On May 10, 1968, six very young Sisters of the Holy Names of Jesus and Mary disembarked from their sea voyage in the bustling port of San Francisco. They came in response to Fr. Michael King’s request for sisters to staff the school he would build in his sprawling parish in Oakland and to establish a Novitiate as soon as it was feasible. After being welcomed by Fr. King and the Mercy Sisters, they were whisked off to the Mercy Convent to rest and recuperate and prepare to move to Oakland. Within a few weeks, they welcomed students to Sacred Heart Convent on the shores of Lake Merritt. Eventually this school developed into today’s Holy Names High School and Holy Names University.

This is not the only anniversary that the Sisters are celebrating: 175 years ago, only twenty five years prior to arriving in California, Marie Rose Durocher and several companions gathered in a small town near Montreal, Longueil, to form a congregation dedicated to educating the whole person. They were responding to a serious need: young girls, especially in rural areas, had no access to education. Their religious profession launched the first religious congregation established in North America for the purpose of education. In 1859, only 16 years after its foundation, twelve equally young sisters arrived in Portland Oregon to plant educational roots in the Pacific Northwest. Today, Holy Names Sisters are found in Quebec, Ontario and Manitoba, Canada; on both coasts of the United States, in Peru and in Lesotho and the Union of South Africa.

Sisters of the Holy Names staffed numerous schools in what eventually became the Diocese of Oakland: In addition to Holy Names High School and Holy Names University, they have served at Sacred Heart (1876), St. Francis de Sales (1886), St. Augustine (1918), Our Lady of Lourdes (1918), Marylrose (1931), Assumption, Hayward (1952), Holy Spirit, Fremont (1956), St. Theresa (1958); St. Bede, Hayward (1964), as well as schools and other ministries in the dioceses of San Francisco, Sacramento, San Jose, Monterey and Los Angeles. Several SNJM’s, Associates and colleagues are currently members of Holy Spirit parish.

All are cordially invited to the kick-off 150th Anniversary celebration, May 10 from 4:30-6:30 at St. Theresa Catholic Church. For further information on this or other 150th Anniversary events, please visit the website www.snjmCA150.org

- Sr. Elizabeth Liebert, SNJM (parishioner)