Mother Foundress

Mother Claudine Echernier was born on the 29th May 1801 in the village called 'vers le creux' in the parish of Feterne in Chablais. Her Father was Francis Echernier and her Mother Anne Dutruel, had 9 children, four of whom died at tender age. Father was a daily labourer. They did not have the means nor the necessary aptitude to care for the education of their family. The parents taught the children to fear the Good God; they advised them to be good. That was all they could do. Claudine was placed as a shepherdess in the home of a peasant called "Maillet" at Champanges.

It was here that she learnt to read and write. At the age of 15 she had the misfortune of losing her mother and had to replace her in tending her brothers and sisters. In order to make herself useful to her family she learnt to stitch. Everywhere she edified and served as a model to young people.

On 14th October 1828, Fr. Joseph Delalex was appointed as parish priest of Chavanod and Claudine was appointed as the house maid of the parish priest. Claudine was 27 years when she went to the parish of Chavanod. Claudine assembled the girls in the kitchen and taught reading and catechism. Her aim was to instill good spirit into the children. Her only pre-occupation was to know the will of God for her and accomplish it. She then became a mistress of a small school teaching boys and girls.

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 the ways and means to remedy the situation. He envisaged the founding of a new type of 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.

The intuition of Fr. Peter 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. Little by little our Congregation formed Sisters as workers, nurses, catechists and teachers for poor villages.

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