1st February students will host a charity bake sale in the upper study area for the charity Human Appeal
- Friday 2nd February - 'Wear It Blue Day' - staff and students are invited to come to college wearing blue for the colour of Notre Dame and yellow for the Stella Maris
- Friday 2nd February - Liturgy Service in the Chapel for staff and students at 1:20pm
- Staff can also enjoy a performance from the choir in their Friday briefing with a cup of coffee, as well as samosas at break and lunch
Our chosen charities for the week are 'Mary's Meals' and 'Human Appeal', this will be fundraised through collection buckets at the visitor reception and the student-led charity bake sale.
Director of Catholic Life, Catherine Herring said; 'It is so important to remember and honour the bravery and determination of the women who started Notre Dame. We would not be here, still helping educate students in Leeds without them. It is wonderful to see how our mission of faith, hope and love, is continued by our present day students and staff'.
It looks as though it will be a great week celebrating the past and present of Notre Dame.