The Oblates of Mary Immaculate and Notre Dame of Manila

By: Cristina A. Sison
NDGM School Director’s Secretary-Treasurer
1964-1984; Chief Librarian 1989-1996

(taken from the coffee table book published in celebration of the NDGM 50th Founding Anniversary 1963-2013)

The Missionary Oblates of Mary Immaculate who put up Notre Dame of Greater Manila carried with them no impressive initials after their names except the initials of their religious order. They came to bring the Good News. “Evangelizare pauperibus misit me. Pauperes evangelizantur.” “He sent me to preach the gospel to the poor. The poor have the good news preached to them.” The poor in this passage refers to the poor in spirit, those who have hardly heard of Christ or who have not recognized the goodness of God. This congregational motto served as the compass of their movements. Their aim was to bring themselves and others closer to God through their example of the theological virtues of faith, hope, and love. They worked with people in all walks of life, the rich, the poor, the youth, the old, the strong, the weak, the intelligent, the dull, the happy and the depressed. They inspired them with their high standard of holiness and intensive prayer-life.

These missionaries trace their roots from Aix-en-Provence, France where their founder Bishop Charles Joseph Eugene de Mazenod was born and reared during the French revolution. Though born of an aristocratic and noble family, which was then under fire by the revolutionaries, his heart was for the poor and oppressed. He struggled much to stand for his principles and charism. Until on February 17, 1826 Pope Leo XII approved his group as a religious congregation to be known as the Missionary Oblates of Mary Immaculate. This religious order slowly but surely spread out far and wide in the five continents of the world until it reached the Philippines on September 25, 1939, and came to Grace Park in 1946 through the invitation of the then Archbishop of Manila, Michael J O’Doherty.

This was the beginning of Our Lady of Grace Parish that grew steadily as a strong faith community through the prudence, fortitude, justice and temperance of the Oblates who pastored it. Meanwhile, down in Cotabato and Sulu where the Oblates established themselves, they put up Notre Dame schools. This was one of the avenues of bringing the gospel to the youth. As Oblates of Mary Immaculate their love and devotion to the Blessed Mother was foremost, all their schools were named after her. Notre Dame is the French term for Our Lady. Such schools were known for their high standard of education and so the Grace Park people asked the Oblates for one. The then superior of the Philippine Province acceded to the request. It was to serve the basic educational needs of the residents of the northern part of Manila and Quezon City, Caloocan, Malabon, Navotas and Valenzuela. It was to be a Catholic school for boys. He then assigned Fr. William Patrick McGrath to work on the government requirements of setting up a school and to start construction of the building.

The Oblates were able to negotiate with the Archbishop of Manila for a 2.2-hectare piece of land in a former airfield in the northeastern part of the parish. The school was named Notre Dame of Greater Manila as its place identification, since other Notre Dame schools were identified according to their location. It then became part of the Notre Dame system of education that adhered to love of God and country, loyalty to the Catholic faith, spirit of sacrifice , service to others especially to the poor of Christ, and steadfast love to the Blessed Virgin Mary.

Notre Dame of Greater Manila first opened its doors in June 1963 to five-year-old kindergarteners, 6-year-old preparatory schoolers and grades one to five boys. The first several years were under the direction of American missionary Oblates who left the comfort of their homes, their loving families and their beautiful country to respond to the call of Jesus Christ to bring the gospel to the Philippines.