The Foundress and the Foundation of the Congregation

In a land of extreme wealth, reflected in the life style of the nobility, there was utter poverty for the masses.  This led to the French Revolution in 1798. 

Born in 1779, Anne Marie Javouhey was but  ten years old at that time.   The Church had gone into hiding and priests were hounded and persecuted.  Courageous as she was, Anne took up the challenge and risks to protect them.  She understood the need to form younger generations in the faith and give them basic instruction.  Her father’s drum summoned the children to the barn, fields, orchards and forests, where in the face of danger from the Government, she carried out her self-appointed task.  Her sisters gave her a hand and this was the first forming of the first community in the paternal home, though not much to the liking of her father. 

In August 1805 Anne Marie and her three Sisters met the Holy Father Pope Pius VII as he passed through Chalon.  He blessed them and said, “Through you God will do great things.”   On 12th December 1806, with determination, Anne Marie got the approval of Napoleon and got the Decree signed by him, authorizing,  “The Religious Association formed in the Diocese of Autun under the name of St. Joseph for the purpose of training children in work, good morals and the Christian virtues.”

On 12
th May 1807, the first nine members of the Congregation were professed.  In 1812, the first Mother House and Novitiatewas installed in a property bought by Papa Javouhey in Cluny.  And so the Congregation came to be known as ‘The Sisters of St. Joseph of Cluny.’

Paris became the centre of Administration and quite often Anne Marie made her way there. While in Paris she became acquainted with an English method of education known as the
Lancastrian Method.  Older and brighter children were taught by this method and they in turn taught others. The results were rapid and successful. Anne Marie began using this method in her Schools.  This attracted the attention of M. Desbassyns de Richemont, Governor of Bourbon, (now La Reunion).  He invited her to open schools for the people of the Island.  There were Blacks, Whites and Mulattoes.  Anne saw the opportunity for her dream coming true, and accepted at once.  These were the children God was giving her. Her mission had begun.

It was to continue not only on home soil but extend to French colonies across the world.  It was because of this that Anne Marie Javouhey was recognized by the Church as “The First Woman Missionary”. Later her involvement with the emancipation of slaves, with the approval of Government, earned her the title “Liberator of Slaves”.  She was beatified on 15th October 1950, by Pope Pius XII.

Today,available for the Mission, no matter where it may be, Sisters from every race and nation and tongue continue in the Church the work the Lord entrusted to the Foundress.

Sisters of St. Joseph of Cluny have established their house in 62 countries around the world.  In India, the first house was established in 1827 (Pondicherry) and has now 150 Communities, spread in 13 States and 3 Union Territories, located in 10 Archdioceses and 44 Dioceses.