Brief History of the Congregation

It is the saga of 160 years of mission of the Holy Cross Sisters around the globe! Like the Israelites who cherished Yahweh's presence, His saving love, fidelity and guidance, our founders Fr. Theodosius Florentini OFM Cap., and Mother Maria Theresa Scherer, along with more than 20,000 followers have experienced God's presence and His mercy and compassion on the journey of our congregation. With immense gratitude we gaze at the founding personalities and the pioneering sisters who have moulded the charism of our congregation. Placing bountiful trust and hope in God, we determine to walk into the future that is unknown, uncertain and unpredictably changing!

The Congregation of the Sisters of Mercy of the Holy Cross was established in 1856 on a hand shake of Fr. Theodosius and Mother Maria Theresa who were inspired by a deep passion for God and His presence in humans.


In the mid 18th and early 19th century Europe had undergone some drastic socio-political turbulence. It was a period of transition to industrialization. In such scenario the founding of the congregation took place. The oppressive and the unjust social structures on one hand and the deteriorating conditions of the poor on the other, challenged the founder to emerge as a social reformer to respond to the needs of the people. Being a great visionary he considered education and the care of the poor the most pressing needs of his time.

With a clear vision and mission Fr. Theodosius started a congregation of Sisters of Holy Cross in 1852. These sisters were known as 'The Teaching Sisters of Menzingen', Mother Bernarda as the superior of the new establishment. They were engaged in educating the youth especially the girls. At this juncture Catherine Scherer joined the Holy Cross Sisters and gained some experience as a teacher. All the same at the challenging invitation of the founder she had sacrificed her teaching profession and the community of teaching sisters and got ready to shoulder the responsibilities of an administrator of a growing hospital at Chur which was established in 1850, by Fr. Theodosius. The other aspect of our founder's dream was to engage the Holy Cross Sisters not only in education apostolate but also in medical along with works of mercy to respond to the needs of the sick and the neglected.

In course of time the 'Teaching Sisters' and the 'Nursing Sisters' started functioning independently under the guidance of mother Bernarda at Menzingen and Mother Teresa at Chur respectively. The latter shifted their mother house to Ingenbohl. Thus in 1856 the Congregation of 'The sisters of Mercy of the Holy Cross' was established. Though this congregation started with medical apostolate it soon diversified it's apostolate to meet the various needs of the people such as caring the elderly the orphans and the widows.

In the words of Fr. Theodosius: "I wanted to organize this congregation in such a way that it fits in everywhere, finds acceptance everywhere and is able to integrate itself into any condition and situation."

In 1857 Mother Maria Theresa was elected as the First General Superior of the Sisters of Mercy of the Holy Cross. With the unconditional support of the cofounder, Fr. Theodosius was ever ready to alleviate the sufferings of the poor and the marginalized. He fought against child labour, the unjust structures of the society, giving priority to humane and Christian values that spread universal brotherhood.

He said: 'As long as there is a poor child under the Sun I cannot rest.'

Fr. Theodosius died in 1865 unexpectedly on his way to a new industrial enterprise. In his life time he was present 'in factories and in trade, in hospitals and in prisons, in schools and in homes for the poor, in places of natural calamities, in churches and on pulpits, in confessional and at the altar.' This will certainly explain the dynamic spirit that drove him to the threshold of a new epoch.

The sudden death of Fr. Theodosius the unprofitable industrial projects and the huge debt that was left behind weighed heavy upon the 40 year old Mother Theresa who in spite of the testing times did courageously continue to carry the responsibilities. According to the need of the growing congregation she was ever ready to take bold steps and to walk in the footsteps of her founder.

She guided the congregation for 31 years as Mother General. She hurried at the call of every human misery. In her words: "We hurry to wherever human need calls us to be."