Provincia “St. Francis”

A tiny shoot of the nascent CFMSS branch of the great Franciscan tree was planted on the Indian soil on February 26, 1901.  A very daring and ambitious step but not unexpected from a dynamic and visionary Foundress such as our Venerable Mother Seraphina !  The four Italian pioneers – Sr. Maddalena, Sr Filomena,  Sr Margherita e Sr Geltrude. began their mission ‘ad gentes’ at Sardhana with the care of the orphans entrusted to them by Archbishop Charles Gentili of Agra, who brought them himself from Bertinaro, Italy.  In 1903, with the arrival of four more members, the Clares of the Blessed Sacrament took up another ministry in Meerut, i.e., running an English medium boarding School.  Nevertheless  both these houses had to be closed within a few years and the pioneers had to return in 1912, as their mission floundered due to ecclesiastical antipathy.

However, the Lord had different plans for the CFMSS.  In 1911, a couple of missionaries had arrived with 3 more joining  them in 1912.  The Archbishop allotted them a Villa close to the Immaculate Conception Cathedral, Agra.  Thus St. Francis Convent Agra was born on January 29,1912.  This house is a mute witness of the heroism, the struggles, pains, suffering, endurance, and the resource fulness and sagacity of our Italian sisters who gave their youth, health and some of them  even life itself in giving life to the abandoned babies, the orphaned and the destitute and lifting up the marginalized.

In 1924 St.Clare’s Convent  with it’s pastoral and socio-medico services was opened in Khera Khurd- Haryana ,but then this too had t o be closed down due to the mounting opposition of the Arya Samajis and the communal savagery following the partition of India in 1947

In 1928, arrived the most prominent of the 37 Italian Missionaries- The Architect of Indian Mission.- namely Sr.Benigna Gastaldon fondly called as “Motherji ”. In 1934, a Community and in the following year an Orphanage was opened  in Paharganj, Delhi, both  named after St.Anthony of Padua with Srs. Benigna and Antonia as its founding members. The little sapling of the CFMSS was almost withering when Sr.Benigna was appointed the Visitator in 1949. One of the events which acted as the catalyst for the growth of the Indian Mission  was the visit of Mother Carlina Pera - the first Superior General to visit India in 1953. There were just 3 Communities with 13  Italian sisters . Having heard  of the flourishing strongholds of Christianity in South India, she instructed Sr.Benigna to visit Kerala in search of promising vocations and to build a novitiate house.  While paying a visit to the Bishop of Palai, Sr. Benigna went to the tomb of Sr. Alphonsa who had died in the odour of sanctity on July 28, 1946 and asked the much acclaimed heroic nun to prove her saintliness (Canonized on October 12, 2008) by sending her some postulants.  As proof of her intercessory power from above, 12 enthusiastic and blooming youngsters reached Paharganj on April 16, 1955. With them joined Miss. Pia Jawahar- the first fruit of the missionary labour of sisters.  A new era dawned as the first group of Indian vocations entered the Novitiate on 31st Dec. 1955. 

In accordance with the norms of the Apostolic Exhortation Ecclesiae Sanctae to establish participatory and consultative bodies on a wider scale, our Institute convoked a Plenary Council in May-June 1970.  The Plenary Session for the decentralization of the Institute reorganized the whole Institute into 3 Provinces and a Vice-Province.  Consequently, St.Francis Province, India, was born on May 20, 1971.  St. Mary’s Convent, Clement Town served as the head quarters of the Province till June 1983, when it was shifted to St.Anthony’s Convent Hauz Khas and then to the present Clara Niwas, KWith the growth in ministries and the expansion,  the Province was bifurcated into two in June 1994, the new born named as St.Clare’s Province with  headquarters  in Clement Town, DehraDun  and then in 2006 further into three, called as Mother Seraphina Province , having it’s  Provincial’s residence at Gawhati, Assam.alu Sarai in  1989.  At present , St. Francis Province has 157 sisters  , in 21 communities spread over 7 States of India: Delhi, U.P., U.A., Haryana, Bihar, Jharkhand, Tamil Nadu and Kerala. We have the vision of a Province teeming with fervent mystics, rooted in the Eucharistic Lord, living in authentic fraternal communion, zealous prophets committed to the mission of Christ and daring to venture out into the unknown terrain for the glory of God. 

And to this goal, the Provincial Team provides incentives and opportunities and facilitates individual and communitarian initiatives. Utilizing these helps available, the sisters strive to live their Consecrated life in it’s Spiritual, Fraternal and Missionary dimensions, through various means. Formation at the initial as well as Ongoing level is taken great care of.  We are involved in both formal and non-formal education, pastoral activities, care of the elderly, welfare homes for the poor/orphans, working women’s hostel, health ministry and social/developmental works. It is heartening to note that both in the cities and in the remote rural areas, our sisters reach out to the people in Franciscan simplicity and joy.However, there is ample room for growth in every aspect, be it that of Prayer and Spirituality, Fraternal or Missionary. There are miles to go…..Today more than ever the need is felt to venture into front-line ministries. Yet the fear of failure and the inherent insecurities hold many back from taking the needed initiative. Nonetheless, we hope and pray for the opportunity and strength to respond to the call of the hour in evermore new and adequate means possible to us.

With the blessings of the almighty God and guided by the missionary spirit of our Venerable  Foundress ,  we move forward  in our endeavors to Go… Enkindle and Carry the love of the Eucharistic Jesus to all.

St .Francis’ Convent- Agra

Celebrazione Centenario