A History of the Franciscan Sisters of Bon Secours Congregation

The Bon secours congregation has a fascinating prehistory that starts 126 years before it official foundation in 1732. Father Gaston Laurence Coeurdon,French Jesuit missionary was caught in storm on his sail to India. He Vowed to start a Carmelite convent and a refuge home if he reached safely. FatherCoeurdon’s, touched the shore in Pondicherry safe and he was happy that it was God given time to exercise his missionary Zeal and fulfill his vow. With the support of a pious young woman and two widows he started a small home in a hut in Ariyankuppam 1748. This Carmelite home was the forerunner of Bon Secours Congregation. Fr.Coeurdon was looking for a chance to start an orphanage to fulfill his second vow to the Almighty. The arrival of Fr.Michael Ansaldo to Pondicherry in 1771, enabled Fr. Coeurdon to fulfill his second vow as they together started two Refuge Homes. Bon Secours Refuge Home and St.Louis De Gonzaga Refuge Home. These two Refuge Homes later he came Bon Secours and Gonzaga Congregation. The Refuge Homes sheltered orphan Childrenand young widows. They were trained to live orderly pious lives. Fr. Micheal Ansaldo aimed to preface them for life through education and spiritual formation. Fathers LehodeyDefius , Friar, Daras and Ligeon strived to elevate the orphanages into religious orders. Fr.Lehodey became Parish Priest of Pondicherry Cathedral in 1843. He selected few dedicated girls from the orphanages and formed the first group of Aspirants. After 3 years of training they were to be accepted as sisters of the order and adopted the Franciscan rules and wore black saree. The investiture of the first Postulants took place on 17th September 1858. In the year 1861, 7 sisters took their final vows as religious.

1. Sr.Mariammal, alias Bangarammal

2. Sr.Arockia Mary, alias Ponnamani

3. Sr.MaryManickam, ailasKanikaiammal

4. Sr.MaryNambikkai, alias Margaret

5. Sr. Mary Sandhu, alias Maria Pragasam

6. Sr. Snegappo,aliasAnugurimu

7. Sr. Mary Francis, alias Dhavamuthu

Were the first seven Bon Secours Sisters. They adhered to their charismlooking after orphans and widows ,educating them for purposeful life and taking care of the sick. The youngsters under the sisters care grew up to be good Christians. All the sisters with the children & women in their care worked hard to earn money for the needs. They found paddy took to weaving, Candle making and embroidery. In 1858 Mother NambikkaiMary became the Head of the Congregation.From 1864 – 1873 the Congregation waded through difficult times. In 1873 Mother Mary Rose became the Superior General. Under the guidance of Fr.Ligeon, Director of FranciscanSisters of Bon Secours, the Congregation improved the educational programmes. In 1877 the Rules and Regulations for the sisters were promulgated. In 1892, There were 62 sisters in six Bon Secours Convents, six schools with 300 students, two children’s with 42 children, two dispensaries, two family welfare centres and one hospital . Bishop Dom Hennique Jose Reed De Silva of Mylapore welcomed the sisters to start educational service in the diocese. The growing seedling of the Bon Secours was thus transplanted to the soil of Mylapore. They became the fifth religious order for women to serve the Mylapore Diocese. In 1895 St.Lazarus school administration was entrusted to the sisters by Fr.F.H.franco. In the same year they opened a girls school in Mylapore which is todays well known St.Antony’s Girl’s Hr.Sec.School. Bishop De Silva gave the sisters a new attire consisting of dark brown habit. In 1858, the Rules and Regulations which were the principles of Franciscan third order was approved by Pope Benedict XV. The Bon secours Sisters celebrated 13thAugust as their convent feast as they adopted Our Lady as guardian. The Congregation received the special blessings of the papal Internuncio on 22 August 1953.The sisters received college education and also went abroad for higher studies. They witness great advancement in theirspiritual formation and had meaningful relationship with other religious order. Every step saw enormous fruitful responses in taking the service of the sisters to the marginalised sector of the society. To be one with the people whom they service the sisters started wearing sarees from 1991.Today we can say we are fortunate to have reached 158 years of the Congregation because we were true to our special charism in the true spirit of the Franciscan order. Holding the hands of the Almighty, Treading in the path of their predecessors, the congregation marches forward in their service humanity.

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