Notre Dame Celebrates 220th Foundress Day

St. Julie Billiart

by Ella S. ’24

On Friday, Feb. 2, the ND community celebrated Foundress Day! This day is dedicated to honoring our founder, Saint Julie Billiart, whose pioneering efforts laid the groundwork for girls' education at our school.

Saint Julie Billiart, hailing from France, exhibited an unwavering commitment to the education of others, even amidst personal challenges such as paralysis. In 1789, she experienced a vision that urged her to establish religious congregations, setting the course for her life's work. Acting on this vision, Billiart journeyed to Amiens in 1794, where she met Francoise, a pivotal figure in co-founding the Institute of Notre Dame. This institution was dedicated to educating girls from economically disadvantaged backgrounds. Subsequently, on Feb. 2, 1804, Billiart, with Catherine Dechȃtel and Françoise de Bourdon, created the Congregation of the Sisters of Notre Dame, focusing primarily on teaching. While their initial focus was on educating the underprivileged, they later expanded their mission to include students from all socioeconomic backgrounds. These Sisters of Notre Dame ultimately established our very own Notre Dame school in San Jose in 1851, then known as the Women’s College of Notre Dame.

Foundress Day not only commemorates our school's inception but also celebrates our vibrant contemporary community. In addition to honoring our past, we recognize World Interfaith Harmony Week, typically observed from Feb. 1 to Feb. 7. During this international event, our diverse community acknowledges the potential for global unity through interreligious dialogue. We strive not only to acknowledge our differences but also to embrace and celebrate them, fostering understanding and harmony among all.