The Congregation of the Sisters of the Cross was born in 1838 at Chavanod, a little village of Savoie, in the south east of France. At that time there lived at Chavanod, in the service of the presbytery, a pious, energetic and devoted person Claudine Echernier. At the age of 27, in the presbytery of Chavanod, she began to gather around her, children and young girls of the parish to teach them reading, writing and catechism.
Fr.Peter Mermier, who was the Founder of the missionaries of St.Francis de Sales, came to preach the retreat at Chavanod, found in Claudine Echernier the growing desire in spiritual life advised her to continue to teach the poor young girls. Drawn by her example, some of the young girls asked her to share her life. The intuition of Fr.Mermier and his apostolic sense enlightened by the Holy Spirit and stimulated by the needs of the times, permitted this nucleus of young girls gathered around Claudine to become the first community of the Sisters of the Cross. Thus was born in extreme poverty and great simplicity a Congregation. It permitted the poor young girls to live a consecrated life in the midst of the world. By their service and example, our Sisters "set the tone" in the parishes, institutions and villages and helped them to come out of their ignorance and poverty.
While venerating St.Francis de Sales, and drawing inspiration from his example, Fr. Peter 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 the double spiritual heritage – Ignatian Spirituality and Salesian Spirituality.
Each direction given by Fr.Peter Mermier expressed the central idea that "the Sisters of the Cross" have to participate generously in the mystery of Jesus dead and risen for the salvation of the world. It draws us to live more deeply the spirit of detachment and total surrender of ourselves. Thus the specific feature of our Charism is seen clearly in the choice of our fundamental text: Phil 2: 6-11
"Taking the form of a Servant, Being born in the likeness of men, And being found in human form He humbled Himself, He became obedient unto death, Even death on the Cross. Therefore God has highly exalted him."
As Sisters of the Cross, we received the special call to live more intensely the mystery of the Cross. By the grace of this mystery the Sisters experience an ever growing joy in identifying themselves with Christ in His merciful love: It is in embracing the Cross that we can overcome egoism and build a more fraternal life fully impregnated with the love of God.
Animated by the apostolic zeal of the Founders, the Sisters of the Cross very soon crossed the narrow boundaries of Chavanod and the parishes of the diocese of Annecy and established themselves in other parts of the world and remain open to go to every country where they may be called.