The Saga Of Sophia High School

Bangalore, India

Extracts taken from Sr. Kirpa, SND and Priya Ganapathy

Situated in the heart of Bangalore’s sylvan surroundings, the High Grounds area of Bangalore Cantonment, Sophia High School is one of the finest examples of premier English education in the city. Flanked by the golf course on the one side and overlooking Bangalore’s major landmark, the Vidhana Soudha, Sophia High School will be celebrating it’s golden Jubilee in January 1998.

Sophia High School, Bangalore is a Catholic Educational Institution which believes in using a unique and innovative approach to impart value-based education. It was founded in January 1949 by Mother Catherine Andersson of the Religious Order of The Sacred Heart. The Sophia tradition of providing individual encouragement and assistance to all students continued even after The Sisters Of Notre Dame took over the management of the school in January, 1972.

The institution is endowed with the charisma of two saintly religious women, St. Madeleine Sophia Barat, the Founder of the Sacred Heart and Saint Julie Billiart, the Founder of the Sisters of Notre Dame. Both were committed to the education of girls and promotion of love of God. The School is placed under the patronage of Mary, Mother of Jesus.

Sophia High School a respected institution approved by the Department of Public Institution of the State Government of Karnataka, was affiliated and accredited in 1957 to University of Cambridge Local Examination Syndicate, Delhi, which was later transferred to the Council for the Indian School Certificate Examination. The school caters to the needs of children from Nursery to Class 10, in accordance with the recommendations of the New Education Policy 1986 through the medium of English.

The School is affiliated and a member of various associations of education, which include The Inter-State Board of Anglo-Indian Education, The Association of Heads of Anglo-Indian Schools, the Association of schools for the ISC Examinations and the All-India National Association of Catholic Schools.


Sophia is committed to offer subjects that will enrich students by stimulating and developing their intellectual capacities, provide programmes which inculcate love and appreciation for all that is good, true and beautiful through education in religion, moral science, dance, music, arts, literature, etc. and to provide opportunities to reach out to less-privileged and needy with a spirit of sharing, concern and compassion. The School also aims to provide high quality stuffed and administration whose professional philosophy and goals are consistent with those of the school, to bring out the latent talent in children academically, culturally, morally and spiritually. Sophia fosters a strong sense of self-esteem in its students and is characterized by the family spirit of love, shared vision and shared responsibility to achieve excellence in all spheres of curricular and co-curricular activities to achieve all-round development.

Creating a distinct Sophia Identity :

The crest adopted in 1957 illustrated the deep significance of the school motto, “Truth and Universal Love”. The crest has a Lotus, symbolizing Love; a five-branched Lamp, symbolizing Truth; Lotus leaves depicting detachment and a Garland of Pearls representing the union among children.

The School Song was formulated in 1957 incorporates a strong value-base, and serves as guiding light for Sophiaites throughout their lives.

Going back in time....

The Congregation of the Sisters of Notre Dame was founded by St. Julie Billiart at Ameins, France in 1804, a time of religious, moral and social need due to the social and political revolutions. They believed in serving people, especially the poor in education and other ministries which arise at such times, pastoral service, health care services, social services and community services.

Notre Dame, which means “Our Lady” in French, symbolizes the Blessed Virgin Mary, who is the ideal and epitome of goodness. The Sisters of Notre Dame look to Mother Mary, Queen of Apostles for support and direction in their efforts to proclaim by word and deed, the overwhelming goodness of God.

St. Julie’s charismatic awareness and preferential love for the poor permeates all the work the Sisters of Notre Dame are doing all over the world, in Belgium, Netherlands, Germany, North and South America, Italy, England, Indonesia, India, New Guinea, Korea and Africa.

It was in October, 1949, six Notre Dame Sisters, Mary St. Thomas, Mary Magdela, Mary Joelle, Mary Maris, Mary Laurette and Mary Kieran from Cleveland, Ohio, USA came to Jamalpur in Bihar to pioneer the Notre Dame among the people of India. The Sisters strive to spread the charisma of St. Julie in the States of Bihar, Delhi, Jammu, Karnataka, Kerala, Madhya Pradesh, Uttar Pradesh and West Bengal. In January 1972, the NotreDame Sisters took over Sophia High School from the Religious Order of the Sacred Heart and were guided by the essential qualities of educational leadership - prayer, generosity, sacrifice, sense of responsibility, prudence, respect for the dignity of the individual and authority, humility, cheerfulness, firmness of character and confidence.

The Society Of The Sacred Heart was founded by the St. Madeline Sophie Barat, in 1880 in France, when Europe was in the throes of revolution. The history of its first years is closely linked with the struggles and the expansion of the Church in 19th century Europe and America . Persecution has followed it and drove its members from one country after another.

The Religious Order of the Sacred Heart is dedicated to Love - to the love of God as in Christ. Primary, Boarding and Day Schools, University Colleges and Hostels and Colleges of further education were set up not only in Europe, but in North and Latin America, Canada, India, Japan, Korea, and in Uganda, Congo and Chad, Australia, New Zealand. Now work ranges from Kindergarten classes to University colleges and also includes Night Schools and work rooms, weekend classes for the poor in outlying villages and Teacher Training Colleges and Domestic Colleges.

In 1939, Reverend Mother Catherine Andersson with two companions arrived in India. With decades, educational institution were established in India. Sophia College in Mumbai, Sophia High School in Bangalore, St. Theresa’s High School in Harigaon were among them. In 1972, due to unavoidable reasons, Sophia High School in Bangalore was handed over to the Sisters of Notre Dame.

Guiding forces:

The Principals of Sophia High School (from 1949 to the present)

Sophia High School was always gifted with Principals who were dynamic, resolute and active. They have coped effectively with the challenges and problems of their times and conducted themselves with vision, diplomacy, grace and dignity throughout their tenure as the Heads of Sophia High School.

Mother Catherine Anderson RSCJ. (Founder Principal Jan ‘49 to April ‘58)

She was undaunted and enterprising, simple, earnest and helpful. Her service was firmly founded upon faith and trust in God. She adapted the School motto and composed the School song, which expresses her own strong principles, vision and understanding heart.

Mother Ivy Bourke RSCJ (June ‘58 - April ‘61)

She was also a pioneer of Sophia, as she assisted Mother Andersson as vice-Principal, Treasure and Administrator of the School. She was well know for her skill in handling a “problem” with firm diplomacy.

Sister Bertha M Wilcox (June ‘ 61 to December ‘67) & (June ‘70 to December ‘71)

Sophia Staff and Students had the privilege of being guided by this slim, tall and gentle Principal twice. Her graciousness will always be remembered for she took personal interest and maintained good relations with everyone, young and old.

Sister Celia Braganza (Jan ‘68 to April ‘70)

She was indeed a great administrator and people remember her with affection as a saintly religious Sister who combined work and prayer in a masterful way.

Sister Mary Vaune SND (January ‘72 to December ‘79)

Sister Mary Vaune (now called Sister Patricia Gannon) is one of the Notre Dame pioneers in Sophia. She took charge as Principal after serving the School during the transition period of two years under the management of Sacred Heart Sisters. The early seventies was a precious time when the “Sacred Heart” flame of Heritage was passed onto the Notre Dame educational congregation. Sister Vaune was a dynamic and vivacious personality, committed to preserve Sophia tradition and at the same time venture into newer vistas. It was during her term as Principal, that the Sisters of Notre Dame established Sophia Opportunity School for the mentally retarded and the Notre Dame Junior College of Teacher Training. In a large measure, the spectacular progress of the School has been due to Sister’s untiring, selfless and devoted service. Being a bundle of energy, her zest, joy and humour appealed strongly to all student, staff and parent alike.

Sister Mary Anima SND (Jan’uary ‘80 to December ‘85).

Sister Anima was the first Indian Sister to take over as Principal of Sophia, after Sister Vaune. She was a religious, patient and peaceful guide, friend and leader to the staff and students of Sophia. She won many hearts with her self-effacing nature and hid her dynamism and energy under a quiet exterior. He achievements include the construction of the Julie building and the Le Ans building. She improve the compound wall and playground equipment and area. The much-needed lunch Pavilion was also constructed during her tenure. She was instrumental in reviving the Social Service group and her “green fingers” made School a nicer place to be with trees, flowering plants along the drive and a beautiful garden.

Sister Mary Joan SND (Jan ‘86 to April ‘89)

A confident manner and dynamic spirit made Sister Joan stand out as a leader. Gifted with music and a glorious voice, she made the morning Assembly and outstanding experience. A great source of inspiration, she always encouraged students to excel in all their endeavours. She introduced the Computer Science in the syllabus and organized Sophair ‘88 to improve and renovate the science labs and expand the School buildings. She was an ardent worker, strict but caring.

Sister Jesslin SND (June’ 89 to December ‘92)

Sister Jesslin was characterized with an unpretentious demeanor and a keen sense of humour. During her term of office, the Sophia PTA and Interact Club was formed. She met with an accident at Patna and passed away in 1996.

Sister Mary Kripa SND (Jan ‘93 to the present)

The present Principal of Sophia is a gentle reserved disciplinarian and competent leader. She commands respect by commitment to education, moral conduct and dignity. Whether it is academics, sports or arts in cultural and literary intra school inter- school events, Sister Kripa is the motivating factor in keeping the flag of excellence flying high.

Sister is the driving force behind the revival of the Old Girls’ Association. Repairs and renovation of the School building and premises are few of the giant-tasks undertaken during her term. The introduction of the Plus-Two course, in the School will be a dream come true, as Sophia turns 50. The Golden Jubilee celebration itself is a tribute to Sister’s leadership qualities to organize, delegate, trust and collaborate. The healthy bond which exists between the Sisters and the parents, students and staff is her strength for realizing the goals of the Education Ministry.

Sister Aneeta (Vice-Principal July ‘83 to Feb. ‘86 and Head Mistress - Pre-Primary and Primary Division, July ‘96 to the present)

Sister Aneeta’s compassion and enthusiasm has put a smile on many Sophiaite’s face. Her spirited zest for living life to the fullest is so infectious to all those who come in contact with her. She has rendered her service in Sophia twice before, in the 70’s as an English teacher and as a Vice-Principal during Sister Anima’s term of office.

Sophia’s Pioneers from the background:

Sister Bullen, RSCJ - was Sophia’s humble and calm pioneer. Along with the Founder-Principal, Mother Anderson and Vice-Principal, Sr. Bourke, she served as a nurse and mistress of needlework.

Sr. Mary Randal, SND was with Sophia’s for a year when her services were required at Dhyanashram by the Jesuits as an animator for youth programs.

Sr. Shalinee and Sr. Lalita SND - were Notre Dame pioneers along with Sr.Vaune. Sr.Lalita took Sr. Randal’s place and Sr. Shalinee served as a teacher as well as the first local Superior for Sophia SND community.

Sr. Davis, RSCJ looked after the financial matters of the school for several years. She trained a few of the SND sisters in the rudiments so that the transition from the Sacred Heart Sisters to the Notre Dame Sisters were smooth.

Sr. Joelle, SND is always thought of as a real friend, and she can be remembered for her humor also. Her primary concern was for the future of the Senior children of the Opportunity Section.

Sister Mary St. Thomas, SND (Provincial Superior of Notre Dame Sisters, Local Superior, SND (Sophia) : 1975 to 1981, Bangalore) A valiant religious who Pioneered the Notre Dame Apostolate in India Her dynamic lead ship as Provincial Superior of the Sisters of Notre Dame in India and her deep concern for the education of girls resulted in the Notre Lame-take over of SOPhia High School., Sister St. Thomas was a multl-jewelled Notre Dame Sister. She lived her life in tune with (jod's will and touched other lives witn love and compassion and enkindled them with hope, Sister was a woman of vision. of great intellectual capacity and excellence and beautifully human and humorous. Sophia was privileged indeed to have Sister St. ihomas as the .Local Superior and foxmator of young minds and hearts. Full of practical wisdom and enterprise. Sister was a great administrator. Graciously and generously she spent many years to mould and form the youth according to the moral. spiritual and educational principles of Sophia. Prayerful. dignified, serene. jolly and loving. Sister inspired and guided Sophia in her unique way. In whatever Sister did. she simply radiated something of the depths of her spirit and holiness,

Sister Mary Faith SND: (Vice-Principal Jan. 197r 1983) Those who knew Sister Faith were aware of her affectionate nature. her readiness and kindness to help anyone in need. Her lbgenerosity was spontaneous and her cheerfulness contagious. Her welcoming eyes. warm smile and friendliness endeared her to all. 'By your smile you can change another's life' By a word you can bring peace out of strife' was perhaps her motto.' She never lost her youthful and dynamic spirit. and remained deeply interested in the life of the school. True to her name. Sister Faith lived in deep '*faith in God. A cheery greeting. a ready bit of information and thoughtfulness. Sister gave these littl; courtesies readily and cordially. A great lover of music. she is, Sister established the 'Sophia Band’ in 1974. The gift of music she generously shared this talent, ..Sophia had the joy of Sister's service also as the Superior of the convent: In simplicity. family spirit. joy. love and zeal in service. Sister reached out to all.

Sister Mary Anupa, SND (Headmistress: Pre-Primary and Primary.) The system of having a Sistor-Personnel who would be ‘immediate in charge,' in pre-primary and primary classes. was In -Sophia in 1978. Sister Mary Anupa was the first. Sister Anupa was the epitome of 'motherliness'. was mat only @rand sweet natured. soft-spoken. yet rully heard and understood, lbhe guided her staff well. with her vast experience of dealing with the Montessori Method of 'reaching little children she was beloved by all the little ones coming to school, She was a leader ould vibe with. patient and kind in her dealings with one

Sister Mary Mala, SND (Headmistress, Pre-Primary and Primary, Jan ‘78 - Jan ‘82) Though short in stature, Sister Mala wielded discipline with authority and determination. She appeared tough, stern and exacting and was always on the go organizing schedules and seminars and teaching techniques. Initially the staff and students were on tenderhooks with Sister. Time mellowed her and when she found that her staff were loyal and dedicated. she revealed her true self, obedience and discipline in every child. taking keen interest without partiality.

Sr. Mary Sujata, SND (Headmistress, Pre-Primary and Primary, June 1987 - July 1996) A woman of grace and charm is Sister Suiata and she lent a special kind of dignity to the chair. She had a smile for everybody especially the tiny tots. Though she seemed mild and easy-going, Sister always got what she commanded -- obedience and respect. Sister was a good cc)uncellor and often went ;out of her way to help those in need very discretely.. She was a woman of prayer and faith -- hence PEACE was writ'all over her face framed with wings of greying hair on the sides of her temple. The only time Sister Suiata was seen visibly harrassed was at admission time. These annual events left her visible shaken and unhappy because she couldn't admit every child. Her thoughtfulness, gentleness and concern for both her students as well as her staff made Sister Sujata one of the most loved Principals.

Sophia’s Special Features:

The House System:

The student body is divided into four groups Barat (Red), Duschene (now called Julie, Green), Andersson (Gold) and Bennett (Lavender). The House system promotes healthy competition among students in studies and co-curricular activities and brings about discipline and order.

The Student Council:

Sophia has a Student Council which comprises the elected representatives of the student body. The Student Council members play a major role in the efficient running of the School.

The Sophia Band:

The School Band was first organised in 1974 by Sister Mary Faith. After a short gap in the 80’s the band was revived after Ashley Williams took charge as the Conductor of the Sophia Brass Ensemble comprising 120 students. (See Photo of the Band)

The Sophia Guides:

The Guides movement at Sophia was established in the 80’s and has been very active ever since. The spirit of guiding and service is upheld among the guides under the leadership of Ms. Jaya Shyamala.

The Sophia Opportunity School:

This Institution was started in February ‘72 with the view of helping the intellectually backward children, by Sister Patricia Gannon and was carried on by the dedicated hard work of Sister Mary Joelle, SND. The principle aim of the School is to make every child reach her/his maximum potential to become and independent and socially acceptable person. This special section is integrated with Sophia High School and the students take part in all the activities of School except in academics.

Notre Dame Junior College of Education:

Notre Dame Junior College of Education is a premier institution in Bangalore for teacher training run by the Sisters of Notre Dame whose main work has been the education of children and teacher education. This Institution was started in 1974 as a Silver Jubilee gift to Sophia.

Sophia High School is well equipped with the latest educational aids, a treasure trove of books in the library a high-tech computer centre, an expansive play ground, a fine auditorium and other resource rooms. Armed with an able and dedicated faculty, the Sophiaites have achieved great laurels in various academic and non-academic professions. As the School song goes “flame of truth so strong and sure, make thy children free and pure.... “, the light of Sophia will burn long and steady, shedding light to a new generation, year after year, like it has over the last five decades.

To commemorate it’s Golden Jubilee this year, Sophia organized a series of events like “Build Sophia brick by brick”, a premier show of “Dil Tho Pagal Hai “, a Fashion Show choreographed by Prasad Bidappa with models from Std.1- Std 10 and ex-students too.

And there are more events to come which to come which include the Opening Ceremony of the Golden Jubilee with a grand mass on Jan. 17th and a Cultural Programme on Jan. 18th.-a Celebration of 50 years, A Sophia Run and Sophia Day on Feb. 2nd., with the Notre Dame students from all over India congregating in Sophia, A Carnival in November, and the Closing Ceremony of the Jubilee Year on 17 January 1999.

With 50 glorious years of tradition and enrichment behind, Sophia rejoices over the growth and development, a success story of shifting patterns and personalities, all unified by a golden thread. The golden ray that radiates the light of all those who have been associated with the School, as students, parents and staff who have achieved success and fame in all walks of life. In January 1998, we salute to the glory of 50 years of Sophia High School.

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