MISSION BEYOND 100
Evolving in Sponsorship
Religious orders of women and men are experiencing a decline in new membership while their present members are aging. Many of these orders no longer have sufficient numbers nor the experience to support sponsored ministries like colleges and universities with all of their complexities.
The Sisters of Notre Dame (SND) passed governance of Notre Dame College to an independent lay Board of Trustees in 1990. At that time, oversight of all administrative, operational, financial, academic and extracurricular aspects of the College were transferred to the Board.
The Sisters continued to sponsor Notre Dame through their SND National Ministry Corporation (SNDNMC). They now have notified the Notre Dame Board of Trustees that they will no longer sponsor the College effective June 30, 2023
This has no impact on the daily operations nor future plans of Notre Dame. The College has ownership of all land and buildings on campus, and the College receives no financial support from the Sisters. As a business, Notre Dame has acted and will continue to operate much like any independent college or university—beyond 100.
As the College celebrates its centennial, it does so with gratitude toward the Sisters whose founding vision and indominable spirit brought Notre Dame into existence and sustained it for 100 years.
A link to a similar statement from the Sisters is available online at SNDUSA.org.
Frequently Asked Questions
FAQs about the Transition in Sponsorship
What does it mean that the Sisters of Notre Dame “sponsor” the College?
In order for Notre Dame to be a Catholic college, it must be “sponsored” by what the Church calls a “juridic person.” The Sisters of Notre Dame are such an entity. The College’s Catholic identity derives from that relationship.
Will the sponsorship transition change the day-to-day operations of the College?
No. Business will continue as usual.
What operations at Notre Dame will be affected by the transition of sponsorship?
Will Notre Dame have any connection to the Sisters of Notre Dame after the sponsorship transition?
The Sisters of Notre Dame National Ministry Corporation (SNDNMC) welcomes an ongoing affiliation with the College. Likewise, Notre Dame will continue to animate the charism of the Sisters and hold up that heritage as an important component of our ongoing mission.
How does the sponsorship transition affect the finances of Notre Dame College?
It has no impact on campus finances. The College currently receives a modest annual gift from the SNDNMC. The last major investment by the Sisters was the forgiving of the debt for the purchase of Regina Hall some years ago.
How does the sponsorship transition affect the property and real estate of the College?
The campus property is wholly owned by Notre Dame College. This transfer happened in 2008.
Who is leading the sponsorship transition process for Notre Dame?
The President, Cabinet and members of the Board of Trustees will lead this process with input from the campus community.
Will there be opportunities for members of the College community to be involved in the sponsorship transition process?
Yes. Leadership will host a number of conversations and listening sessions at the College over the next several months.
What options for future sponsorship are being explored by the College?
There are several options being considered:
- Seeking another religious order as a sponsor.
- Joining an existing group of Catholic institutions of higher education who have already obtained sponsorship approval from the Vatican. Several of these currently exist or are in formation around the country.
- Pursue a relationship with the Diocese of Cleveland.
- Become independent, non-Catholic, but in the heritage of the Sisters of Notre Dame by continuing to animate that charism and mission.
Is sponsorship required for Notre Dame College to remain Catholic?
In most cases, yes. The College could continue as Catholic if the Bishop of the Cleveland Diocese issues a letter to that effect. Absent that, the College would have to find a sponsor to maintain its Catholic identity.
What does this transition mean for the Sisters who work and teach at the College?
Over the last several decades, the number of Sisters of Notre Dame working on campus has greatly declined. During that time, lay members of our College community have taken up the mantle of representing the Sisters of Notre Dame charism. As the Church moves forward, lay leaders will play a more prominent role in all of our institutions. It is, therefore, imperative that members of the Notre Dame community be formed in the charism, history and heritage of the Sisters of Notre Dame and their founding ideals when they established the College.
How will this transition affect the future of Notre Dame College overall?
We see a bright future ahead and are planning for it. Over the past year, the College has released a new strategic plan, crafted a Beyond 100 vision looking into the next century and proposed new academic programs. We have already made great strides on the strategic plan and will continue to work for the success of the College; its students, faculty and staff; and to fulfill its mission.
Will this change affect any academic or athletic programs?
Will this change impact scholarships and will students receive more or better scholarships if the College finds another sponsor versus becoming independent?
The College receives no scholarship funding from the Sisters of Notre Dame, and we would not anticipate a new sponsor would provide any direct scholarship funding.
Would new sponsorship change institutional priorities or projects?
We do not expect any major changes. Our strategic plan is set and fitted to our institution. The College and a new sponsor would work together gradually in the transition to help each other advance their missions.
Would any campus department, such as Campus Ministry, be impacted if the College does not get a new sponsor?
No. Many independent colleges and universities have Campus Ministry and similar departments to serve students’ vital needs.
Why is this announcement being made during the centennial year?
The 100-year mark for all organizations is a time of reflection, looking back and planning ahead. This announcement comes at an intentional moment, as the College celebrates its founding and heritage with the Sisters of Notre Dame and plans for its transformation beyond 100.
Could becoming a more independent college be good for Notre Dame?
The Board of Trustees would like the College community to engage in a thoughtful discussion regarding the direction of our institution. As we look to the future, we have a number of paths we can take to define ourselves in the next era.
How does this announcement relate to leadership at the College?
This announcement has no effect on the president nor the Board of Trustees. The College has been operating much like any other independent college or university since its incorporation under a lay Board of Trustees in 1990. Dr. Pressimone and the current Board of Trustees are leading the College in its new strategic plan, proposing new academic programs and continuing additional growth initiatives.
Are other religious colleges and universities experiencing transitions in sponsorship?
Yes. The Rev. Dennis H. Holtschneider, CM, president of the Association of Catholic Colleges and Universities, said just this week: “As you know, religious congregations in the United States are aging, have fewer members and are finding themselves less able to continue their historical involvements in university governance. Several in recent years have relinquished their roles as sponsors and trustees altogether and asked their institutions to consider one of several alternative connections to the Catholic Church or even to continue their social contribution without remaining a church-affiliated institution. The SND’s recent decision with regard to Notre Dame College in Ohio is consistent with what we are seeing elsewhere. These are sad moments for campuses that have long loved the sisters, brothers and priests and deeply appreciate all they have brought to the campus. These are also important moments, too, for the campuses affected by these decisions must make thoughtful decisions on how their faith-based character and mission will continue for generations to come. Know that ACCU stands ready to be of help as the various options are considered.”
Why are the Sisters of Notre Dame making this transition?
The primary reason for this change in sponsorship is that the Sisters of Notre Dame are an aging religious congregation that no longer has the capacity to support the College to the level they would prefer. The Sisters of Notre Dame have issued a statement that can be found here.
How will the role of the Sisters of Notre Dame with the College change?
As it says in their statement, the Sisters handed over control and ownership of the College to lay people in 1990. So, in that sense the greatest change took place 33 years ago. The Sisters are taking the necessary actions to complete this transition by giving us full control of the College now in its centennial year.
How are members of the College community responding to this announcement?
We understand that this sort of announcement can generate a lot of emotions in our alumni, employees and students. Our desire is to communicate as transparently as possible about this transition. All of us at the College are moving into the future with great enthusiasm. We know that we are able to carry on the mission we have received from the Sisters of Notre Dame for the next 100 years. All members of our Notre Dame community will be invited to participate in listening sessions as we reaffirm our mission and take ownership of it.
How long before a decision will be made about the future of the College?
The goal is to affirm our mission in the spirit of the Sisters of Notre Dame early in the fall 2023 semester.