In 1840, a small band of sisters first came to America at the request of the John B. Purcell, Archbishop of Cincinnati. Their work flourished, both attracting postulants to the congregation and students to their schools.
In 1856, Saint John Neumann invited the Sisters of Notre Dame de Namur to Philadelphia. They first settled in the Parish of the Assumption on Spring Garden Street, moved into the St. Joseph's College building on the corner Filbert and Juniper Streets in 1861, and finally to West Rittenhouse Square in 1867. The Academy of Notre Dame at Rittenhouse Square, fondly referred to as "The Square," educated generations of Philadelphia's girls and boys — teaching them, in the words of Saint Julie, "what they need to know for life," emphasizing concern for others, and the love of God, Our Lady, and the Church. When space constraints began to limit the school's growth, Sister Rosalia, the Provincial, accepted Cardinal Dougherty's suggestion that she purchase the Geist Estate in Villanova to house the high school division. Sisters and students arrived there in early January, 1944.
In 1946, the Square reintroduced its high school division, and elementary students began arriving in Villanova. Thus, the school operated in two locations until 1967 when Rittenhouse Square finally closed. Today, after more than seventy years on the Villanova campus, the Academy of Notre Dame de Namur continues to educate young women in grades six through twelve, carrying on a tradition of academic excellence and innovation permeated by the values Saint Julie espoused: simplicity, integrity, dedication and service.