“Men and Women of India” Vol II. No. 12. Bombay, December, 1906, page 679-685.
One of the most celebrated and successful schools in the Bombay Presidency is that conducted by the Sisters of the Cross at Bandra, nine miles from Bombay. Any visitor who first sees the admirably built and appointed school, with its spacious grounds, near the seashore, exposed to all the healthy influences of the sea breezes, would find it hard to imagine the hardships and patient labour of years that the founders had to go through in order to realize the situation of today. Their story has been gathered at the Convent, and we now present it to our readers.
The Daughters of the Cross first came to Bandra on 11th June 1864. They had the case of several old women and a few orphan girls. The following year brought the men belonging to St. Vincent’s Home under the care of the Sisters. They were from Bombay. A small house was built by the Fathers for the Sisters and their poor in the same year, the inmates helping to carry the stones for its construction. When the present Provincial Supervioress arrived in Bandra in 1868 with four other Daughters of the Cross, this house consisted on one room for the Sisters with an adjoining small dormitory for the novices. The above mentioned room had to serve all purposes – dormitory, refectory, oratory and parlour, the different apartments being curtained off. There were two other rooms, one for the old women and one for the orphans, in which each party ate, worked, and slept, and all had to be done on the bare floor, there being no furniture whatever, so that a blackboard for the children was the cover of an old wooden box. This house had no ceiling but a low roof of corrugated iron which became so fearfully heated at times that the Sisters often carried their dinner about, seeking a cool place. The sun heat in on every side, as the house had no verandahs, only one little landing, and glass windows without shutters.
In February 1868, after the arrival of the Sisters from Europe, 38 native girls were sent to them from the Poona Orphanage; these laid the foundation of St. Joseph’s Orphanage and were now handed on to St. Vincent’s Home. The men, however, were quite apart from the women and children, living in another house on the opposite side of the street. In order to obtain some help for the support of the orphans, shortly after their arrival, a day school was opened for the children of the European residents of Bandra; some Parsees and Portuguese young ladies also attended it. They were taught English, French and music. In 1869 the school was placed under Government, but only for a few years. The Sisters were advised to teach the children more household work, for sending them out into private families so that when grown up they would make good servants. This however, does not do in India for young girls, as when out on service they come into contact with so many men-servants and consequently are unprotected. Convent girls, especially brought up, are always innocent and are easily led into temptation, so the school was placed again under Government in 1876 and it was resolved not to send the children out on service any more but to have them married from the Convent. Bandra children may be found in all parts of India and even in Africa, for men come from all quarters to ask them in marriage, and now should an old acquaintance go about the house many a little girl’s face would recall the familiar face of the mother who was herself in school in years gone by.
Throughout the Sister’s career in India, they have always come across kind benefactors. When the house first began, even food and clothes were wanting, but a kind benefactor would send a cart-load of provisions and a Parsee lady some hundreds of yards of material for new dresses for the children. The Director of Public Instruction, Government Inspectors, Collectors and other officials both Government and Railway, have always patronised the Institution. If they did not the Sisters would find it almost impossible to maintain such a large number of orphans. At present there are 340 in the Orphanage of whom about 80 on an average are paid for by their relations. The late Archbishop of Bombay, Dr. Dalhoff, very kindly maintained 51 at his own expense.
A boarding school was obtained in 1878; at the end of that year these were about a dozen boarders, but now they number about 120. Many among them, however, are destitute, having lost their parents, and so are maintained at the expense of the Sisters; being of respectable parentage, they cannot be placed in the Orphanage. There is also a day-school for First and Second day-scholars. Children of all classes are received – Catholics, Protestants, Parsees, Mahomedans, Hindus, Jews, and no religious belief interfered with.
In 1874 the Sisters from Bandra opened a day-school at Lower Mahim for Portuguese and English teaching; it numbers now about 200 children.
At the end of 1874 it was thought advisable to separate St. Vincent’s Home and Foundlings from the Institution. They were at first transferred to a house on Bandra Hill and later on to Bombay. The Home at present is at Mazagon Road.
In 1889 the Sisters opened another house at Igatpuri; this is at present a flourishing day-school.
In 1895 a Sanatorium was opened for the Sisters at Panchgani, and in order to support themselves they have a boarding and day-school.
When famine raged in Gujerat, the Sisters went to see what could be done for the poor. They formed the necessity of opening an Orphanage for the famine stricken children at Sabarmati; later on it was transferred to Anand; it is at present in a flourishing condition. Some of the Sisters stayed at Ahmedabad, where they opened a day-school, in which they have a large number of Parsees and non-Christian children.
The report for the year 1906 of the Convent School states that the school closed the scholastic year with 618 girls on the rolls. Of these 207 belong to the European School and 411 to the English-teaching School. Thirteen girls were successful in the Trinity College Examination in music, and ten others were presented for the Theoretical Test, the results of which will only come from Europe in February. The Government Inspector examined the European School on November 9th and the English teaching on December 1st. Five pupils were presented for the Matriculation and four were successful.