How Beautiful!

How beautiful on the mountains are the feet of those who bring good news.
Isaiah 52:7

Book by Sister Kathleen Feeley about the history of School Sisters of Notre Dame in Africa (1970-2020) 
How-Beautiful, SSND in Africa 1970-2020

This book tells a story of miracles—one after another. In 1970, four young School Sisters of Notre Dame (SSND) in the Wilton Province, influenced by a priest-friend from Liberia, boarded a ship to Liberia and began a movement among North American SSND to become missionaries to Africa. All who followed were inspired by the call of the 1972 SSND General Chapter for five percent of the personnel in each province to minister in Third-World countries.

In 1973, the St. Louis Province sent four sisters to Sierra Leone. The following year, one sister from the Baltimore Province heard a call to Nigeria and joined sisters of another congregation there to open the door. In the same year, 1974, three sisters from the Mankato Province were missioned to Kenya, and five sisters from the Dallas Province were sent to Ghana. In 1994, the Bavarian Province sent funds and missioned one Sister to Ghana.

These missionaries were only the beginning. More and more sisters joined them over the years. They taught in schools and founded schools, helped native congregations with education and spiritual development, ministered in parishes, educated seminarians, and became involved in health care. Bishops appointed them to positions of authority in diocesan educational organizations.

In 1990, sisters from the Polish Province were missioned to The Gambia, a small country with a significant Muslim population. They established a school, developed women’s groups, and engaged in community-building activities.

SSND General leadership was also strong in the formation of Solidarity with South Sudan, and sisters volunteered in this multi-congregational organization. In a significant step, SSND founded two congregational missions in South Sudan. The miracle of “called” and “sent” abounded.

In the early 1980s, a second miracle occurred. Sisters from various provinces in separate African countries saw the value in meeting to discuss their common interests, and they organized such meetings with the approval of the provinces that sent them. After many meetings, and lots of organizational work, the group became the District of Africa, and finally, in 2011, a new province, the Province of Africa, was established.

Along the way, something unexpected happened: young women in Sierra Leone, Nigeria, and Kenya began to express the wish to join the School Sisters of Notre Dame. Within fewer than ten years of experiencing the sisters who taught them, inspired them, and joined their parish life, they were imbued with the SSND charism. Then the same request came from other countries. How should the expatriate Sisters respond?

The story of the decision—first, no; one year later, yes—is the third miracle.

The formation program began. After first profession, the African Sisters joined various ministries and worked side-by-side with the expatriate Sisters. Intercultural living flourished.

Provincial House for the Province of Africa, located in Accra, Ghana. Dedicated August 28, 2020.

In 2020, a Provincial House erected near Accra, Ghana became a home in Africa for all SSND. The book describes this home, details its dedication, and links it to Mother Theresa’s negotiations in 1858 to send SSND to Africa. This third miracle illustrates the value that African people have for the concept and the reality of “home.” It also marks the 50th anniversary of SSND in Africa.

The book has a map of each country where there are SSND ministries, whose locations are marked. In an insert. Each map shows the location of each country on the African continent. The book also contains significant photographs.


The Gift of a Theme

Reflection by Sister Kathleen Feeley  

“How did you arrive at the theme, How beautiful on the mountains are the feet of those who bring good news?” Sister Oyin-oza asked me. Actually, it didn’t come to my mind until I was well into the writing of the book. Before I began to write, I had collected many documents from the archives in the African and American Provinces. I read. I pondered. Then I outlined the structure that I wanted to use: begin at the end, and then go back to the beginning. Show the fulfillment, using the voices of African sisters. Then tell the story of the missionary experiences of the sisters in each country. Finally, tell the story of becoming a province, and end with a glimpse of the future, as our African sisters grow in number.

As I reflect on it now, this line from Isaiah must have been on my mind from the beginning, but I didn’t recognize it until I was well into the book. As I wrote about the SSNDs from the United States, Canada, and Poland (Germany sent financial resources and one sister) going to different countries in Africa to give their gift of transformative education, I also saw their love for one another, and for the girls whom they taught, and their families. I saw them “plotting” to get the authorities to open new missions that they could see were needed. I saw them offering to leave a loved ministry to go to a new place. I saw them endearing themselves to their students by their knowledge and skills, but also by their love and dedication, and their understanding of the African way of life.

I felt inspired by this story every day for two years while I was writing it. May it inspire its readers in the same way.
Kathleen Feeley, SSND, Notre Dame of Maryland University

Sisters Oyin-Oza and Kathleen Feeley

There were times when I was writing and I had to pause because someone’s words or actions were so beautiful. I felt inspired. It seemed to me that the Spirit was truly leading the SSND leadership outside of Africa to multiply the bearers of good news to expand the ministries. Also, the Spirit was moving the women of Africa to hear God’s call.

This Psalm has always been one of my favorites. When I researched it, I found that it was used in both testaments. Isaiah (52:7) was anticipating the freeing of the Jews from the Babylonian Captivity. About a thousand years later, Paul, writing to the Romans (10:15), quoted the same line from Isaiah in proclaiming the good news of Jesus Christ.

One commentary on “How beautiful on the mountains are the feet of those who bring good news” explains that this refers not to the appearance of the feet, but to their action. “The coming of the swift-footed messengers of the gospel of the kingdom of God is beautiful.”

Once I had that theme deep in my mind, it supplied the energy I needed to keep my feet (and head) moving. I kept seeing that theme lived out. When an artist-friend who was going to gift me with the cover painting asked me for a sample of some landscapes in Africa, I said, “Just look at the quotation on the cover, and the inspiration will come.” It did.

At the end of the writing, the title of the book announced itself. How many times had I said to myself, when writing about a specific incident, “how beautiful!” Viewing the entire story from beginning to end, I could see only God’s providence in leading SSND to the beautiful continent of Africa.


PMB Achimota School Post Office, Accra, Ghana, Africa
320 East Ripa Avenue, St. Louis, MO 63125, USA

© 2022 School Sisters of Notre Dame   |   Privacy Policy