“Love gives everything gladly, everything again and again, daily,” wrote Blessed Theresa Gerhardinger, who founded the School Sisters of Notre Dame in Regensburg, Germany, in 1833. Her own experience of devotion to duties, of showing up daily for work and prayer would be tested in her native Bavaria and in the United States during the late 1840s.
Her words decorate a wall of the Notre Dame School here where daily acts of learning and loving, of struggling to instruct and give structure to the lives of 158 students whose intellectual — and in some cases physical — abilities are compromised. A majority of students — aged 8-23 — have Down syndrome or are on the autism spectrum.
The special needs school, founded by the School Sisters of Notre Dame in 1963 in Dallas, is devoted exclusively to educating youngsters with disabilities.
Notre Dame School has operated for over six decades in Dallas, today one of America’s largest cities. According to its brochure, “The school remains the only independent school in Dallas specifically designed to meet the unique needs of students with intellectual disabilities.”
During its 63-year history, the school has grown and occupied three locations. In 1989, it moved into its present home, a former Catholic school at St. Peter the Apostle Parish in the Uptown area.
Recently, Notre Dame completed major renovations of its two-story structure, modernizing its classrooms, cafeteria, gymnasium, playgrounds, offices and meeting rooms, and updating technology. The work flowed from a $12 million Hearts and Hammers campaign, of which $11.5 million has been raised, said Theresa Francis, who has been at the school 31 years and has served as its principal for 24 years.