Our History

Our Story

In the invigorating story of our beginnings and of the courageous women who have gone before, we concentrate on our mission of more than 200 years. We no longer have academies, but the seeds planted in parishes and social ministries on four continents continue to amplify our dedication to education and to the poor, attempting always to read the signs of our times.

The Congregation of the Sisters of St. Mary of Namur was formed in Namur, Belgium, in November 1819 at a time when religious communities were forbidden throughout Belgium and France. Josephine Sana and Elizabeth Berger came together in a small house provided by their pastor, Father Nicholas Joseph Minsart, to offer sewing lessons and religious instruction to young women of the area. The community quickly spread to other towns, and parents soon asked that their daughters be taught to read and write as well as sew. Thus began the tradition of Catholic education that marks the Sisters of St. Mary of Namur.

The Sisters of St. Mary came to the United States in 1863 to work as missionaries to the American Indians. Stymied by the Civil War, they settled in Lockport, New York, where they established a school for immigrant children. As demand for schools increased, more Sisters arrived from Europe, and in 1873 the Sisters answered a request from families in Texas and came initially to Waco. Following the path of the early railroads, the Sisters established academies in Ennis, Corsicana, Denison, Sherman, Fort Worth, Dallas, Wichita Falls and eventually the University of Dallas in Irving. Young women began joining the community, and in 1921 the Western Province of the Sisters of St. Mary was established.

Our Mission Continues

Our Sisters are still educators and missionaries, passionate supporters of non-violence, and promoters of the pursuit of peace. We continue our work in education, health care, and adult formation, as well as maintaining missions in Africa and Brazil. The Sisters of Saint Mary are committed to spreading the Good News wherever the Spirit leads us in meeting the needs of God’s people on earth.

International Leadership

The International Leadership Team is comprised of the General Superior and four councilors elected every six years at an international gathering of Sisters who are delegates from all the provinces and regions of the Congregation.

The General Superior is Sr. Immaculée Mukabugabo from the Province of Rwanda, elected in July 2019.

The General Council, from left:  Sr. Marie-Justine Penge, Sr. Ana Havenne, Sr. Immaculée Mukabugabo (Superior General), Sr. Maria das Graças Oliveira, Sr. Mary Laura

Regional Leadership

Sr. Patricia Ridgley, Sr. Rosemary Stanton and Sr. Yolanda Cruz were installed in August 2020 as the leadership team of the Sisters of St. Mary. They work closely with the Sisters and Oblates of the Western Region to set priorities, encourage solidarity among the local communities and the Sisters, and promote responsibility for one another and for the mission.