Brief History of the Sisters of the Mercy of the Holy Cross:
Name of our Congregation : Sisters of Mercy of the Holy Cross Abbreviation: SCSC
Our Charism: “Compassionate love to all especially to the underprivileged.” Motto: “The Need of the time is the will of God.”
A GENERAL VIEW OF OUR CONGREGATION
1. FOUNDATION, PURPOSE AND AIM:
The congregation of the Sisters of Mercy of the Holy Cross was founded by Fr.Theodosius Florentini OFM Cap. and Blessed Mother Maria Theresia Scherer in Switzerland in the year 1856. It is affiliated to the Third order Regular of St.Francis of Assisi, and is of pontifical Right.
The foundation took place in Switzerland at a time of upheaval and change. A vast number of people in the industrial nations of Europe had been plunged into poverty
and misery with the onset of the industrial revolution in Europe. Orphaned and neglected children roamed the roads or were forced to work in factories in inhuman conditions. The sick had no proper care; industrial workers were exploited; the educational system was badly in need of reform; proper schooling was available only to a privileged section of society.
In to this situation God called and sent a young Capuchin, Fr. Theodosius, who was gifted with an extraordinary social awareness. It is said of him that “He saw in one hour what most people never see in their lifetime. “He recognized the will of God in the needs of the people of his time and searched tirelessly for means and ways to
alleviate their sufferings. Being a son of St. Francis, he was imbued with a profound sense of God’s universal fatherhood, and therefore he saw in every human being under the sun a brother and a sister. He found it intolerable that some of God’s children should live in plenty and wield power over their less privileged brothers and sisters. With boundless confidence in God He used his creative mind and dynamic
personality in his efforts to change the unjust structures of society. He initiated and supervised social welfare schemes, drew up a new ‘School organization” which in
the course of time was followed, and even set up “model factories” which gave priority to human and Christian values.
What was his original concept and aim in doing this?
“I wanted to organize this congregation in such a way that it fits in everywhere,
and is able to integrate itself into any condition and situation.”
Mother M. Theresa, Co-foundress and the first Superior General, cooperated with the Founder in all his attempts at social reform. Like him she too had boundless trust in God and great courage to take risks. Above all, she was filled with an active love for the poor and suffering. She was the kind of sister the Founder looked for:
“I need sisters who understand the cross; with such I can achieve anything.”
2. EARLY YEARS AND DEVELOPMENT
The young community was poor. The sisters felt called to take up works which were not likely to yield profit and to move to places where others would rather not go.” The factory projects met with failure; the founder died suddenly and all too early; the sisters went on begging tours all over Europe to save the Institute from financial ruin. Despite the insecurity and the hardships they had to expect, generous young
girls joined in great numbers to give their services in orphanages and houses for the aged and destitute; they nursed the sick both in private homes; they supervised home industries and other welfare schemes. Wherever human need called upon them, the Holy Cross Sisters of Ingenbohl were ready to offer a helping hand. Mother Theresa aptly sums inscription she placed on the tomb of three sisters who lost their lives while caring for the sick during an epidemic:
“Totally given to the crucified, therefore totally to their neighbor….the living presence of Christ’s love among us.”
Thanks to the charismatic leadership of Mother M. Theresa Scherer and the loyalty of her sisters, the Institute kept growing through many a storm from early existence.
“God will surely help us if we stand together as one, and seek nothing but His glory and the welfare of His people.”
With words like these she kept up the courage of the sisters. When she died in 1888 the Institute numbered 1596 sisters in 397 establishments spread over six European countries.
3. HOLY CROSS SISTERS IN INDIA:
The first group of Holy Cross Sisters arrived in India 1894. The Tyrolian (Austria) Capuchins had invited them to take up at first an Orphanage in Bettiah, North Bihar.
Less than two years later three of the sisters succumbed to Cholera during an epidemic, while the fourth one’s health was broken. Despite the dreary prospects another group of volunteers arrived within a few months time and the work continued. There were repeated calamities such as epidemics and famines that increased the number of orphans in North India. In 1897 for instance the sisters had to provide for 594 orphans.
4. WIDEN THE SPACE OF YOUR TENT
The Indian Novitiate and the Expansion of the Mission:
The Holy Cross Sisters established their own novitiate in India at Hazaribagh in 1952. This decisive step would soon lead to a “bursting out to the right and to the
Up to this time the apostolic presence of the Holy Cross Sisters had been confined to North Bihar, with just two houses in South Bihar. In the period from 1952 to 1970 three more houses were added in Bihar, and mission work was taken up among the Santals. The sisters also moved out into Madhya Pradesh, West Bengal, and southwards to Maharashtra and south Kanara. As the number of vocations increased, new works became possible. On the other hand, the Sisters’ presence in new places made the congregation known among more young women who felt called to religious life.
5. DECLARATION OF THE INDIAN PROVINCE:
In 1970 the Holy Cross Mission in India was given the status of a Province. 1985 is another year of great historical importance for the Holy Cross Sisters in India. It marks the FIRST INDIAN PROVINCIAL’S acceptance of responsibility of Holy
Cross province in India, spreading from Sikkim in the North to Kerala in the South, from West Bengal to Maharashtra. This event was like a signal for further expansion and development. A number of new stations were opened in rather quick succession
in various parts of India. Moreover the development in ecclesial and secular life brought new insights, a growing consciousness of the needs of the people, and also a different approach to socio-economic problems. Educational institutions ranging from pre-primary to Teachers’ Training schools spread over a number of states. The sick were cared for in the government hospitals and dispensaries and later in the congregation’s own hospitals. In 1991 the Indian Province was bifurcated into three Provinces as Central, North East and South Provinces.
6. PRESENT STATUS:
At present around 3500 Holy Cross Sisters are carrying out their various apostolic activities in 450 establishments in five continents. We are engaged in healthcare, pastoral care, education, social work (AIDs Care home, Destitute care for women and children, Palletive care, Alcoholic care, foster home for children…etc) Vocational Training. In short, in the words of our Foundress, “We hurry to anywhere, where human needs call us to be”.
Beginnings of Holy Cross Mission in Neermarga…………
Adyar Padav is a part of Adyar Panchayat and it is situated on a plateau. The distance from Mangalore city to this place is only 14 kms. It is surrounded by beautiful hills and valleys and river.
Keeping in mind the motto of our congregation, ‘the need of the time is the will of God’ Holy cross Sisters under the leadership of Ex– regional Superior Mother Angelica Wildhaber came to Mangalore in the year 1970. Till 1960’s Holy Cross had taken its roots only in Northern parts of India even though we had a few sisters from southern parts of India too, who were working there as missionaries. In order to get more vocations for the mission in the North our sisters were keen in looking for various opportunities to start convents in the South. At this juncture Mother Angelica Wildhaber requested Late Rev Bishop Basil D’souza to find a suitable place to start a convent in his diocese.
He proposed two places one in Trasi, Kundapur and the other in Neermarga, Mangalore. The Late Bishop had special affinity for Neermarga as it was his birthplace. The sayings of our founder, ‘We hurry where the human needs calls
forth,’ was an encouraging force for our sisters to begin the mission here even though it was very challenging.
There was no approach road towards Mangalore. The people were economically poor, most of them were farmers. In summer there was no water for cultivation so most of the families from Merlapadav and Adyar Padav villages would hire land by the riverside in Ulia. The people worked very hard to earn their living.
Sr. Mary John Monteiro and Mother Angelica Wildhaber were the pioneers of this place. The Late Bishop Basil D’Souza offered a teaching post for Sr. Mary John Monteiro in St. Liguory’s Higher Primary school, so that the sisters could have some earning for their daily sustenance. This mission of teaching in St. Liguory’s Higher Primary School was continued by Sr. Flavia Mendonca, Sr. Marceline Rego, Sr. Gretta Braggs, Sr. Cynthia Saldanha, and Sr. Ivy Sequeira. We highly appreciate their selfless and dedicated service in educating the children of the locality. The sisters also took up medical apostolate (dispensary), mother and child care, tailoring for girls who could not attend the regular school.
In 1980 the community went through discernment whether to continue our existence or not. Sr. Irene Pinto together with Mr. Jerald Lobo and a few others did a survey of the place and the people expressed that the greatest need of the place is to start a high school. So in the year 1982 Rajeshwar High school was started with 54 students under the dynamic leadership of Sr. Sujata D’sa. The people of the locality and the neighboring villages were very happy about the new venture and a few local leaders joined hands with the sisters to bring up the school.
Now 40 years have gone by. We feel proud to say that most of our students from Rajeshwar High school have pursued their higher education and today most of them are holding good position in the society. We feel proud and grateful to the dedicated and commited service of Sr. Sujata D’sa (1982 -1995), Sr.Vilma Pinto (1986- 2018), Sr. Dulcine Menda (1997-1999), Sr. Mary Fernandes (1993-2022) and all the teaching and non teaching staff.
As the families of the locality became economically stable, the parents felt the need to send their children to educate them in English Medium Schools. Since there was no English medium school in the locality there was no other choice than to send them to the city. From 2001 Holy Cross Sisters were already having Balwadi, LKG
and UKG in our campus. Probably the time was not right to continue as English Medium School then.
After two years in the year 2006-07 Fr. Charles Menezes the parish priest of Neermarga took the initiative to start the English Medium School in the parish. So the school began with 14 students in LKG, 16 students in UKG and 20 in Ist std. The school was managed by the Catholic Board of Education, Mangalore under the name of St. Joseph English Medium School. Sr. Mary John was the Headmistress and Mrs. Leena Gonsalves and Mrs. Meera D’souza were the teachers. From the beginning of this new venture Holy Cross Sisters collaborated in teaching and in the administration.
The people of the locality were very happy to send their children to the English Medium School. Till 2009 the school continued in the church hall up to class III. As Fr. Charles Menezes was due for transfer and appointed as director for YCS he realized the challenges for the existence of the school under the catholic board as it was economically not viable. He felt that it would be safe in the hands of Holy Cross Sisters. With request to the Provincial Superior of Holy Cross, Sr. Regis Kocherry the school was handed over to Holy Cross sisters in the year 2009 -10 and it was continued in our campus.
As the saying goes “when the time comes it will happen’ is very true to our newly established English medium School which is a reality today in Neermarga, Adyar Padav. In the same year we simultaneously started VIII std. with 31 students. Over the years our school has taken deep roots in catering quality and value based education for hundreds of students.
So far 11 batches have passed out SSLC and at present 600 students are enrolled in our school along with 21 teaching as well as 5 non teaching staff. Our school gives importance for the wholesome development of each child. The students are given training to develop their leadership qualities, Karate, Scouts & guides, Bul-Bul & Cubs, sports, dance, Art and music ….etc.
Along with many Holy Cross sisters and the Lay teaching staff, Sr. Celestine Alva, 2009-2016; Sr. Neeta Alva 2016- 2019, Sr. Sujata D’sa 2019 – have taken the responsibility in carrying out the mission of education in these years.
At present the community consists of 6 sisters. They are Sr. Rufina Pinto as Superior, Sr. Sujata as the Head mistress of St. Joseph English Medium School, Sr. Mary Fernandes as the Head mistress of Rajeshwar High School. Sr. Mary John Monteiro, Sr. Patricia Crasta and Sr. Shehy Alphonse as the members of the community. All the sisters are actively engaged in the mission of the place with the motivating force of our foundress Mother Maria Theresa Scherer,“Simply go the way of the Lord and seek nothing extraordinary.”