Who were les Filles de la Croix?

This is back-to-school month for most kids. Time to tell the story of the origins of my alma mater in Bandra. The beautiful, red brick St Joseph’s Convent hails the order of the Daughters of the Cross (Filles de la Croix), whose nuns were sent to serve across the globe by Mother Marie Therese.

St Joseph’s Convent chapel
St Joseph’s Convent chapel

“In this Sign, thou shalt conquer… to consider others as your brothers and sisters” was their guiding principle. The sign is said to have suddenly appeared in 1833, to Jeanne Haze and Virginie Sorage, as they looked up from a Belgian courtyard. A large black Cross with a crown of ivory blazed bright in the dusk sky, it disappeared as miraculously. But not before leaving a deep impression on the friends.

Able to read and write prodigiously by her fourth birthday, Haze was among seven children of the secretary to the last prince-bishop of Liege. Inspired by that glowing vision, she assumed the name Sr Marie Therese and formed the Daughters of the Cross congregation. Some of its members were despatched to Bombay in 1863… and the rest is history.

While every corner of the institution holds uncommon charm, we love the chapel the best. Set in a pastoral paradise of a garden and suffused on the sultriest day with air as cool as the marble font touched on entering, the soothing ambience embraces one in a soft clasp.

We were drawn there often, encouraged to request blessings for our families, our city and the world at large. I recall entire classes of girls praying for rain when the season bypassed Bombay till all the way into August one year in the mid-1970s. As the school motto has always urged: “Forward – God helping”.


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