Sister Aloyse of the Cross Jenkins, Sister Magdalen de Pazzi Penard and the novice, Sister Anna Raphael arrived in San Francisco on July 19, 1866 to open Notre Dame school on Dolores Street. Rev. John Prendergast, pleased that he finally had his “two sisters and a half,” arranged for them to begin their work in a frame building that had been a seminary chapel. The numbers of students, boarders and Sisters grew rapidly, and addition after addition was added to the original seminary chapel. Finally, in 1898, a four-story, state-of-the-art boarding and day school, was completed.
Eight years later, Sr. Mary of the Presentation wrote about an unforgettable morning at the school: “On the never to be forgotten morning of April 18, 1906, there occurred at a quarter past five the most dreadful earthquake San Francisco has ever known. I was in the chapel at the time and was about to unlock the tabernacle when the crashing of noise came. Candlesticks, vases, statues, and adoring angels fell around me.” A day later the new school building would be dynamited to prevent the spread of fire.
There were no question in the hearts and minds of the Sisters. The school must be rebuilt. The new Notre Dame, San Francisco, opened in August, 1907, rebuilt on its 1898 foundations.
For decades afterwards, the school provided a high-quality education to thousands of young women.
As the times changed, enrollment declined and the sad decision was made to close the school in 1981.
But this is not the end of the story…
The Notre Dame spirit lives on in the Notre Dame Alumnae Association of San Francisco. The school’s graduates continue to gather in friendship and continue to support the Sisters and their ministries.
And the school building, renovated, and still resting on its firm 1898 foundations, is now Notre Dame Senior Plaza. Owned by Mercy Housing Services, the Plaza offers beautiful, affordable apartments for very low-income seniors.
Contact Katie O’Leary, coordinator of the San Francisco Alumnae to find out about alumni events.