In February, 2007, several School Sisters of Notre Dame coordinated efforts to bring international students from SSND schools to the UN Conference on the Status of Women. This is an example of the community effort that has made NGO participation a means of educating ourselves and others.
Community effort was evident from the beginning of this global dialogue.
As the editor discovered documentation regarding the decision to seek accreditation with the United Nations as a Non-Governmental Organization, she was inspired by the commitment of those School Sisters of Notre Dame who gave their time, energy, and professional expertise to this effort for peace-making. Reflect on this twenty-year-conversation across SSND to build consensus and foster commitment to this desire. Click on the links within the text for documentation related to the subject.
The original proposal of 1977 received a response from the General Council in 1978. The commitment to study the recommendation was clear. The challenge of international discernment on seeking accreditation as a Non-Governmental Organization of the United Nations was in the context of cultural differences regarding the worth of the United Nations. Choosing language carefully to explain this desire was also a challenge. Response to such careful wording took clarity of thought and focused attention.
The General Council decided in 1980 that "since the congregation as a whole could not give unified support for seeking NGO status, they would not seek NGO status in the U.N." It was not until 1990 that a draft of the original question was proposed. The General Council recalled the decision of the former council and invited the Wilton Province, whose geographic territory included New York City, the site of the United Nations, to share a special role in the ongoing dialogue.
Through ongoing refinement of questions raised by School Sisters of Notre Dame the international discernment continued. Once again, an international committee was formed by the General Council to study seeking accreditation as an NGO. In 1992, Patricia Flynn, SSND, General Superior, and the General Council brought this topic to the General Chapter. Her personal note to Mary Beth Reissen, SSND, who initiated this process 15 years earlier, was an example of the community effort resulting in this decision. In 1993, the official announcement came from the UN affirming SSND seeking accreditation as a Non-Governmental Organization. The process continued with filling out the application for accreditation.
On the application form, the congregation was asked to stipulate three priorities for both further collaboration and service within the United Nations. Those selected were: 1) Women, 2) Sustainable Development/ Environment, 3) Children/Youth. In 1994, the acceptance of the School Sisters of Notre Dame as an NGO was received. The first SSND NGO representative, Ethel Howley, SSND, working with many School Sisters of Notre Dame, including Mary Beth Reissen, SSND, continued the international dialogue that she had begun 20 years before and responded with her final suggestions.