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Sisters of Notre Dame de Namur


In September 1958, St. Mary of the Annunciation School was founded by the Sisters of Notre Dame de Namur. Saint Julie Billiart (1751–1816) was a French religious leader who founded and was the first Superior General of the Congregation of the Sisters of Notre Dame de Namur. Deeply affected by the poverty she witnessed after the French Revolution, Saint Julie chose poor children as the object of her care.

The Mission
"Sisters of Notre Dame de Namur making known God’s goodness … educating for life. Sisters of Notre Dame, women with hearts as wide as the world, make known God’s goodness and love of the poor through a Gospel way of life, community, and prayer. Continuing a strong educational tradition, we take our stand with poor people, especially women and children, in the most abandoned places."

Each of us commits her one and only life to work with others to create justice and peace for all.

Saint Julie Billiart founded the Sisters of Notre Dame to make known God’s goodness, especially among the poorest and most abandoned people in the world. Today, the Sisters of Notre Dame work with refugees in London, street children in Nairobi, immigrant farm workers in Florida, AIDS orphans in Zimbabwe … and always, women and children, who are among the very poorest.

We work to enable those who are materially poor to obtain what is rightfully theirs by changing unjust structures. We believe that education in varied forms is the best way to accomplish this goal.

(The Sisters of Notre Dame are recognized as outstanding educators, and over the years thousands of Sisters have taught children and adults on five continents. Although many Sisters continue to staff schools, others have chosen to work with the homeless, AIDS patients, the elderly, the poor, and countless others in need of help. All of this activity has one aim: to proclaim in our time, as Saint Julie did in hers, that God is good!*)

*To find out more about the Sisters of Notre Dame de Namur, please visit


The story of the birth of St. Mary of the Annunciation School begins with a death. When the Reverend James Canarie, beloved pastor of St. Mary of the Annunciation Church in Danvers died in 1943, he was succeeded by the Reverend Stephen O’Brien. Father O’Brien, the parish’s eleventh pastor, was a man of vision and determination, an opportunist, and an exemplary fundraiser. He accomplished much during his twenty years as pastor, and was often awestruck by the extraordinary generosity of his flock.

When World War II ended in 1945, Father O’Brien took his first major initiative as pastor of St. Mary’s Church. He initiated the construction of a new rectory to stand alongside the new church that had opened in 1937. Father O’Brien moved in with his two curates in May 1948.

Once the rectory was completed, Father O’Brien set his sights on building an elementary school. Beginning in 1950, he quietly started a savings account for that purpose. By mid-1956 he had accumulated more than $200,000. In October of that year he organized a small group of men, along with Father John Sheehan, to serve as leaders of a campaign, with the goal of doubling that fund. By December of that year they exceeded their goal, earning the blessing of the Archdiocese to build an elementary school.

Construction began on a property on Otis Street in Danvers located about a mile from the St. Mary’s Church. The Otis Street land was available because of the generosity of Joseph Graham, a longtime St. Mary’s communicant. A six-acre parcel that was part of the Graham family farm was donated.

John McPherson, the architect for the church and rectory, was commissioned for the school project. The Sisters of Notre Dame de Namur were appointed as faculty and were thrilled when the school opened for classes in September 1958.


St. Mary of the Annunciation School creates a welcoming atmosphere in the Catholic tradition where faith and knowledge meet to provide a sound foundation for life-long learning. We empower each child to reach their full potential through an experience that promotes scholarship, service and self-discipline.

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Additional Information

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