Guided By Humble Beginnings

Many know the story of four French Sisters living under the leaky roof of the Notre Dame log cabin… I wish you could know of the gaiety and courage with which the Sisters countered the hardships and disappointments of those days. Tangled woods gave place to gardens, where companion rows of vegetables and flowers emphasized a basic thought of Christian Culture, that a knowledge and love of Eternal Beauty should crown the legitimate love of earthly beauty.

— Marion McCandless, 1958


The words of Marion McCandless take us back to the humble beginnings of the sisters who founded Saint Mary’s 175 years ago. In the early days, the College was known as Saint Mary’s of the Immaculate Conception, which is why the College celebrates December 8, the Immaculate Conception as its feast day. 

Today the College is vibrant, active community with enduring commitments to spirituality, intellectual tradition, care of God’s creation, service, the arts, and more. This yearlong celebration reminds us that we celebrate to go forth, to make a difference in the world.  

This year there was much to celebrate. The 35th anniversary of the Center for Spirituality, a campus pilgrimage that brought us back to our roots, the Women’s Choir Performance at Carnegie Hall, Reunion, a new National Literary Festival, and so much more. 

It is only fitting then that we end the year with Lessons and Carols. Hosted by Campus Ministry and Department of Music, this year’s presentation includes reading from periods of the College’s history. In the candle light, Women’s Choir, the Collegiate Choir, the Loretto Choir, and Moreau Chamber Ensemble present sacred song, scripture, and readings from periods of the College's history in the Church of Our Lady of Loretto. Central to the ritual, which is based on the Anglican Christmas Eve service, is the assembly’s singing of traditional Advent and Christmas carols. 

No longer do the sisters live in a log cabin or farm the land, but they still guide us in their response to the needs of the times. Their work serving the most vulnerable reminds us of the God-given dignity of all humans. The beauty of the grounds inspires us and provides a welcoming home to all who live on campus. Ultimately, a yearlong celebration serves as the catalyst to reflect and recognize all that educating women for 175 years has meant. Now we go forth and educate women (and men, in graduate programs) to make a difference in the world.