Annual Meet of the Holy Cross Lay Associates was held on 17th Sep. 2017, at Holy Cross College, Fort, Trichy. 102 lay associates attended the meeting. The day was inaugurated with the Holy Eucharist Celebrated by Rev.Fr.Micheal John SJ. with the significant liturgy prepared by the members of three units – Cantonment, Plani and Namakkal.
The elected office bearers were presented and their duties were delivered to the group in the presence of Sr.Savari Savarimuthu, the provincial councillor in charge of the commission for lay associates.
The theme of the day was “குடும்ப வாழ்வில் மகிழ்வும், மனநிறைவும்”. Rev.Fr.Micheal John SJ. animated the group on the theme of the day and cocluded with the adoration of the Blessed Sacrament. The session came to an end with the fellowship meal.
Final Profession of our five sisters – 3 from the province of Trichy, 1 from the province of Guwahati and 1 from the province of Tenali was on the 16th Sep.2017, at Holy Cross Convent, Teppakulam, Trichy, solomonised by Rev.Antony Devottta, the bishop of Trichy in the presence of Sr.Eugene D’souza the Superior General, Sr. Lourdu Adaikalasamy, the General Councillor, Sr.Peuma PERES, the provincial of Srilanka and councillors, Sr.Gratia ANTONY, the provincial of Guwahati and her councillors, Sr.Lucy Maliekkal, the provincial of East Africa and her councillors, Sr.Priyanthi SAMALA, the provincial of Tenali and her councillors, Sr.Jyothi Selvaraj, the provincial of Trichy and her councillors. It was indeed a great occasion to praise and thank God for the gift of our sisters to OUR congregation.
Mother Claudine Echernier
1801 – 1869
It was in the village called ‘vers le Creux’ in the parish of Feterne in Chablais, that Claudine Echernier was born on the 29th of may 1801. Her Fater, Francis Echernier, and her mother, Anne Dutruel, had nine children, four of whom died at a tender age.
Poverty was their lot yet they were very rich in faith. They possessed only a small cottage, consisting of a single room without wooden flooring and a small portion of land whose produce together with the work of the father who was a day labourer, kept the wolf from the door. The parents taught the children to fear the good God; they advised them to be good; that was all they could do.
Claudine evinces from her young age a most astonishing thirst for knowledge, and a great spiritual sensibility. At the age of 10, urged by necessity, her parents send her as a shepherdess to a rich proprietor of champagnes, Mr.Maillet. About the age of 15 she had the misfortune of losing her mother and had to replace her in tending to her brothers and sisters. Active and diligent, this girl of 15 had made up her mind to become a seamstress. A friend, Miss Poncet, an expert in the trade, taught her the art of cutting out and stitching.
But soon, a new trial arose: her father, having yielded to the lure of smuggling, might serve a sentence of several years in prison. Claudine became at once the head of the little family and the support of the prisoner. Being endowed with a generous heart, she fulfilled these austere tasks with all the vigour of her 20 years. After his release, Francois Echernier remarried. Then Claudine who was 26, being freed from her obligations as housekeeper, entered the service of the Parish Priest of Feternes who had just been appointed to the parish of Chavanod.
But her life was so well ordered that no one could point out the least thing that was disedifying; everything breathed piety, modesty, humility, charity and mortification; in a word, she was as exemplary in this parish as she had been at Feterne.
In the Parish House of Chavanod, she looks after the old mother of Father Delalex with much devotedness, and very soon she becomes conscious of this great evil- ignorance- and its harmful consequences. She , who never experienced the joy of crossing the threshold of a school, opens her kitchen to the little girls of Chavanod to teach them their A B C, give them some notions of needle work and at the same time, to speak of God.
Fr.Martin who was Claudine’s director advised her to apply henceforth to Fr.Mermier, superior of the Missionaries, for spiritual direction. From then on, Claudine was Fr.Mermier’s most humble and most obedient spiritual daughter. She never undertook and thing without consulting him, she did nothing without his permission.
She was strong and energetic because the Holy Spirit himself formed the spirit of this girl by his divine inspirations. Having found a loyal heart, he supplied all that lacked with regard to education, and rendered her, who was nothing in the eyes of the world, capable of great things.
Fr.Peter Mermier observing the simple and inspiring life of mother Claudine asks her to see the Bishop of Annecy, Mgr . Rey, to speak to him of her life and disclose to him the desire which she was no longer alone to foster. She was listened to with attention and kindness. And on the feast of St.Jane de Chantal 21.8.1838, Father Mermier conveys to her the following message: “Mgr Rey grants you full liberty to give yourself up to your undertaking, and does not prevent you from following the inspiration of grace, as long as they come from God, and a wise director recognizes them as such…”
Father Mermier drew up and gave them a small manuscript rule of life which already contained, with less details, the spiritual exercises prescribe by our present Holy Rules. Mother Claudine continued her classes for the little girls. She had about thirty pupils. As the sisters had no beds, they slept on the straw mattresses spread out on the floor of the two rooms. They ate what the children gave them. Occasionally, when the parents baked bread, they loved to send them a loaf. They did needle-work, knitting, spinning to earn their living.
They also went as workers to houses, which asked for their services, and worked in the fields or at spinning. In all her actions, in all her undertakings she had only the glory of god in view. She lived only for him. She sought him alone, all the rest was nothing for her. It was in her meditations and conversations with her God that she learnt so many things. She ascribed everything to God. When some admired the progress of her institute in front of her she said: ‘it is the good God who has done everything.’ on the 30th November 1862, Father Mermier who, since 1838, had been travelling the same road as the Sisters of the Cross, having finished his appointed task, ends hid earthly course.
In that year 1869, she was keen to pay a visit to all the schools run by the sisters. Once more she started on her way, from the mountains of savoy to the confines of dau-phine and of Switzerland, to visit the 39 houses in which 300 sisters of the cross were then working. Everywhere she derogated from her wonted austerity, showing great kindness towards all the Sisters and accepting the alleviations offered her. On her return she could say, “I saw all the Sisters. I am happy: everything is all right everywhere. “A last journey to La salette fulfilled the wishes of Mother Claudine who, for a long time, had been desirous to make this pilgrimage of thanksgiving.
Once she was back at Chavanod, sickness is not long in coming: on the 10th of August, at dawn, just as bell was ringing to wake up the community, Mother Claudine awoke to the brightness of God.
Fr. Peter Mermier
1790 – 1862
Peter Marie Mermier was born on 28 August 1790 at Vouray in the parish of Chaumont en Genevois, in Savoy. The French Revolution had badly affected the Church in Savoy and many priests left the country while a few went in hiding. Peter’s parents, who were fervent Christians, risked their lives and property by welcoming the priests. Between the age of four and ten Peter had the rare privilege of assisting at the Mass celebrated secretly in the house. The faith and courage of his mother and of those daring priests motivated him to make a decisive choice for the Lord.
The revolutionaries had closed Churches and schools. So Peter Mermier had his primary education by his own mother. Peace returned to Savoy in 1800. He did his secondary school studies as a boarder in Melan. In 1807 he was received at the major Seminary of Chambery. He was fervent at prayer, a hard worker and with thoughtful regard for his fellow students. He was ordained priest on 21 March 1813 at the age of twenty-three and a half. His first appointment was at Magland as Assistant Parish Priest to Canon Desjacques. As a young priest he was a tireless worker. He taught the little ones by day and continued his theological studies by night. After three years he was asked to teach at the college of Melan and be Prefect of Discipline. The Arch Bishop of Chambery appointed him Parish Priest of Le Chaterlard in 1819, at the age of thirty.
Fr. Peter Marie Mermier was an austere priest of unbounded zeal. But most of the people were indifferent to Catholic Faith and practices due to the influence of Jansenism, Gallicanism and French Revolution. With a view to enliven the people in true faith he contacted Joseph-Marie Favre who gave missions in the diocese of Chambery with great success. They met in 1821 and it was very significant for Fr. Mermier as he fell in love with the apostolate of Parish Mission. In the same year they, with the help of a few diocesan priests, dedicated themselves exclusively for this task. They went from parish to parish staying from 4 to 6 weeks in each parish. They prayed, preached and motivated the people to build up their faith. It was a wonderful opportunity for solid religious instruction and reconciliation.
Mgr. de Thiollez, Bishop of Annecy, appointed him spiritual director at the major Seminary in 1823. But in 1826 the Bishop permitted him to dedicate himself entirely to the mission. Gradually a small group of missioners were formed. In the meantime Fr. Peter Marie Mermier sensed the irreplaceable role of the parish missions, the necessity of a religious Congregation of Missioners and the meaning of the patronage of St. Francis de Sales.
Peter Joseph Rey became the new Bishop of Annecy in 1832. He allowed the missioners, at that time six in all, to move to a house in La Roche in June 1834. On September 29, 1836 Bishop Rey gave provisional approval for their rule and they were known as Missionaries of Annecy. They set up a motherhouse in Annecy at a place called La Feuillette on August 8, 1837. It became a house of prayer and study. It was the house where the young religious received their formation in the apostolic and Salesian life. The civil approval to the new religious society from the Duke of savoy came on October 15, 1838. It stated that the Missionaries were approved under the title of St. Francis de Sales. On October 24, 1838 Bispop Rey issued an official document giving canonical approval to the Congregation founded by Father Peter Mermier known as the Missionaries of St. Francis de Sales.
Fr. Peter Marie Mermier founded the Congregation of the Missionaries of St. Francis de Sales for parish mission, foreign mission and education of the youth. His missionary zeal impelled him to ask the Holy Father for a mission abroad and accept a vast mission territory in India when the Congregation was in its infancy with just eleven professed members. As regards education he opines that one has to be a mother to the pupil by one’s tenderness and a father by one’s prudence. He accepted the management of the college of Avian in 1856 and the college of Melan in 1857. In Chavanod he came into contact with Claudine Echernier who wanted to live a humble recollected life devoted to the apostolate of the poor in 1836. This resulted in the founding of the Congregation of the Sisters of the Cross of Chavanod for the education of the needy girls. They had to work in the poorest and lowliest circles in the country.
Between 1828 and 1857 Fr. Mermier himself conducted ninety missions. He considered sermon as the chief means of proclaiming the word of God. He adopted carefully prepared simple preaching. He spoke with faith and conviction using a fatherly tone of voice marked with a kindly understanding of sinners like St. Francis de Sales. He guided the missionaries to live a life of pleasing and kindly charity in their apostolic ministry and daily relationship. He considered devotion to Our Lady of Seven Sorrows to be an eminent Salesian devotion.
In spite of his old age Fr. Mermier took over the Parish of Pougny as priest-in-charge on 26 June 1857. Even in his old age he retained a lively and curious mind. His last years were a time of purification and edification. He fell seriously sick in Pougny and was taken to La Feuillette. His eye-sight and thinking capacity weakened. As he was a little better he took up a pilgrimage to Our Lady of La Salette in July 1859. He suffered a fierce attack on June 6, 1860 and became fully blind. Meanwhile the Sacred Congregation of Bishops and Regulars approved the Missionaries of St. Francis de Sales as a congregation with simple vows.
On 10 August 1862 Fr. Peter Marie Mermier had a fall, which caused a double fracture of his right leg. He left for his heavenly abode on 30 September 1862.
A loving tribute to our beloved Sr.Pacifica Damian Vitangee
“I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith, From now on I will be with the Lord the righteous judge who has reserved for me the crown of righteousness.” 2 Tim 4: 7-8 Yes dear friends, the retrospection into the annals of Sr.Pacifica’s life leave us spell bound to see the wonderful plan of God in her life and how He carried her on Eagle’s wing in valleys of darkness and pinnacles of brightness.
Sr.Pacifica Damian was born in Srilanka in the year 1929 as the 2nd child to a pious Buddhist parents, Mr.Damian and Mrs.Elizabeth Alice. Her maiden name was Lora. She did her schooling, in Buddhist school, up to 5th std and at the age of 8 she was baptized by a German priest Rev.Fr.Venastin S.J.. She was christened as Roselyn. From then on, she cultivated a great love for the Eucharistic Lord. “The thoughts one nurtures, the values one imbibes and the conscience one forms during the younger days becomes a guiding force in later years. It was very much true in the life of our beloved Sr.Pacifica. Being educated and brought up by the Holy Angels sisters in Sri Lanka, their way of life inspired her to be a religious. Seeing the Cross in her dream she got attracted and convinced to be a sister of the Cross and this has strengthened God’s persistent call to her. Of course she went through many hurdles in her childhood. But she kept telling us that God had done marvelous things for her always. She wanted to be a missionary. So God carried her to India and she entered Holy Cross Novitiate in the year 1952 at Amaravati and made her first profession in 1954 and the final profession in 1957.
Sr.Pacifica had much to preach – message to communicate, not in words but through what she lived over sixty five years in this religious life. In her mission, which was always within the four walls – it wouldn’t be an exaggeration to say that she joyously related more to pans and spoons, fruits and vegetables, cakes and bakes than anyone else could have done. In January 1954, she began her ministry in Trichy Novitiate community and was in charge of the catering department. All the novices whom she cared for, and looked after with good delicious food, still speak volumes about her great love. Indeed all of them still remember her with love.
She began a lengthy period of service, within the religious community starting from Novtiate, Perambur, Provincialate and now at present with us in cantonment community. There were moments of challenge which radiated, the flame of love for the mission of Jesus. What is even more remarkable in her is, the love for little children. For twenty five years, she was in charge of the babies in the crèche at Perambur, once the Parish Priest found a forsaken baby and immediately brought the child and entrusted her to Sr.Pacifica saying that “She is another Mother Tresa who really cares for the forsaken children.” Though, years passed by, still the parents of these children are very grateful to her and have correspondence with her. Some of them are here with us today to bid farewell to her.
The routine task she performed never led her to boredom or frustration – for she always in tune with the signs of the time, always up to date on her mission. Though her occupation is mostly confined to convent, her contact with people is far and wide. Her friends and beneficiaries are scattered probably in all the continents. For the past few years falling and shedding blood has become a recurring event for her. However no pain and no stitches had kept her tied to her bed! With all those aches and pains she was always out of her bed – ready with a knife and a wooden plank to start her routine work.
We really wonder – where does she get all this strength and will power, that kept her body and mind going steadily. Yes! It’s the wonderful time she spent with the Lord during the dark hours of the morning and the late hours of the evening that enabled her to find newness and meaning even when everything remained unchanged. She always says that “religious life is not free from pain and strains yet God is always there to make us understand that nothing could separate us from His surpassing love.”
Sr.pacifica always inspired the community through her unassuming nature, Simplicity, patient endurance, compassionate heart and deep attachment to the Eucharistic Lord. Her thirst for Holy Mass is highly inspirational to all those lived with her. whether it is dawn or dusk her only question is “when is the Mass?” We can proudly say that she was truly a missionary. True to the spirit of a missionary she lived a life of total detachment from her kith and kin and led a hidden life like Mother Claudine Echernier living the spirit of congregation joyfully and effectively. She never complained about her great suffering, rather she always mentioned that she participated in the sufferings of Jesus.
In recent past her health condition was deteriorating , yet she was regular for Mass and other spiritual activities. On Monday (1st July ) evening she had the blessing of receiving the last sacrament with full conscience surrounded by community sisters praying with her. After that her health condition was becoming bad and on 4th July around 8.05 a.m she breathed her last in the presence of the community sisters praying and glorifying God.
Dear Sr. pacifica at your departure to your heavenly abode, the Holy Cross family lost a good, innocent, holy, apostolic, committed, happy and contented religious and an exemplary sister. We admire in you, the respect and the reverence you had for the priests of God by holding them in your heart through prayer. In short we can proudly say that you lived your life always for others. Dear Sr.Pacifica, we thank you for your unique contribution in touching the lives of many. As you join all the choirs of Angels, Saints and our Sisters who have preceded us in our Heavenly Father’s house, we are sure you will continue to intercede for us and remember us in your Heavenly Bliss.
We are sure, that today God blesses you, saying that “well done my good and faithful daughter inherit the kingdom prepared for you.”
A Fond Adieu to you dear Sr. Pacifica Damian
Sisters of Cantonment,
Province of Tiruchirappalli. 06.07.2019
The Enlarged Council will be held in Chavanod at the Spirituality Center, “La Maison du Grand Pré” from 1st to 21st May 2017.
We congratulate the newly elected Provincials, Delegation Superiors and their teams and wish them God’s blessings. We thank the previous Provincials, Delegation Superiors and their teams for their joyous, generous and dedicated service.