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SJND History


Do you know the reason why St. John Notre Dame has such a unique name? We like to think we are extra blessed to have a name that is connected with the greatest prophet and with a religious order of French nuns. To understand St. John Notre Dame, rewind the clock 170 years to the rural area where the California Gold Rush began.

The Catholic gold-miners built the first house of worship in Folsom, and dedicated the small, steepled, white wooden church to St. John the Baptist. The historic structure is the oldest surviving building in Folsom. In 1859, Archbishop Alemany appointed Fr. Joseph Gallagher as the founding pastor of the Folsom parish. By 1960, Folsom’s parishioners and their pastor were determined to build a school for the town’s youth, and set about obtaining three important foundational pieces: land for a school, a religious order to staff it, and a committed team to build it. Fr. Albrecht purchased the land on what is now Montrose Drive, then he set about acquiring the best teachers. The Sisters of Notre Dame de Namur appreciated the rural atmosphere and agreed to lead and teach at the school. 

On Saturday, September 16, 1962 four light-hearted pioneer sisters, as they called themselves, arrived at their new home, the convent, on Montrose Drive. Their journey to start a school that would serve Folsom’s children was one that was familiar to the Sisters of Notre Dame de Namur. The school was aptly named Notre Dame School and we officially opened our doors for students on October 11, 1962.

The Sisters staffed and led the school for two decades and during that time they set the standard for academic excellence and a strong Catholic identity that still exists today. After the Sisters left, Notre Dame School was turned over to St. John the Baptist parish and changed to the name we now know go by, St. John Notre Dame. Although the Sisters have not physically been present on campus for forty years, they left an indelible mark on the school and community. Their charism is imbued in our values, traditions, and practices and is expressed in every decision, action, and interaction on campus. The faculty and staff of SJND take seriously what St. Julie Billiart meant when she said, “Teach the children what they need to know for life.” Pray for St. John Notre Dame as we celebrate sixty years of Catholic education in Folsom and please join us in our effort to create a sustainable future for Folsom’s next generation who seek to know, love, and serve God.