Born in 1751 in Cuvilly, France, Julie Billiart was the very spiritual child of a poor shopkeeper. At age 22 Julie lost the use of her legs. With her body failing her, she turned to God as the source for her comfort and spent hours in prayer and meditation. Many came to her for counsel and comfort, including Françoise Blin de Bourdon, an aristocrat's daughter.
France had entered a period of political and social upheaval. The French Revolution saw the imprisonment and beheading of aristocrats and many of those in religious life. Churches closed. Schools closed. 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.
On February 2, 1804, Julie and Françoise professed vows of poverty, chastity, and obedience as Sisters of Notre Dame. For Françoise this meant closing the door to her former life of privilege. Though Françoise eschewed material goods for herself, her inheritance funded the opening of a free school for all girls regardless of their ability to pay tuition. Their work with the children, including some orphans, was a great success and they attracted many young women to join them.
The Sisters came to California in 1851 at the invitation of the Most Reverend Joseph Alemany, O.P., Archbishop of San Francisco, to establish a school in San Jose, then the state capitol. The location on Santa Clara Street for the new Notre Dame College (day school, boarding school, high school and college) was chosen at the advice of the Jesuit Fathers who had recently opened a school for boys (Bellarmine) at nearby Mission Santa Clara. Notre Dame opened on August 4, 1851.
In 1923, because of changes in the city and expansion of the educational work of the Sisters, the College of Notre Dame was transferred to the Ralston estate in Belmont on the San Francisco Peninsula. The high school continued on the Santa Clara Street site until 1928, when it was moved to its present location at Second and Reed Streets. The nucleus of the new site was the spacious home which the Honorable and Mrs. Myles P. O'Connor had given to the Sisters in 1898. Notre Dame High School San Jose has been at its present location for 90 years and in downtown San Jose for 167 years.
"Be like the sunflower that follows every movement of the sun, and keep your eyes always turned towards our good God."
~St. Julie Billiart
Hallmarks are the essential characteristics, values and activities of a community. What makes a Notre Dame Learning Community?
- We proclaim by our lives even more than by our words that God is good.
- We honor the dignity and sacredness of each person.
- We educate for, and act on behalf of, justice and peace in the world.
- We commit ourselves to community service.
- We embrace the gift of diversity.
- We create community among those with whom we work and with those we serve.
- We develop holistic learning communities which educate for life.
- The official seal of Notre Dame is the coat of arms of the Sisters of Notre Dame de Namur.
- The Shield - Symbolizes protection and faith.
- The Three Stars - Symbolize the Blessed Trinity.
- The Cross - Expresses the love of God as reveled in life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ.
- The Letters N.D. - Stand for Notre Dame.
- The Crown - Surmounting the shield symbolizes sovereignty, loyalty, and victory. It is the crown of eternal life.
- The Rose - Expresses hope and love.
- The Lily - Expresses purity and innocence.
The sunflower is a symbol for St Julie Billiart, the foundress of the Sisters of Notre Dame de Namur.
"Be like the sunflower that follows every movement of the sun, and keep your eyes always turned towards our good God." - St. Julie Billiart
The school's first mascot was introduced during World War II. In 1942, the students selected the Gremlin as the school's mascot. The Gremlin was used during World War II as the mascot for airplane pilots. The Gremlin was supposed to protect the pilots and their planes. Stella Barreto, aka Ms. "B", a beloved Notre Dame teacher for 38 years, defined the Gremlin as an "invisible, mischievous sprite whose purpose is to do good for the home team and cause mischief for the opposing team. For example, if you were playing basketball and you went up for a shot, the Gremlin would ride along and make sure that the ball went in. But if the opposing team tries to make a shot, the gremlin will sit on the basket and deflect the ball.
In the late 1990's, the Gremlin had a negative connotation due to a popular movie called "The Gremlins," where gremlins were the nastiness that happened when the Mogwai got wet. At this time, the students decided to change the school's mascot to the Regents. What is a Regent, you ask? A Regent is the person who steps up when a leader is needed.
Notre Dame High School in San Jose, California, is a Catholic learning community with more than 165 years of teaching ministry in the Santa Clara Valley. This educational legacy is dedicated to gospel values, sacramental worship, service learning, and compassionate community, in accord with the vision of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops.1 A Notre Dame, Catholic education begins with the tradition and spiritual gifts of St. Julie Billiart and the Sisters of Notre Dame de Namur. Their charism, articulated in the Hallmarks of a Notre Dame de Namur Learning Community, provides the spiritual lens that shapes our Catholic perspective and program.
Because we are a Notre Dame, Catholic learning community, we promote:
- The Church in the Modern World: We realize our educational ministry participates in the development of the Catholic Church and its members both now and for years to come, and we seek to translate the living tradition of the Church for the modern adolescent experience.
- Community: We welcome all people to our community—students, families, employees, friends and guests—with a spirit of joy and hospitality, and forge meaningful relationships for the good of the learning community.
- Liturgy and Prayer: We celebrate God’s presence among us with Eucharistic liturgy and various forms of prayer and sacramental worship.
- Spiritual Growth: We endeavor to provide space for reflective, honest and maturing faith formation.
- Education of the Whole Person: We recognize the growth of the human person—spiritually, intellectually, emotionally, and physically—in our pedagogy and services, and aid each student as she explores choices, passions, and opportunities to further that growth.
- Integrated Learning: We create educational programs that serve the twenty-first century needs of our students with integrated curricula, critical inquiry and global perspectives.
- Gospel Values and Social Justice: We engage contemporary issues of morality and justice in light of Sacred Scripture, Catholic theology and social teachings.
- A Call to Serve: We respond to Jesus Christ’s call to discipleship with service learning and look to Mary, St. Julie Billiart, and all holy women and men in our human history as models of a faith that does justice.
- Transformative Leadership: We ground the formation of leadership, service and advocacy in spirituality and the expression of faith.
- Solidarity: We foster inclusivity, ecumenism, and open dialogue among people of different faiths, cultures, and experiences, to honor all that uniquely shapes our diverse human family.
1 United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, Sharing the Light of Faith, 1979, #9 :
Sisters of Notre Dame de Namur
A global network of more than 120 schools are sponsored by the Sisters of Notre Dame de Namur. The sisters minister on five continents with particular commitment to educating young women and solidarity with the poor.