St. Jean Baptiste Leadership
St. Marguerite Bourgeoys and the Congregation of Notre Dame
Early History of St. Marguerite Bourgeoys
St. Marguerite Bourgeoys, foundress of the Congregation of Notre Dame, was born in 1620, in Troyes, France, a region where women had played important public roles for centuries. After years of searching for ways to answer God’s call in France,
she sailed to “Ville Marie” (Montreal) to participate as an educator in the building
St. Marguerite opened the first school in 1658. Over the following four decades, she gathered other women to join her in the education of women and children. Maintaining the importance of women, she worked to educate the wives and mothers of the developing colony primarily in the knowledge and love of God, but also in home skills and academics.
St. Marguerite in Canada
Her work led her to being invited by the Governor of the French settlement in Montreal to establish a new school there, which she accepted. St. Marguerite crossed the Atlantic seven times during the time she was setting up her Community in Canada. Voyages during that time could be treacherous. Many people were sick, contracted diseases and even died during these long voyages. She was successful in establishing one of the first non cloistered religious communities of women in the Catholic Church, the Congregation of Notre Dame. Her inspiration in founding this community was the Virgin Mary, who traveled in Visitation to bring God’s Word to her cousin Elizabeth, and Mary present with the Apostles in the outpouring of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost.
The Congregation of Notre Dame of Montreal finds its origin in Marguerite’s journey, and today crosses other oceans, with sisters and associates in Canada, the United States, Japan, Honduras, Guatemala, El Salvador, Cameroon, and France.
The legacy of St. Marguerite Bourgeoys is alive and well throughout the halls of St. Jean Baptiste High School where more than 350 young women learn first hand and live out the lessons of their founding Mother. Their empowerment is born through a commitment to the ideals and practices laid out almost 400 years ago, and drives these ambitious young leaders to empower others in the process.
The Legacy of St. Marguerite Bourgeoys
The legacy of St. Marguerite Bourgeoys is also alive and well as so many of the members of her Congregation still work every day in leadership capacities in our school. In addition to these CNDs, the entire Congregation and other individual members have been supporting this school every day, and continue to do so. The school would not be open without them all. It is the Congregation of Notre Dame that keeps the spirit of St. Marguerite Bourgeoys alive in our halls and in our hearts.
Click here to learn more about contributing to the Legacy of St. Marguerite Bourgeoys.
Pictured is School Leadership and Members of the Congregation of Notre Dame
Our Principal, Sister Maria Cassano, CND
I am a member of the Congregation of Notre Dame of Montreal (CND) and a native of the Bronx, New York. I graduated from Villa Maria Academy in the Bronx. As a young woman, my CND teachers had a significant impact not only on my education but on my life. Their warmth, support, encouragement, and excellent teaching drew me to recognize that God was inviting me to become one of them. The CNDs who were my teachers were totally committed to following in the steps of St. Marguerite Bourgeoys, foundress of the Congregation of Notre Dame, who believed strongly in the need to educate young girls and women in the mid-17th century newly formed community of what is now Montreal.
I attended Marymount Manhattan College for one year and then entered the CND. At the end of two years of preparation, I professed my vows as a sister of the Congregation of Notre Dame. Since we were being prepared to be teachers, I moved to Staten Island and attended Notre Dame College where I received my BA degree with a major in English and a minor in music.
My teaching career began at Notre Dame High School in Schenectady, New York, an all-girl’s school, where I taught music. During the summers I studied at Teachers College, Columbia University, to earn my MA in Music Education.
After six years, I was assigned to Notre Dame Academy on Staten Island where I spent the next 25 years. During those years I taught music to grades K through 12. The opportunity arose for me to study school administration which also attracted me. I received my Professional Diploma from Southern Connecticut University and was appointed Principal of Notre Dame Academy. After eleven years I became its President. At the end of my term, I enjoyed a year of sabbatical in Washington, DC.
I then received an assignment to become Assistant Principal at St. Jean Baptiste High School in New York City. I also had the opportunity to experience a non-CND school, St. Catharine’s Academy in the Bronx, as Assistant Principal, and served there for four years. I received a request to return to St. Jean Baptiste as Principal and am now beginning my eleventh year as Principal.
I enjoy the arts so Manhattan provides the perfect opportunity to visit museums, go to concerts, walk through different neighborhoods, and experience the amazing diversity of the city and its people. I enjoy reading, eating Italian food, watching TV and traveling. My wish list of travel spots includes driving across the USA and traveling through Europe.
Father John A. Kamas, SSS, Pastor of St. Jean Baptiste Church
I’ve never been the type of guy who brags but, when it comes to our High School, all I do is brag. I was so happy when we decided to publish weekly “brags” about the school in the parish bulletin. We provide updates about projects the girls are working on and internships they’ve been offered and accepted. We write about some of the opportunities we offer our girls such as AP college-credit courses, international travel opportunities, and service programs. At graduation time we have to brag about the colleges and universities that our girls will be attending. Once in a while, we’ll brag about a successful and interesting alumna.
Taking a tour of the school during class times you would be struck by the peace and quiet in the halls. But peeking into the classrooms you’d see the hard work of learning going on. In some classes teachers will be lecturing. In others, students might be huddled together for group projects. The chemistry lab is a serious place. In the auditorium tables are set up so that girls who have free periods take advantage of some private time to do their homework and study. If you were to spend some time after school you’d witness the high energy dance teams practicing dances from a variety of cultures. If you were to attend our High School liturgies you’d see the girls in prayer, and you’d be invited to join in with the 30-voice choir leading the music–with Sister Maria accompanying them on the piano.
We highlight Jeanite accomplishments in our weekly church bulletin articles and we often have the girls participate in various Sunday liturgies. Hearing from them about their journey through St. Jean’s High School is interesting and uplifting once in a while. I hope you enjoy learning about our students, their growth and accomplishments, and in their success.
St. Jean Baptiste High School Board
Edward J.M. Little -- Chair
Stephen D. Amoroso, Jr.
Sr. Nancy Downing, CND
Sr. Patricia Flattery, CND '59
Dana L. Mark ‘75
Sr. Maria Cassano, CND
Rev. John A. Kamas, SSS