‘We were given both roots and wings at Notre Dame’

Students from Notre Dame High School’s first graduating class, June 1945. PHOTO: Submitted

A school rooted in history and tradition, Notre Dame High School will be proudly celebrating its 75th anniversary on October 14.

Founded in 1941 by the Sisters of the Congregation of Notre Dame, the East End all-girls high school began as a small endeavour. With few funds to start, the sisters had to rely solely on donated resources for the new school, including the building itself.

Notre Dame teacher Noreen Reiter explained that “it was indeed a small beginning, but from that tiny seed has grown a vibrant, thriving 21st century community of enthusiastic young women and their mentors, which is the Notre Dame of today.”

Students, teachers, and sisters developed a special bond at Notre Dame.
Students, teachers, and sisters developed a special bond at Notre Dame.

Only 75 students enrolled in that first year but by 1963 the school had grown so much that a larger building, called O’Connor Hall, had to be built to house all of the new pupils. Lorraine Treacy-Rozario, retired teacher and former student said that the first building “didn’t even have a ceiling. Just two classrooms and a partition.”

By 1970, enrollment was up over 1,100 students, forcing Notre Dame to move into the second and third floors of St. John’s Catholic School next door. All three buildings are still being used today.

Despite its growth, Notre Dame has been careful to retain their traditions and continue to celebrate their humble beginnings. Marguerite Bourgeoys, the school’s patron saint and founder of the Congregation of Notre Dame de Montreal is honoured annually with special events and a feast day. Once a teacher at Notre Dame, she has remained an important role model for both students and staff at the school.

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Current Notre Dame honour role students Erika Alajar, Leah Hickey, Rachel Madden, and Gabriella Biblow.

Alumnae executive president Karen Volpe explained that Notre Dame “is a sisterhood. [This celebration] is a coming together of celebrating our past. We were given both roots and wings at Notre Dame and whether we knew it or not, we identified with the sisters. We learned from them. Not just from the textbooks but also from their vocation, from their devotion, from all that they were and all they represent from Marguerite, and we took that and we brought it into the world in our own individual lives. So it’s celebrating all that we have, all that we represent.”

To celebrate this year’s special 75th anniversary, Notre Dame High School will be holding a number of events including an open house, a eucharistic celebration, and a banquet.

The celebrations begin on Friday, Oct. 14 from 5:00 p.m. to 10:00 p.m. with an open house at the school located on 12 Malvern Avenue. It will include a tea room, refreshments to be served in the gym, a pub, and raffles.

“October 14th is not the end,” said Volpe. “It’s really a beginning. It’s a way of projecting ourselves forward into the future with everything that we’ve brought, the whole 75 years forward.”

“And all are welcome at the open house,” added Treacy-Rozario. “You don’t have to be a Notre Dame-ian to attend. We’re part of a community and we want to express our gratitude throughout the years. A lot of the neighbours and businesses here have supported us in one way or another.”

The eucharistic celebration will be held at the Good Shepherd Church on 21 Simonston Blvd. in Markham on Saturday, Oct. 15. Mass begins at 2:00 p.m.

The banquet will be held at Le Parc located at 8432 Leslie Street in Richmond Hill. The banquet takes place on Saturday, October 15th.

For more information, please call (416) 419-4055 or email notredamealumnane@rogers.com


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