Sisters of St. Joseph of Cluny

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The Sisters of St. Joseph of Cluny is a Roman Catholic religious institute founded in 1807. Located around the world, its members perform a variety of charitable works, but they devote themselves especially to missionary work and providing education for the poor.[1]

The Cluny History[edit]


Anne Marie Javouhey, the founder of the religious institute, was born in a remote village in Burgundy, France, on November 10, 1779 and died on the July 15, 1851.[2] She was committed to a life of God from a young age and worked in five continents during her lifetime. During the revolution against the church in France, she, along with her parents, helped save the lives of priests who would not swear an oath of allegiance to the State,[3] which influenced her growing need to be a protector and advocate for her religion. She worked with lepers in South America. When she returned to France, her attention shifted to the mentally ill, who were at that time neglected by the medical profession, and she created the precursor to occupational therapy.[4]

Vision on Education[edit]

"I have promised God to give myself wholly to the service of the sick and the instruction of little children," Anne Marie wrote in one of her letters to her father. She believed that all people are equal and have a right to human and spiritual formation. Her educational methods show great respect for the true nature of human beings: "Free persons are led, not by constraint, but by persuasion."[5] Her inclusive nature was unusual for the time, and she helped young Africans who wished to become priests to do so in spite of the current prejudices. Her philosophy in cultural integration was also progressive for the early 19th century: "We will keep to all that can be kept of the simple customs which suit the climate, we will change only what is not good."

Anne Marie Javouhey[edit]

Anne Marie Javouhey grew up at a time when the country was in the grip of the French Revolution. Churches and schools were closed and priests, those who had taken orders and believers were persecuted. It was under these circumstances that Anne Marie as a young girl tried to meet the spiritual needs of the people around her. Not long after she turned 20, Anne Marie chose to become a nun, but for her it was not an easy process. She made several attempts to enter religious life and ended up leaving several institutes, before deciding to begin one of her own. Anne Marie was encouraged in this endeavor by Pope Pius VII during a meeting in 1805, in the town of Chalon-sur-Saône, France.

Two years later, on 12 May 1807, Bishop Imberties of Autun officially bestowed religious habits upon Anne Marie and eight other women, including three of her sisters.[6] This act officially founded the Society of St. Joseph of Cluny in Cluny, France. The congregation became known as the Sisters of St. Joseph of Cluny.

Anne Marie cared for the orphans, educated children and worked for the human development of all. She worked for the formation of the African Clergy and was the outstanding liberator of slaves. In her own lifetime, her missionary activities were extended to the five continents. She was acclaimed as the "Liberator of Slaves, The Valiant Woman, The Apostle of Negroes, and The Mother of Black Races".

She died on 15 July 1851 and was beatified on 15 October 1950.[7]

Expansion Overseas[edit]

As the new convent and its related school grew in reputation, the Governor of the island of Bourbon (present-day Réunion), who had come to France looking for teachers, asked Mother Javouhey to send Sisters to Bourbon. She recognized this request as a sign, and saw an opportunity to fulfill the service and aid goals that she felt were her purpose in this life. Without hesitation she accepted, and she sent a third of her Sisters to Bourbon in January 1817. This was the beginning of the rapid missionary expansion of the Congregation.

Two years later, the Sisters arrived in Saint-Louis, Senegal, then in 1822 the French West Indies, and in 1826 Saint Pierre and Miquelon. In 1836 the blue-robed Sisters were welcomed to the British West Indies, and some time later they established houses in Tahiti.

At the death of their Foundress on 15 July 1851, the Sisters of St. Joseph of Cluny numbered about 1,000 and houses were located on five continents around the world.

Cluny in Asia[edit]

The Sisters of St. Joseph of Cluny arrived in India in the year 1827, and established their first house in Puducherry under the administration of Bishop Hébert. They went on to make their presence felt in various territories. Some of the places where the sisters have established are New Delhi, Puducherry, Tamil Nadu, West Bengal, Karnataka, Goa, Kerala, Andhra Pradesh, Bihar, Sikkim and Madhya Pradesh.

1827 Puducherry 13 houses
1861 West Bengal 19 houses
1894 Tamil Nadu 39 houses
1948 Karnataka(Bangalore) 11 houses
1963 Goa 4 houses
1971 Kerala 3 houses
1973 Sikkim 4 houses
1975 Jharkhand 2 houses
1982 Andhra Pradesh 7 houses
1988 Bihar 1 house
1988 Nepal 3 houses
1990 Delhi 1 house
1994 Philippines 2 houses
1997 Assam 1 house

Sisters of St. Joseph of Cluny Today[edit]

Today, the Sisters of St. Joseph of Cluny number around 3000, and belong to some 70 different nationalities and are serving in more than 50 countries. More than a third are Indian and almost one-fifth are African or Malgache.

Europe 94 houses
Africa 68 houses
Oceania 24 houses
Americas 80 houses
Indian Ocean 35 houses
Asia 110 houses


See also[edit]