History

A LIGHT FROM THE SOUTH

A MARCH TOWARDS THE MARGINALIZED

 BIRTH PLACE AND EARLY CHILDHOOD

                In 17th century the southern kingdom of Trivancore from Kerala extended its territory from Kanyakumari district in Tamilnadu up to Cochin, the present day kerala state. Kanyakumari district is a small land in the southernmost part of Tamil Nadu. It has a unique blend of mountains, rivers, fields, forests, waterfalls and sea shore.

                In the beginning of 18th Century the spread of Christianity took place in Travancore state. The cruel murder of martyr Blessed Devasahayam in the year 1752, the district saw a sudden revolution in the spread of Christianity. The following 100 years witnessed almost 40% of the population marching towards Christianity. Till 1931, Kanyakumari District was part of Quilon diocese and Kottar Diocese was bifurcated from Quilon Diocese. Pattarivilai and its mother parish Mankuzhi became part of Kottar diocese. It was in this rich land, Mother Scholastica was born and it was rich not only in earthly wealth, but also it had strong traditional faithful catholics in its population.

EARLY CHRISTIAN FAMILY (The family of Mother Scholastica)                                  

 Mr. Savarimuthu was a pious devoted catholic and was doing great service in his native village Pattarivilai and to its Parish  Mankuzhi. He was a teacher by profession and helped the parish in finances and other liturgical activities. The mother of the family, Mrs. Savariyayee was a simple pious lady with an exemplary Christian qualities. This Family had seven children and their fourth daughter was Mother Scholastica. In this true Christian family background Mother Scholastica grew up with deep Christian faith and developed special great devotion to Sacred Heart of Jesus and Mother Mary.

THE VOCATION (God’s call) 

                When the young Scholastica was doing her 5th standard the family of Savarimuthu and Savariyayee took their children for a pilgrimage to Panchavankadu the famous shrine of St. Antony. On their way they passed through Asaripallam. Entering the Church of Asaripallam the young Scholastica met an European nun and got attracted by her gentle and kind words. For the first time the young girl felt that she too must become one day like her a nun to serve the Lord, the Church and the people.

                 The desire to become a religious nun enthused her very much to become holy and so she spent long hours in prayer. She used to visit a small shrine at the entrance of the village. One day she fainted during prayer in the shrine and the family found out that she was doing lot of penance and fasting during Lent season and that is the cause of her fainting. Another day she saw a Bear in her dream, and she wanted to chase that away and it turned out to be cat. She shared this dream to her spiritual father Fr. Bosco S.J. who interpreted this as a sign that she is going to become an instrument in the hands of God for chasing away evil from the world.   

BISHOP’S BLESSING AND SOUVENIR 

In 1931 the diocese of Kottar was bifurcated from Quilon Diocese. The First Bishop of Kottar Msgr. Lawrence Pereira came to visit all the parishes in the diocese. As Mr. Savarimuthu was an important member in the parish of Mankuzhy, he was also member in the reception committee. The young Scholastica also accompanied her father to see Bishop Lawrence. Before leaving Bishop Lawrence gave a small gift to the young Scholastica. The small gift was a picture of Jesus calling his disciples. She got this from the Bishop and she thought immediately that God is calling her for His mission through the Bishop. From then on, the young Scholastica was all the more convinced about her religious vocation.

  1. AUGUSTINIAN CONGREGATION

As soon as she finished her high school studies, the young Scholastica went to the village called Mulagumoodu for her teacher’s Training Education. At the end of her studies she expressed her desire to become a nun, to the superior of the convent in Mulagumoodu. The superior was very happy to get a young, brilliant aspirant for the Congregation. Her parents too expressed their willingness to send Scholastica to the convent. On 21, November 1936, she entered the Augustinian Congregation as an aspirant.     

FORMATION IN THE CONVENT

                The aspirant’s formation period started with a mission. She was asked to help the sick sisters in the convent, to be a teacher in the school and to take care of the poor children in the children’s home. As she was already interested in doing service for the poor, this mission attracted her and gave her a great joy and happiness. After two years she was happy to enter the next formation period of postulancy.  It was a useful time which gave her a great chance to learn and to grow in religious vocation.

NOVITIATE

 The days came closer for her to enter the novitiate. It was not an easy decision for the young Scholastica. She had lot of fears in her mind which tormented her heart as days came near. Knowing the situation of Scholastica, the superior called her and personally advised her not to be afraid of as the Lord who called her will be with her to guide her in her journey. Taking consolation in the words of sister superior, the young Scholastica started her journey towards Srivilliputhur on October 20, 1939, for her novitiate.

FIRST PROFESSION AND CHANGE OF NAME  

                After two years of intense preparation with lot of prayers  the young Sr. Scholastica  in front of her Superior General, formators, Her parents and relatives, said her first Yes to the Lord  by professing on 21, Nov 1941.

 On that day she also changed her name from Yesuvadiyal to Scholastica taking the name of the Italian Saint Benedict’s sister. Her parents, and relatives and sisters were very happy to see her as a newly professed nun.

UN EXPECTED POLITICAL DEVELOPMENT

 India got Freedom from the British Government in the Year 1947. The Quit India movement became strong and the Europeans (foreigners) were asked to leave India in the same year. In 1951 Pope Pius XII, sent a decree to all the Congregations in India asking them not to have two groups as Europeans and Indians in the same congregation. The Congregation of St.Augustine which was dominated by the European sisters decided to remain in India and the Indian sisters were allowed to be Auxiliaries in the same congregation or they were given freedom to join other congregations.

Sr. Scholastica as a faithful soldier waited for eleven long years to make her Final profession, but instead of that she was offered to be a Secondary Auxiliary sister or to join other congregation to continue her Religiuos life. She never imagined or expected such a big blow in her life and she felt very sad and distressed. This unexpected shocking news created more mental agony. Soon after this news she happened to visit Kanyakumari convent and there too she listened to more sad stories of Sisters who had faced similar problems in their convents. The new order of the Major superior crushed the desire and vocation of the young sisters and their enthusiasm to be Religious nuns. She spent sleepless nights in prayer and awaited the Lord’s Guidance.

TOWARDS A NEW JOURNEY (THE IDEA OF A NEW CONGREGATION)

The Annual retreat was a great opportunity for long hours of prayer and for deep reflections.  On the fourth day of the Retreat during the Holy Mass Jesus came into Her Heart and it was a unique experience. Her inner voice prompted her, the idea of starting a new congregation for all these abandoned sisters and in order to cater to the needy and the poor of the Society. And she worked to take up this new challenge?

During the personal talk with their Retreat preacher she expressed her desire to start a New Convent. The priest was optimistic and replied “If it is God’s Will surely it will happen. Her companion sister Rajam also encouraged her. She also consulted few others like Fr.Mathias, Fr.Stanislaus and Fr.Vincent. Through these priests the idea was communicated to the Bishop of Kottar Most Rev. Agniswamy. Encouraged by her companion sisters and priests Sr. Scholastica made an attempt to meet the Bishop of Kottar along with her Mother. The Bishop appreciated the idea and expressed the practical problems like the lack of priests to guide the young nuns to start a new congregation and the finance involved in that. Her Mother assured young Scholastica to take care of the financial problems and Bishop advised to wait for some more time.

ROLE OF FR. ALOYSIUS NAVAMONY AS GOOD SAMARITAN

The ardent efforts and continued prayers resulted in God’s intervention and support in many and varied ways. The financial help was assured by her own mother and the need of a priest to guide and support the idea of new congregation came from her own younger sister who sought the help of her new parish priest in the parish of Azhagapparpuram. The New parish priest Rv.Fr. Aloysius Navamony after learning the desire of the young nuns through Sr.Benedict   requested Sr.Scholastica to write an official letter to the Bishop of Tutucorin. The Most Rev. Roach about her desire to start a new congregation. The letter brought a positive response from the Bishop, by granting permission to start a new congregation. There was a great check among the young nuns.

Soon after getting the permission from the Bishop Most Rev. Roach, Sr.Scholastica sought the help of Fr.Navamony to build the new convent in Azhagappapuram with the financial help with the financial help of her Parents. The new Convent was built very soon and on 21 June 1952 Fr. Navamony celebrated a thanksgiving High mass and in that High Mass the assistant parish priest Fr.Ephrem read the permission letter of the Bishop for the new convent. 

After two months, on 08 Sep 1952, on the Feast of Mother Mary the Bishop of Tutucorin Most. Rev. Roach visited the new convent and he laid the Foundation stone for the new school. The hard work and fervent prayers of the sisters helped increase of their members to six by October 1952. But they were all waiting for Sr. Scholastica to join them and lead the convent towards the further growth.

Sr. Scholastica was still a member of Augustinian Congregation. On 20th, November 1952, God fulfilled her prayers and wishes. The provincial Superior of Augustinian Congregation gave permission to Sr.Scholastica to join the newly started congregation in Azhagappapuram. The following day, on 21, November 1952, she was unanimously elected as the new Superior General of the new Congregation.

HURDLES IN THE PROCESS OF GROWTH.

                In the the Year 1953, the Vicar General Msgr. Thomas Fernando became the Bishop of Tuticorin. The year 1953 and 1954 gave many challenges and Problems to Sr. Scholastica and to the little sisters of Jesus.

The Bishop Thomas Fernando on 30th December 1953 issued an order to shift their head-quarters to Tuticorin. On 11 June 1954 the new parish priest Fr.Manickam brought another devastating order from Bishop .The order contained 3 important conditions for the sisters.

  1. The sisters should with immediate effect dissolve their congregations.
  2. They should go back with immediate effect to their own houses
  3. If they would like to join other congregations they can join St.Anne’s sisters, Trichy.

The Bishop’s order continued to torment the sisters for few months. Sr.Scholastica spoke to Fr. Navamony and Vicar General of the Diocese. In August 1954 once again the Bishop agreed to give permission provided they had nurses in their congregation. In March 1955 two sisters were sent to kottayam for their nursing studies.

The following months saw many new storms in the congregation. On 17th May Fr. Manickam came with another letter from Bishop to remove the Eucharist from the convent. From  27th October to Christ King feast in November the  sisters did not react or give up instead started a 10 days Night and day Adoration for the Lord to protect them and guide them at this period of trials and  temptations. God listened to their prayers, by that time the removal of Eucharist from the chapel was temporarily stopped by the Bishop. But it was an interim solace.

The Next letter from Bishop brought strong blow to sisters. The cancellation of the congregation, removal of their religious dress, prevention to join other congregation, name of the group to be cancelled, job offer and money will be given to those who renounce their religious dress. It was a well planned letter to destroy completely the new congregation and donate their properties to St. Anne’s congregation.

There were special instructions to Sr. Scholastica that she should not go around in the village with white dress. She should remove her white head scarf. She was forbidden to take Holy Communion with Religious dress.

In all these trials Sr. Scholastica did not react rather she humbly accepted them with smiling face and remained silent. For the people who had reacted in support of her, she replied during Jesus Passion the Jews took away the dress of Jesus but for me I only need to forego my head scarf was the simple answer given to them in response.

THE NEW DOOR OPENED 

In all these hurdles and difficulties the Good hearted Fr. A. Navamony was the only consolation and he stood firmly with the sisters to shoulder their problems. In the year 1967 Fr. Antony Muthu from Kottar Diocese came to attend the jubilee celebration of Fr. Navamony. On this occasion Fr. Navamony had explained to him all the problems faced by Sr. Scholastica and her new congregation and indicated that they cannot get permission anymore from Tutucorin bishop. Fr.Antony Muthu listened sympathetically to all the problems faced by Sr. Scholastica and others assured and that he will discuss with Bishop of Kottar.              Thanks to the efforts of Fr. Antony Muthu, the Bishop of Kottar gave permission for the new congregation on 11 Feb 1967.

THE CALL TO VELLORE DIOCESE

It was in 1971, the parish priest of Kurusady Rev. Fr. Antony Muthu was elevated as   the New Bishop of Vellore Diocese.  The Most Rev. Bishop Antony Muthu, continued to help the Little Sisters of Jesus even after becoming the Bishop of Vellore Diocese. At the request made by Sr.Scholastica in writing he gave permission for the sisters to take up three missions in Vellore Diocese. First to work for the Tribal people in Athipet village at Jawathu Hills, Second in the big place called Pathiavaram later known as Susai Nagar and at the outskirts of Vellore town, Rangapuram. Above all three places the sisters established their Formation house and Generalate in Rangapuram. It was in Vellore Diocese the new Name for the congregation,   ‘Sisters of the Sacred Heart of Jesus’ was given for it by the Bishop of vellore Most Rev. Dr. Anthonimuthu.

MISSION IN CHENNAI ARCH DIOCESE, THE STATE CAPITAL

                In September 1979 the Bishop of Madras Mylapore, the Most Rev. Arulappa invited the sisters to work in the Arch Diocese of Madras  to take up their mission work  in two places, one in Pandravedu parish, a remote place dominated by the Telugu speaking  people and another  parish  called Paramankeni, a small  coastal village. Thus the congregation got an opportunity to spread their roots in the Arch Diocese of Madras and Mylapore.

 

PRESENCE IN TOTUCORIN DIOCESE

In 1980, the long felt desire of Sr. Scholastica was fulfilled. The Parish priest of Anaikarai in Totucrin diocese gave permission to start a new convent with a home for the physically and mentally retarded children in his parish Anaikarai.

EXPANSION IN THE NATIVE KOTTAR DIOCESE

In her native place Pattarivilai Sr.Scholastica opened a new convent and School through the financial help of her own sister Mrs. Maria Natchathiram and her husband. Another convent was opened in Mukkalampadu in same diocese of Kottar. The sisters were very happy to see the fast growth of the Congregation in the south especially in Kottar Diocese.

MARCH TOWARDS FIRST AND FINAL PROFESSION

The New Bishop of Vellore, the Most Rev. Michael Augustine was highly supportive of the sisters of Little Jesus in Vellore Diocese and took special interest in their growth.  He inaugurated the Formation house in Rangapuram at vellore. On 08 Sep 1985 Sr. Scholastica and 21 other sisters took their First Profession and became full pledged members of their Religious congregation. In the year 1989 he allowed them to start two more convents Kappiyarai of Kuzhithurai Diocese and Pudupalayam of Vellore Diocese. In the same year with help of Cardinal Simon Lourdusamy he took special interest to get the necessary Papal permission for the new congregation.

                                The mission of Sacred Heart Sisters did not stop with Tamil Nadu alone.  It was extended to the neighboring states as well.  In the same year the Bishop of Cuddapah   Most Rev. Arulaiah invited the sisters to start a new convent and a school in Rly-Kodur in the state of Andhrapradesh. Later an invitation also came from Valispet in Tanjore diocese.

FINAL PROFESSION

                June 21, 1990 was yet another memorable day which can’t be forgotten in the History of the Sisters of the Sacred Heart of Jesus0. On that day Rev. Sr. Scholastica along with Sr. Margaret and Sr. Agnes gave their final ‘yes’ to the Lord as the members of the Sisters of Sacred  Heart of Jesus. In The same month Mother Scholastica started another convent in Bhakrapet in Andhra Pradesh.               

Mother Scholastica despite her poor health was working hard in establishing new convents and missions. At the age of 73 her health was slowly and steadily deteriorating and Mother could not continue anymore the Administrative works as Superior General. In March 1990 Rev.Sr.Selin Mary was elected to assist Mother Scholastica and later she became the Superior General of the Congregation.

The new Superior General Sr.Selin Mary was in constant touch with Sr. Scholastica and with her blessings and guidance led the congregation with greater vision, mission and dedication towards the growth. In the year 1992  Sr.Selinmary opened a New convent in Kancheepuram which comes under the present Chengleput Diocese.

 

VATICAN  RECOGNITION  AS CONGREGATION FOR RELIGIUOS LIFE

In March 1992, the Constitutions of the Congregation got its Approval from the Congregations for the Religious life in Rome. The approval letter from Vatican brought immense joy to Mother Scholastica. There was a grand celebration in the congregation which lasted for many days. On 15 October Mother Scholastica celebrated her 75th Birthday.

RAPID GROWTH OF THE CONGREGATION

The year 1993 became a very special year in the history of Congregation. As many as ten convents were started in this year. The New convents in Kamplar, a substation of Vizhunthayambalam parish in Kottar diocese, in the Bishop’s house of Tanjore, Agarakattu of Palayamkottai diocese, K. Avarampatty of Dindigul diocese, Chettivilai of Tuticorindiocese, Chittoor of Kadapa diocese and Pagaikanjan of Sivagangai Diocese were  opened in this year.

FOUNDER’S LAST JOURNEY AND FAREWELL             

On October 12, 1993, the deterioration of the health of Mother Scholastica was so severe that sisters could sense the nearness of her last moment and the signs became rather clear that Mother Scholastica  was  going to leave us physically forever. The young sisters surrounded her bed and offered prayers continuously. The entire congregation from different parts of Tamilnadu was praying for their Loving Mother. Around 1pm our beloved Mother gave her last Blessing for those who surrounded her bed and breathed her last to join her heavenly master for eternity.

THE LAST JOURNEY   

On October 14th the sky continued pouring rain and which seemed God showered his abundant blessings through Mother Scholastica. A Solemn procession and Rich tributes were offered by many priests, Religious sisters from different congregation. A large number of friends and relatives from Tamilnadu and Andhrapradesh  paid their last  homage.

The sudden demise of   Mother Scholastica was a great Loss to the congregations and the Vacuum her absence has created cannot be filled by anyone else. She was a great soul, a great Human being.  She is a unique history which shaped the history of many suffering ones. She is a new magnificent era which inspired and gave life to many in a radical way. With great zeal she fought her daily journey for Jesus.

Mother Scholastica lived a dedicated life for the poor. Her great faith in God and love for God’s people will continue to be the source of   strength and guiding spirit for our daily missionary activities. She is the living stream of waters flowing from the living rivers and it will greatly flourish day by day. She is Mega soul continue professing with God there is nothing impossible. This will be our motivating factor as we live and work for the poor and abandoned in the name of Sisters of the Sacred Heart of Jesus, Vellore.

 

History