Mother Marie Therese Haze founded the congregation of the Daughters of the Cross on 8th September 1833. She died in 1876 and was beatified in St. Peter’s Basilica, Rome on 21st April 1991.
In February 1862, at the invitation of the Archbishop of Bombay, Msgr. Walter Steins S.J., the first group of five Daughters of the Cross passed through Bombay en route for Karachi, where the first foundation was made.
Very quickly, in December 1863, the next group of four Sisters arrived from Liege. Msgr. Steins s.j. placed them at St. Vincent’s Home, Byculla. It is from Byculla, on the 11th June 1864, that the Home was moved to Bandra. (then known as Bandora). The Sisters came with the women and children who had been in their care.
With the permission of Msgr.Steins S.J., Fr. Gruder S.J. began to build a home for the Sisters. Sr. Walburga was Superior in Bandra and with Sr. Lambertine occupied the small house built by Fr. Gruder S.J. The accommodation for the Community was upstairs; while the women and children were located downstairs.
Bandra’s first convent built by Fr. Gruder in 1865
A day school for the Marathi children was opened in the village. About 50 children were admitted, but the attendance was irregular, as the parents required their girls to help at home, as well as in the fields where they grew vegetables. Little boys were admitted to the Orphanage as well as girls, but as soon as they were 6 or 7 years of age, they were admitted to St. Stanislaus’ Orphanage run by the Jesuit Fathers in Bandra.
The arrival of Sr. Theodorine, the virtual founder of the India mission.
In 1867, a third group of 5 Sisters left the Mother House, Liege, for India and came directly to Bandora. At their head was Sr. Theodorine, who played an important role in the growth and development of the life and mission of the Sisters at Bandra. With her coming, the story of the apostolate of the Daughters of the Cross in India continues to unfold.
In February 1868, 38 Indian girls were sent to us from a Catholic orphanage at Poona, as the Nuns of Jesus and Mary wished to make their institution a European orphanage. So, with the number of orphans having risen, and the inmates of St.Vincent’s Home for the aged increasing, it soon became evident that they needed extra accommodation.
As a temporary measure, Msgr. Meurin s.j., rented a one-storey house at the cost of Rs.80/- per month for them on the opposite side of the road
Bandora 1869 – Little African girls and boys rescued from the Slave Market.
The Arab traders landed their pitiful cargoes of slaves regularly in Bombay. It was a well known fact that more than two thirds of the slaves literally packed like sardines- head to tail- in the hold of the ships, died on the way. The Jesuit Fathers did what they could by buying and freeing the weakest of the children who had survived that horrifying journey from Africa.
Sr. Theodorine writes in 1869:
Sr. Theodorine, Sr. Mary Patricia & Sr. Juliana with some of the orphans in their care
“A few days ago we received 15 little African girls – one of whom has already gone to heaven. It was known that a boat laden with child slaves was expected any day in the Port of Bombay so Fr. Gruder s.j. went down every day in order not to miss them. It was the rainy season and the water was foot deep in the streets. At last the ship unloaded its human cargo. Fr. Gruder s.j. hurried to the market and bought twenty of the smallest and most sickly. Handing over the boys to another Father, he packed the girls as best as he could in to an open carriage (the only kind to be had in Bombay) and reached Bandra drenched to the skin. He had an umbrella but could not bring himself to open it whilst those shivering little creatures were around him As soon as they arrived every one was busy, washing, feeding, clothing them. That same day another Father brought us 5 more girls in the same pitiable condition.”
1872 May – Further expansion of Bandra.
The large increase of our Institution making it indispensable that further accommodation should be obtained, another move took place. Two more bungalows in the same compound were rented, and in one of these a temporary Chapel was fitted up. One of the work to which Sr. Theodorine had to devote herself was the erection of new buildings.
The cramped quarters of Bandra included:-
1. St. Joseph’s Orphanage for children
2. St. Vincent’s Home for the aged
3. Abandoned babies – the work of the Holy Childhood
4. The boarding school
5. A Day School for all races and religion
It is clear for Sr. Theodorine and the early Sisters that “PEOPLE MATTERED” very specially the weak, the suffering, the poor. They were always aware that they were a vital part of the Parish of St. Peter’s.
St. Joseph’s Convent, Bandra, has grown from strength to strength and the Province of Bombay has spread out in many fields with varied apostolates.