Sisters of Mercy of Holy Cross

The Founders

Fr. Theodosius Florentini, OFM Cap.

Fr. Theodosius Florentini, OFM Cap. (Anton Crispin) was born on May 23rd, 1808 in Munster valley of Canton Graubünden in Switzerland. It was a time of transition from the pre-industrial to the industrial era. There was the religious, socio-political upheaval and decadence with a widening rift between the have’s and havenot’s. A sense of frustration grew into hopelessness and despair that began to take over much of the human spirit. A feeling of a vanishing future created a kind of dementia of despair. The time needed persons with great stamina and of high intellectual caliber.

Fr. Theodosius was determined to face this turbulent time in Switzerland. He began his active life at this time and so committed his best potentialities to this task. He was aware of what was happening. With this awareness there grew within him a freedom and courage to question. We observe in him this questioning mind already while he was in school. At the age of 21, he completed his studies in preparation for ordination. Being a man of strong convictions and deep rooted religious values, Fr. Theodosius was entrusted with major responsibilities in the Church as well as in his ORDER soon after his ordination.

During the years of his stay at Baden Fr. Theodosius realized with all clarity the need to struggle for a new society. For centuries education had been the privilege of a few. The prevailing condition of child labor sickened him. He took up this challenge and made it possible for all children to obtain at least basic education with the newly devised concept and curriculum. The ‘popular speaker’ was also an illustrious teacher who planned out a new pedagogy in the field of education. He willingly risked and explored new ways of providing work opportunities for the impoverished people. As an organizational genius, rich in ideas and of tremendous vitality, with great drive for dynamic work, Fr. Theodosius with deep trust in divine Providence ventured into the unknown, the uncertain, though at times he met with failures. He was a man of far vision, a man hundred years ahead of his time. He broke with the monastic concept of religious life limited to within the walls to embrace an apostolic religious life based on a social concern and involvement. “As long as there is a poor child under the sun, I cannot rest”, became his life’s guiding principle. His social concern resulted in the founding of our Congregation to reach out to the poor and underprivileged with an all embracing love. Through his new congregation he hoped to establish a new community of religious women, flexible enough to cope with the miseries of the time. With indefatigable optimism he continued relentlessly, seizing every opportunity that offered itself as means of solving the problems. In him people found a “noble priest, a teacher of the youth, a nurse of the sick, and the father of the poor.” He had an uncompromising determination in pursuing his goal. He was convinced that one who trustfully puts one’s life under God’s guidance perceives the ideas that come from the core of his living as an expression of God’s will. He reformed the Catholic education system and the charitable works of mercy in Switzerland. This untiring organizer founded many houses in which the sisters rendered great service in education, nursing, social work and pastoral work, etc. This enthusiastic Franciscan, burning with energy, built many houses and bought factories without himself possessing any money.

The poor and the suffering have a special place in the life of the Founder. To alleviate their miseries, he spent his life and energy working relentlessly establishing factories and other business enterprises, thus providing work for the poor. The human tendency is to let God take care of the poor and thus brush them off piously while we go about our comfortable business and busyness. Fr. Theodosius was different. Come what might, with great determination, he pursued his goal. The motto, “The need of the time is the will of God” drove his life and activity. He was a popular preacher, an eloquent speaker, a well read person, a man hungry and passionate for new ideas.

Besides being a social reformer he was also a Catholic reformer. As a pioneer and herald he revealed to the world the spirit and strength of the Catholic Church. Yet he was a friend of all people of all denominations. It was said of him that he was neither a liberal, nor a conservative nor ultra modern. Yet in him we find a blend of all these. He undertook diverse activities in response to the demands of his time. He died on February 15th 1865 in Heiden. Rightly his tombstone bore the following inscription:

“To the Noble Priest
The Educator of Youth
The Friend of the Sick
The Father of the Poor:
by those who revere him.”

Blessed Mother Maria Theresa Scherer (1825-1888)

Foundress of Sisters of Mercy of the Holy Cross

A woman lived her present - which has passed to form a future which is now, and tomorrow…

Catherine Scherer was born at Meggen, Canton Luzern, Switzerland on 31st October 1825. Her parents were simple farmers. From early childhood Divine Providence prepared her for her future mission through joyful and painful events. Urged by Christ’s love to serve the young, the sick and the poor, she joined the Congregation of the Holy Cross at the age of 19 years. The young community had just been founded by Fr. Theodosius Florentini OFM Cap. and she was one of the first 5 members. In June 1845 she received the novices’ dress from the hands of the Founder himself and on 27th October of the same year she took her first vows as Sr. M. Theresa. Then she began her activity as a teacher. In 1852 the Founder called her to Chur where he entrusted her with the administration of his first hospital and with the direction of the novitiate of the Sisters of Mercy. In 1857 she was elected Mother General at Ingenbohl, the motherhouse of the Sisters of Mercy of the Holy Cross. She was a woman of deep faith, tremendous courage, daring spirit and commitment. She led the congregation in the spirit of the gospel. She remained in office for 31 years until her death. Her motivating words are “Totally dedicated to the Crucified and therefore totally to the neighbor”. Her courage and deep trust in the Lord, in the times of turmoil and struggles were amazing. She walked her way of the cross with fortitude and trust in God. To her sisters she was a mother and guide, to the poor and afflicted a compassionate helper.

After the Founder’s sudden death it was she who saved the endangered Institute by her undaunted courage and prudent action. She died on 16th June 1888 at Ingenbohl, after a painful illness which she bore with great patience. She was beatified on 29th October 1995 by Pope John Paul II. Inspired by her saintly life, countless people ever since have called upon her with great trust and have experienced encouragement and help in answer to their prayers.