Velankani Shrine Church Road, Annanagar, Madurai – 625020
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Sisters of the Cross of Chavanod – France (Holy Cross)
Mother Claudine Echernier
Fr. Peter Mermier
The Congregation of the Sisters of the Cross had its humble beginnings in the year 1838 in a small village called Chavanod in the beautiful mountainous region of Haute Savoie in France. The situation created by the French revolution (1789-1797) and the Industrialization of Europe (1750-1830) affected very much the socio-economic and political conditions of France and especially the region of Savoie. At this time, there lived at Chavanod, in the service of the presbytery, a pious, energetic and devoted person: Claudine Echernier. She was a native of Feternes, a small village of Chablais, and belonged to an extremely poor family. Having lost her mother at the early age of 15, she had to bring up her little brothers and sisters and could leave her home only when she was 27 years old. In the presbytery of Chavanod, she began to gather around her, children and young girls of the parish, in order to teach them reading, writing and catechism.
Fr. Peter Mermier, a zealous priest and Founder of the Missionaries of St.Francis de Sales was deeply moved by the poverty and illiteracy that prevailed among the poor in the society and he sought for ways and means to remedy the situation. He envisaged the founding of a new type of religious congregation which would permit poor young girls to live a consecrated life in the midst of the world. At the time of the Mission he preached at Chavanod in 1838, he met Claudine Echernier. Some of the girls who came to her every Sunday were animated by the fervour that she communicated and yearned to dedicate themselves totally to God and to the service of His people. Thus was born in extreme poverty and great simplicity, a Congregation of a new type for those times. It permitted in fact poor young girls to live a consecrated life in the midst of the world
While venerating St. Francis de Sales, and drawing inspiration from his example, Fr. Mermier, our founder also took St. Ignatius of Loyola for his guide. He used quite extensively his Spiritual Exercises. The Sisters of the Cross were formed by this rigorous and dynamic pedagogy. We live our special characteristic of “KENOSIS in the Paschal Mystery” at the confluence of a double spiritual heritage – Ignatian spirituality and Salesian Spirituality.
‘Urged by the apostolic zeal of our Foundress, in less than 50 years after the foundation of our Congregation, the Sisters of the Cross, with undaunted courage, crossed frontiers to respond to the calls of the church in Switzerland and India. The spirit of venturing forth to proclaim the Good News to unknown countries, particularly in Africa and Latin America continued throughout the 20th century. Today we are present in 16 countries of 4 continents. Living together in international communities, sharing the richness of various cultures and getting involved in the concerns of the people in different nations, is a sign of the reign of God in the world.
The newly erected MADURAI PROVINCE came into existence on 1st June 1980 at Madurai, bifurcated from Trichy Province. Now we are under the leadership of SR. HILDA MATHIAS as our Provincial. Our Province is spread out in seven Dioceses of South Tamil Nadu. At the moment we are 176 Sisters in 7 Communities having 11 second year and 5 first year Novices with 13 Pre-novices. We have Sisters of varied age groups ready to accomplish God’s will through their Commitment and Dedication in their life and Ministry by the preferential option for the poor, down-trodden and neglected people of the Society. Our main Apostolates are Education, Healing, Social and Pastoral care. Besides this we take care of the battered women, physically disabled and mentally challenged children. and home for the aged. In all our Ministries, old and new, existing and expecting, success and failures our union with the Lord and with one another is a source of strength to make the Good God known and loved.
We have 5 houses in the Archdiocese of Madurai. Our Provincial house is at Annanagar Parish. Along with the Provincial team, we also have Students Sisters, we are engaged in Pastoral ministry of the Parish and visiting the houses to make the Good God known and loved.
In an attitude of deep gratitude I thank the Almighty God whose steadfast love accompanies, guides and strengthens us constantly in the growth of our Congregation.
May God be praised