HISTORY OF THE FOUNDATION
Beginnings in Chur
The cradle of our community is in Chur (Switzerland).
It is linked to the two founding personalities Father Theodosius Florentini and Sister M. Theresa Scherer.
Fr. Theodosius established the small hospital “Planaterra“ in 1850, which developed into Holy Cross Hospital in 1853. This then became the first motherhouse of the Sisters of Mercy. Fr. Theodosius had requested M. Bernarda Heimgartner, the Superior of the Sisters of Menzingen, to allow Sr. M. Theresa Scherer to join the new community in Chur. Fr. Thoedosius then appointed Sr. M. Theresa the superior and mother of the house.
Relocation to Ingenbohl as an independent Institute
Following painful conflicts in the years 1852 and 1856, the Institute of the Sisters of Mercy was established. The Institute of the Teaching Sisters of Menzingen remained. An episcopal decree of August 28th, 1856, confirmed the former as an independent Institute with its motherhouse in Ingenbohl (Switzerland).
Constitutions of 1860 adapted to the new situation
In the years between 1856 and 1860, Fr. Theodosius reworked the Constitutions of the Teaching Sisters and adapted them to the needs of the Sisters of Mercy. These Constitutions were also an adaptation to the new circumstances created by the fast development of the Institute beyond the national borders.
First points of emphasis in the activities
During the foundation time in Switzerland, the emphasis was on the taking over of poorhouses and social establishments for children. Thus by 1870, about 86 poorhouses were taken over, more than half of them run by Ingenbohl Sisters in Switzerland.
In addition, by 1870, 11 social care homes for children were established, many of which were combined with industrial work possibilities.
In Württemberg (10 years) and Baden-Hohenzollern, Holy Cross Sisters were requested mostly as nurses in the home nursing service. Besides this, health services were largely confined to Holy Cross Hospital in Chur.
Sudden death of Fr. Theodosius Florentini on February 15th, 1865
A heavy blow for the Institute was the sudden death of Fr. Theodosius Florentini. His socially oriented enterprises in factories left heavy debts for the Institute which were taken over and paid back by the community.
Lifestyle: Combination of religious life and vocational work
In the 19th century, there were Catholic and also some protestant women, for whom this kind of lifestyle was very attractive. For the first time it was possible to combine religious life and vocational engagement in the social and educational field.
In the further development of the Institute, we can distinguish between three phases.
1871-1918 Strong empowerment and search for a unified form
The time between 1870 and 1918 is the time of the greatest expansion.
In 1879, the Institute received Papal Commendation, in 1894 followed Papal Approbation of the Institute; and finally, in 1897, the Approbation of the Constitutions. At the time of General Superior Mother Aniceta Regli (1906-1921), ways and means were searched for the strengthening and promoting unity and uniformity in the Institute:
1918-1960: Between a new beginning and persisting, menacing threats and new strides
In the period between the World Wars, the Institute experienced an unbroken growth of membership; with 9‘638 sisters in 1941, it achieved a peak level. The time of National Socialism and the Communist takeover in Eastern and Southeastern Europe was particularly incisive and painful. In this situation of being persecuted, the Province of Bohemia experienced its slow extinction, but could blossom in Bavaria.
A look at the past 50 years
Keywords for the social and ecclesial awakening and change are: change in values, and a new theology of religious life in Vatican II: “Back to the spirit of the founders and adaptation („Aggiornamento“) to the changed times“. These were guiding principle for the renewal, new Constitutions.
In the developments of the individual regions, we notice diversity in response to the different challenges.
Many sisters would deserve to be mentioned here by name, most of all those who stood firm in their vocation in extreme situations, fearless in persecution and imprisonment. Here we want to mention the names of those sisters whose life was outstanding and who were considered exemplary, and officially declared blessed by the Catholic Church.
Mother Maria Theresia Scherer, longtime General Superior and soul of the whole community (1825 – 1888)
Sister Ulrika Nisch, unassuming kitchen sister with mystical gifts, in Hegne, Province of Baden-Württemberg (Germany) (1882-1913)
Sister Zdenka Schelingová, martyr under the Communist Regime – Trnava, Province of Slovakia (1916-1955)
History of the Foundation 1852- ca.1870
Father Theodosius Florentini: his biography and vocation journey until the foundation of the Institute of the Sisters of Mercy of the Holy Cross at Ingenbohl. (1808-1850)
Sister Mary Theresa Scherer: Her biography and vocation journey until the “Handshake of Chur“ (1825-1850)
Phases of the further development