Mother Theresa of Jesus Gerhardinger
Blessed Mary Theresa was born Caroline Gerhardinger in Bavaria in
1797. Encouraged by her parish priest to become a teacher, she
believed strongly that a child's need for love, safety and food were
as important as formal education. "Let us never forget the love of
Jesus for children, whom he took upon his lap and blessed," she said.
Caroline gradually recognized God's call to found a religious
community which would remedy the social situation through
education. Her life work, helping women and children grow to their
greatest potential, was a founding principle of the School Sisters of
Notre Dame. She brought the order and the mission of educating
girls to America, following the wave of German immigration.
Within a year, they established a presence in seven cities.
Mother Theresa died in 1879. At that time, her congregation
numbered more than 2500. They met the needs of their time by
educating girls in elementary schools, orphanages, industrial schools
and day nurseries and pioneered in the development of the
Kindergarten. For girls working in factories, they provided homes
and night schools where they could receive a basic education.
While most religious orders of her time were governed by men, she
was convinced that a woman could better understand, direct and
motivate her sisters. The Constitution of the School Sisters of Notre
Dame, approved by Pope Pius IX in 1865, allowed Mother Theresa
and her successors, rather than local bishops, to govern the
Mary Theresa of Jesus was beatified in 1985, and is now known as